Mask Acne: Treating ‘Maskne’ Involves Lots of Face Washing

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July 14, 2020

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This post is available in: Spanish

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, face masks are now an integral part of our lives – especially in South Florida where leaders are cracking down on face-covering mandates in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

While some argue that wearing a mask is an inconvenience, others are noticing a new phenomenon — dubbed “maskne” or short for “mask acne” – which presents as spots, redness or inflammation around the mouth, cheeks and jawline.

Explaining ‘Maskne’

“As dermatologists, we are seeing a lot of skin side effects from the mask,” said Jill Waibel, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, medical director for dermatology at Baptist Hospital, part of Baptist Health South Florida.

Dr. Waibel says the most common skin side effect from mask use involves the new and trending term “maskne,” which occurs “in the distribution of where you wear your mask.”

“What we know is that the heat from breathing, as well as the occlusion, is leading to the increased breakouts of acne,” explains Dr. Waibel.

And, if you’re not typically prone to breakouts, Dr. Waibel warns that dermatologists are “seeing this in people that are prone to acne, but we’re also seeing this in people who normally don’t get acne.”

How to Prevent ‘Maskne’

It’s important to learn Face Washing 101. According to the American Academy of dermatology (AAD), using a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser that does not contain alcohol is key to avoid skin irritation.

Dr. Waibel emphasizes the importance of washing your face two to three times a day to keep the skin surface clean.  

“Another tip is using an exfoliator,” says Dr. Waibel. “An exfoliator is going to get rid of that dead skin which will help to not cause the occlusive phenomenon, which is called mechanical acne.”

Should Makeup be Avoided?

Dr. Waibel admits: “That’s a tricky question.”

“I tend to wear these white disposable medical masks and makeup will rub off on it and get dirty. If makeup is rubbing off on it, then you also have to think about all the bacteria” that’s rubbing off on the mask, too.

It’s wise to make a makeup decision based on your day, but also by AAD guidelines, continuing with your face washing 101 regiment daily. 

What is a Mask Infection?

Another important skin side effect to be on the lookout for are mask infections.

“Our mouths are full of yeast and a lot of people carry bacteria in their nose,” says Dr. Waibel.

 “A lot of people are getting redness around their nose, they’re getting pustules, so if you see some of these, go see your dermatologist and have them culture it and make sure you get those treated early because they can get out of control.”

Why is it important to wash or discard your mask after use?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), cloth face coverings should be washed after each use. Dr. Waibel notes this is important for stopping the spread COVID-19, but also for minimizing the risk of experiencing skin side effects.

And, like Dr. Waibel, if you’re sporting a disposable mask, it’s important to recycle or properly discard them after each use.

“Masks are really important,” says Dr. Waibel. And, as we adjust to this new way of life, “we’re going to have to learn about mask etiquette, mask cleaning and increasing the care of our skin.”

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