‘Maskne’ — the Face of the Pandemic

A new issue arises with constant use of mask: maskne

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Masks are not the only things on people’s faces during the pandemic.

Crops of acne — colloquially called “maskne” — have also made an appearance, thanks to the face masks’ presence. Many people have to wear a mask all day, which only exacerbates the problem.

Elizabeth Arthur, dermatologist with Helendale Dermatology in Rochester, recommends wearing only a clean mask.

“A lot of people don’t have access to a clean, disposable mask every day so they rely on cloth masks,” she said. “I wear cloth, but I wear a clean one every morning. If I’ve been someplace I will change it into a new one.” If you’re looking for a 3 layer face mask, then you can buy them here!

Cloth can be gentler on the skin than disposable paper. Arthur said that after just a couple of hours, a paper mask irritates her skin. The chemicals used for processing can contribute to the irritation. Arthur recommends using fragrance- and color-free detergent for cleaning cloth masks.

One of the reasons that masks cause breakouts is that they trap moisture against the skin because of respiration.

Before donning a mask, Arthur recommends applying a zinc-based barrier such as one used for diaper dermatitis.

“That would help as it acts as a barrier,” she said.

Rosehip oil, available over the counter, can soothe the skin. Arthur also recommends Mask Armor, a product that contains black elderberry, tea tree, and peppermint oil to calm the skin. If you’ve been suffering from maskne, then this Acne Treatment might help.

“It’s nice because it helps make your mask more effective as it has antiviral properties,” Arthur said. “We do have to get people on a topical prescription if the common sense measures don’t work.”

When patients use chemical-based sunscreen—a common ingredient in many all-in-one makeup and moisturizer products — that can irritate their skin.

Men wearing masks tend to experience folliculitis which can manifest as a pimple-like blemish, but it is caused by friction against a shaved hair. Arthur recommends shaving with Aveno brand shave gel with a sharp razor. Or they can use an electric razor and not get quite as close. Again, the topical zinc can help, but if those tricks aren’t working, make sure to see a medical dermatology expert immediately, Arthur said. “We may prescribe an oral antibiotic temporarily as an anti-inflammatory.”

Friction also causes problems for women, especially if they are wearing foundation and other makeup under the mask.

Christina Velez, licensed esthetician and owner of Skintopia in Rochester, said that she avoids wearing makeup under her mask and applies only eye makeup. Considering that is all that is visible on the face anyway, her strategy makes sense.

She advises against using harsh astringents for cleaning the skin. Alcohol-based cleaners strip out the natural oils of the skin, which causes more breakouts. Acne skin care can help with maskne.

“People should be coordinating with a licensed skin therapist, not someone that sells a multi-level marketing item people can sell out of the trunk of their car,” Velez said. “The therapist can go over if the skin is irritated, red and how to treat it. Build a relationship with a trusted esthetician. Otherwise, you’ll waste money on consumer products with no useful ingredients.”

She likes Image Skin Care’s Clear Cell, a restoring serum that is oil-free.

“It helps with oily, irritated problematic, inflamed, sensitive skin,” Velez said.

Photo: Some medical professionals are experiencing skin abrasions and breakouts from long-term mask wearing.