It took a pandemic to penetrate my blessed Filipina skin. Waking up, I’m greeted by yet another pimple––a bright red sore added to the row on top of my lip to complete my acne moustache. I leave my apartment thankful my mask hides my breakout, but I’m acutely aware it’s not helping the situation. In fact, it’s what caused it.
With most of Ontario under mandatory mask or face covering regulations, our “new normal” has given us a new acne––maskne. The medical term, acne mechanica, refers to a skin condition caused by friction, heat, pressure on the skin, or when the skin isn’t adequately exposed to the air.
So as we continue to social distance and wear our masks to combat the spread of Covid-19, we asked experts from Toronto’s Spa Medica how to combat the spread of maskne.
Medical director and facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Mike Roskies, says maskne factors into two categories: “There are fabrics in masks that can cause contact dermatitis,” referring to an allergic or irritant reaction that causes painful or itchy skin. Dr. Roskies adds that people have been reacting to the metal nose pieces on N95 masks, so it’s possible to see a case of contact dermatitis on the bridge of the nose or on the chin. “And then there’s actual acne which is caused by humidity and lack of moisture as a result from wearing a mask constantly – and some would argue at the same time, not really emphasizing personal care at a time where people are kind of on edge.”
Having several masks in rotation that fit your own face shape well can help reduce friction from over-sized masks. Dr. Roskies says that generally, something made of cotton that’s washable should suffice for your day-to-day. However, regardless of the material, you should be changing your mask regularly.
“There’s heat, sweat, oil and it builds up,” says Lesley Bowen, Spa Medica’s skincare consultant and certified skin therapist. “I always have two or three in my bag just to change over all the time…like you have a couple lipsticks – have a couple masks.”
For treating maskne, Bowen says salicylic acids are key. “Salicylic actually is able to scoop down into the pore and clean the pore out, so that obviously is a fantastic ingredient for maskne.” She does caution that products with active ingredients should be used at night because the properties make your face sensitive to the sun. In the morning, an exfoliating face wash works just fine and will help with acne prevention. Additionally, to allow as much breathing room as possible for your skin, use a moisturizer with SPF.
Dr. Roskies adds that it might be worth switching to tinted moisturizers or something that can give a bit of a glow, instead of a heavy foundation or make-up that will eminently worsen the situation. Overall, he advises to keep our skincare regimens simple and refrain from experimenting. “Keeping it as simple as possible is really going to prevent any type of flare-up or breakout at this point,” says Dr. Roskies, “so this is definitely not the time to trial new active ingredients in your skincare.”
Products to help prevent and treat maskne: