IS YOUR FACE MASK GIVING YOU “MASKNE”?November 3, 2020
Our lives have changed in so many unexpected ways recently, but one thing we did not quite see coming was a new skin problem caused by wearing a face mask. We find out more about this acne phenomenon known as “maskne”, and how to prevent it.
Breakouts that occur after wearing a mask have been so common that mask acne has been dubbed “maskne” on social media. What first seemed like a marketing buzzword coined for breakouts, redness and skin sensitivity seemingly caused by wearing face coverings, has actually turned out to be a genuine problem. But what is “maskne”, how can it affect your skin and what can you do to prevent it?
What is “Maskne”?
The medical term for “maskne” is acne mechanica, a skin condition brought on by prolonged wear of facial personal protective masks. Masks that impose heat, friction, occlusion on the skin combined with a moist environment from breathing, talking or sweating causes breakouts particularly around the mouth and chin. Not only do pores get clogged and become pimples, the prolonged occlusion, friction of the mask, heat and sweat cause the skin to become dry, itchy and raw. Those with sensitive skin might be more likely to experience redness, raised bumps and contact dermatitis.
Acne isn’t the only skin condition reported by mask wearers. According to Dr Eileen Tan, a dermatologist at Eileen Tan Skin Clinic and Associates, she has seen a 20% increase in skin problems as a result of wearing masks. Some patients have been struggling with more breakouts, particularly those with oily, combination and acne prone skin, and some also experience irritation around the area where the mask sits.
Aside from acne breakouts, some common face mask skin problems include:
- Allergic contact dermatitis – Some manufactured face masks may contain a chemical that causes an allergic reaction. Formaldehyde and bronopol can be found in polypropylene surgical masks.
- Rosacea – Classically worsened by heat and stress, mask wearing can increase flares.
- Seborrheic dermatitis – It causes scaly plaques, inflamed skin and stubborn dandruff.
- Folliulitis – When yeast or bacteria infect hair follicles.
So whether you’re blemish-prone or more of a sensitive skin type, the problem is effectively twofold: it’s both the humid conditions beneath your mask’s material and the physical contact of the mask itself that can wreak havoc.
How can proper skin care reduce the impact of wearing a mask?
You can protect your face from mask irritation by keeping your face clean, applying a moisturizer, as well as avoid wearing makeup and applying strong medicated skincare products (e.g. containing retinol, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide) which could end up irritating your skin further. You can also treat common mask related skin issues at home:
- Acne or break outs – Add a glycolic acid wash and a light “non-comedogenic” moisturizer to your skincare regime
- Dry skin – Always apply a good moisturizer before you put on a mask. After you remove the mask, cleanse your face and apply a bland emollient.
Does the type of mask you wear make a difference?
Actually, yes. It is recommended to use a medical grade face mask with a snug but comfortable fit, made from a soft and breathable material. A good fit will not only help to protect you and others from Covid-19, but also prevents you from having to constantly adjust your face masks, which reduces the spread of bacteria to your face and stops it from rubbing against your skin. With the wide array of face masks available these days, how do you know which is best for your skin while offering you the protection needed against Covid-19?
Fabric cloth masks have been a popular choice because of its reusability but actually proven a culprit of “maskne” and irritated skin. Fabric masks made from synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and rayon can clog the pores and cause skin irritation. While a cotton fabric mask can offer slightly better breathability, you’ll still be prone to break outs if you don’t wash your mask properly, and certain chemicals, fragrances and dyes from laundry detergents can cause an allergic skin reaction. And of course these fabric masks do not offer the same level of protection as medical grade surgical masks.
An N95 mask may have 95% bacterial filtration efficiency and provide a tight fit but it can actually cause more skin woes that one can handle. Dr Tan, mentions the gill mask that resembles the N95 respirator can “offer relatively airtight protection”, but using this mask can lead to skin irritation or skin inflammation, from the build-up of moisture, heat and increase in sebum production.
Even the filters in these disposable surgical masks can make a huge difference. Most surgical masks commonly use melt blown filters which are made from a molten plastic polymer fabric that end up clogging the pores. These filters often get wet from saliva and sweat after a few hours of wear thereby promoting bacteria spread that can affect the skin. In fact, once the filter gets wet, not only does bacteria multiply but it also prevents breathability and reduces the protection level significantly.
The ideal medical grade surgical mask is one that uses the Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) filter like the Gemtier NANO Filter Type IIR Masks. These masks bear a unique membrane which not only provide an impressive viral filtration efficacy of 99.9% (Covid-19 is afterall a virus and not a bacteria, which is usually 5 times the size of viruses), but also a high microbial cleanliness where lesser micro-organisms can be found on the mask. This means you’ll not only be well protected against Covid-19 but your skin has the best chance against “maskne” too. Unlike other polypropylene surgical masks containing chemicals that causes contact dermatitis, Gemtier is chemical free with no unpleasant smell and offers a comfortable fit. The type 11R masks from Gemtier also offer long wearing comfort as they repel fluids like saliva and sweat, keeping your masks dry while offering a breathability higher than industry standards. In fact, Gemtier masks have been tested at TUV – the largest accredited testing lab in Germany – and Nelson Labs with genuine certificates unlike the many surgical masks retailed with fake certification and empty claims.
Who knows how long we’ll need to wear face masks for, but until then why should your skin pay the price? Choose the right face mask to protect yourself and your skin.