By Rhonda Mann, Tufts Medical Center Staff
As we get ready to leave our homes for work, to run errands or to visit family, we grab our keys, our purse or wallet and of course, our mask. The onset of COVID-19 has many people wearing masks for a significant portion of the day, and dermatologists are beginning to see some irritating side effects.
“With the ongoing pandemic, we are noticing a lot of skin irritation and acne flare-ups due to mask wearing,” said Farah Moustafa, MD, FAAD, Director of Laser and Cosmetic Clinic in the Dermatology Department at Tufts Medical Center. “It’s likely the result of trapped oil, dirt, sweat and bacteria, combined with the friction caused by the mask itself for long periods of the day, a condition known as maskne.”
Dr. Moustafa offers seven tips to prevent maskne:
1. Wash Your Face Every Day
Now more than ever, you need a good routine and you need to stick with it, suggests Dr. Moustafa. “Use gentle cleansers on the skin and lukewarm water at the end of the day of mask wearing,” she says. “Avoid fragrances or any unnecessary ingredients which can worsen the irritation.” Dr. Moustafa says if you are acne prone, use face wash with active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide (in low concentrations <4%) or salicylic acid, but limit this to evening use before bed to avoid excessive irritation under your mask. Micellar water can be a great adjunct after face washing to get any residual dirt or oil left behind and is a gentle alternative to toners which often contain alcohol.
2. Avoid Wearing Makeup Under the Mask
Over the course of the day, makeup can combine with sweat and oil to worsen breakouts.
3. Avoid Too Much Product and New Products
They can spur on irritation that can be hard to control. Keep your routine simple and minimal.
Using a light moisturizer labelled as “non-comedogenic” actually helps provide a barrier between your skin and the mask. Again, choose gentle products and avoid fragrance. Gel-based moisturizers are good options for acne-prone skin. Other ingredients such as dimethicone and zinc oxide (found in sunscreen) can help provide and extra barrier between the skin and a mask.
5. Spot Treatment
Use spot treatments directly on problem areas at night, when no mask is needed. Rinse in the morning. Ingredients such as retinols/retinoids can become even more irritating when worn under a mask so be mindful that you may actually need to limit their use instead of increasing use.
6. Switch Mask Daily
If you are wearing a cloth mask, alternate them and wash after each use. Cotton masks are best for those who are acne-prone and silk masks works well for sensitive skin. Polyester and other synthetic materials are more likely to cause skin problems.
7. Other Conditions May Require Physician Consult
Dr. Moustafa notes that eczema, rosacea and other dermatologic conditions can also be worsened by mask wearing. She suggests seeing a board-certified dermatologist for the appropriate diagnosis and management.
Skin isn’t the only facial area that can be affected by masks – lips can also be a problem.
“Lots of mouth breathing makes for a dry mouth and dry lips under the mask,” says Dr. Moustafa. She recommends avoiding lip licking, however attempting and not using chapsticks or lip products with fragrances or color. “Using plain Vaseline or lanolin-based ointment (Aquaphor) daily before dawning the mask is your best bet. Reapply before bedtime for best results,” she says.
For an appointment with Dr. Moustafa, call 617-636-0156.
Posted October 2020
The above content is provided for general educational purposes by Tufts Medical Center. Unedited copies of the article may be copied and distributed for the purpose of educating the public. For information about your own health, contact your physician.