August 25, 2020
As face masks have become parts of our daily routines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, so have the irritation and red bumps of acne. Only a few are immune to the breakouts that can surface after wearing a mask all day, but there are ways to combat it.
The acne caused by wearing a mask – which has become known as "mascne" – most commonly affects people's nose, cheeks, mouth, and chin and is the result of a combination of friction and humidity caused by wearing a facial covering for extended periods of time.
The acne is similar to the pimple athletes often struggle with, according Dr. Meghan Freely. "Athletes who wear a helmet may develop acneiform breakouts as dirt, oil, and sweat are trapped in their pores, affording an environment conducive to the growth of bacteria," Dr. Freely told Wired.
Those that suffer from adult acne, which forms deeper in the pores and cause more cysts than teen acne, are already prone to the blemishes on lower half of their faces.
Acne is an unfortunate byproduct of mask usage, which is necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But there are ways to deal with the breakouts. Changes to one's skincare routine or simply selecting a different mask can lead to less irritated, clearer skin.
Face masks made of synthetic fibers, such as nylon, polyester, and rayon, can irritate skin, the American Academy of Dermatology warns. Masks that are made from 100% cotton are preferred for their breathability. Choose a cotton mask that is soft to the touch, since rough materials can cause skin irritation.
Also, masks should fit snugly, yet comfortably. One that is too tight or too large may lead to breakouts.
Clean your mask every day to avoid bacteria buildup, using a hypoallergenic laundry detergent or soap, the AAD recommends, because facial skin is naturally more sensitive than other areas of the body. Avoid soaps and detergents with perfumes and essential oils. Hypoallergenic soaps that are safe for babies are a good bet, such as Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent ($14.99).
Don't have time to clean the mask every day? Purchase multiple masks and swap them out after each use. Wearing the same dirty mask spreads bacteria, and combined with any irritation will result in acne.
Also, if you can safely social distance from other, take a 15-minute break from wearing the mask every four hours. Masks are unnecessary when alone in car, at home, or outdoors and at least 6 feet away from other people.
Make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist before starting an acne-targeted skincare regime. Many products used to treat acne can cause irritation and should be used with caution.
Cleansing: Wash with a mild, fragrance- and oil-free cleanser for sensitive skin, the AAD says. Avoid using exfoliants with abrasives like beads, sugar or salt. These can cause micro-tears in the skin, leading to infection.
Acne Creams: There are several creams that combat acne effectively, retinoids and benzoyl peroxide are among them. Over-the-counter products include Differin Gel and Paula's Choice Daily Skin Clearing Treatment. But be gentle. Use these products sparingly and do not combine treatments. Start with a small amount of product, and if skin becomes irritated scale back usage, according to the AAD.
Chemical Exfoliator: Alpha and beta-hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid, can help treat acne. However, do not overuse these exfoliators. The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% is a mild option for someone new to chemical exfoliators.
Do not combine acne treatments and chemical exfoliators. Both can be irritating and drying. These products can make the skin prone to sunburn, so be wary of any extended sun exposure.
Moisturize: Hyaluronic acid serum is a great way to replenish the skin's moisture and decrease irritation, according to the AAD. To work properly, the serum needs to applied to damp skin since it's considered a "moisture magnet." The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 and Verse Hydration Station Booster with Hyaluronic Acid are affordable options. After applying the serum, add a small amount of an oil-free, hypoallergenic face cream to seal in the moisture.