Ever since Covid-19 surfaced, face masks have become an indispensable part of our lives. Be it while travelling for work or a going for a quick grocery run, masks top our checklists while leaving home. However, given the humidity buildup with our face gears on for long hours, a number of people have observed acne breakout on their face, or in other words, “maskne”.
As the name may suggest, maskne is acne caused due to excessive usage of face masks. As dermatologist Dr BL Jangid puts it, maskne is acne caused as a result of oily, sweaty skin that is not washed at regular intervals. “If you are unable to wash your face on a regular basis, bacteria are trapped on your skin while wearing a mask, creating a breeding ground for acne breakouts,” he explains. What’s more, maskne can also be the result of the kind of mask one wears. “The masks usually cause pressure, heat, and rubbing on your skin that leads to irritation, inflammation, rashes, and pimples, easily causing acneiform eruptions,” adds Dr Jangid.
While one would think the most obvious way of avoiding this kind of skin breakout is to simply cut down the usage of masks, the spread of the virus has left us with no option but to keep our masks on whenever we are exposed to an outdoor environment.
So, what can one do to reduce the occurrence of maskne? “Wear a soft, cotton or homemade mask that fits your face properly. Do not touch or itch your face once you wear a mask. Use a protective cream or a barrier cream like sunscreen or a mild moisturiser before wearing a mask. Also, do not apply makeup and wear a mask, for it can clog your pores, aggravate acne or any kind of facial dermatitis,” suggests Dr Ekta Nigam, senior consultant — dermatology and cosmetology — at a hospital in Gurugram.
Dr Mansak Shishak, senior consultant dermatologist at a Delhi-based hospital, seconds this, and adds, “Use of appropriate anti-acne face washes, face wipes containing salicylic acid, and topical application of anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial agents help to a great extent. Also, avoid N95 and surgical masks, unless one is a healthcare worker.”
Undoubtedly, the situation is harder for healthcare workers, as their duty entails wearing a mask, face shield and even PPE kits for long hours. And it is, then, no surprise that maskne is a common occurrence among healthcare workers. For them, dermatologist Dr Pooja Chopra recommends, “Wearing a cotton mask as a first layer and an N95 [mask] over it helps.” She goes on to say, “Clean your face thoroughly with a facewash before and after wearing a mask. Clean/dispose your mask regularly. A light compact may be used to absorb the sweat/oil secretion prior to wearing a mask.”
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