#Maskne is the new acne

There are now millions of us around the world who wear a mask everyday to prevent spreading Covid-19. This is a good thing, and we must absolutely continue doing it.

But there are consequences to wearing a mask for long periods of time, as many of us have noticed. Second after irritations, blemishes located on the lower half of the face are among the side effects of wearing a surgical or fabric mask. Healthcare professionals are familiar with the problem – and now we’re all experiencing it! To such an extent that a new word has been invented to describe acne resulting from wearing a mask: maskne.

If you have acne-prone skin, you are unfortunately the perfect target. Maskne doesn’t reserve its visits just for you, however. Even those of us who don’t usually have trouble with spots are affected.

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  • Dr Michèle Sayag, allergologist
    Michèle Sayag, Allergist - BIODERMA.

    A mask’s role in triggering or exacerbating acne is a topic of discussion among dermatologists. The scientific community agrees for the most part that redness and irritation, sometimes accompanied by itching, can appear as a result of wearing a mask. And yet, a 2006 study in Singapore looked at the side effects among healthcare professionals of wearing a mask for long periods. It found that acne was the skin side effect most frequently experienced. The authors refer in particular to the development of blackheads and red pimples

    Michèle Sayag, Allergist - BIODERMA.

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What does maskne look like? Different studies in China and Italy after May 2020 on healthcare professionals make it possible to describe precisely the blemishes that appear as a result of wearing a mask.

It is mostly occlusion acne, with papules, pustules and microcomedones that are located on the chin and symmetrically along the jaw. A typical outbreak, in other words, which shouldn’t be confused with other skin problems that can also be caused by wearing a mask.

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  • Folliculitis: Inflammation of a hair follicle that can look like a red spot. Razors, especially electric, can cause it among some men, and women can experience it after the age of 50.
  • Eczema: A mask can trigger irritations and contact eczema, with painful red, itchy areas.
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis: A mask can exacerbate the red areas covered in greasy flakes that are typical of this disease. An increase in the production of sebum and a change in the skin’s pH are the cause.

As for maskne, there is a greater risk with oily skin of seborrhoea worsening. And generally speaking, acne will affect skin that is already prone to acne. Finally, wearing a mask can also aggravate other dermatological problems such as rosacea and seborrhoeic dermatitis.

 

5 effects a mask has on skin

Throughout the world, several scientific experts have analysed what happens to skin when it’s covered by a mask several hours a day. The changes depend on how long a mask is worn.

  • Increase in humidity at the epidermal surface
  • Increase in sebum production
  • Increase in the skin’s pH
  • Increase in skin temperature
  • Irritations caused by rubbing

The perfect conditions for new blemishes to appear! By protecting our health, masks also have a negative impact on our skin, which doesn’t get enough air and feels choked under the fabric or surgical paper. In this enclosed and humid environment, skin becomes oily, blackheads multiply and if bacteria arrives, spots appear.


Maskne can most likely be explained by keeping fabric close to the skin, occluding areas that have numerous sebaceous glands, like the nose and chin. Skin is kept inside a warm and humid environment, which helps blemishes to break out.

Michèle Sayag, Allergist

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Maskne affects fragile skin first: sensitive, reactive skin that is often irritated, and especially acne-prone skin.

If you don’t have any particular skin problems, maskne is a lesser threat, but still present. You can see that your skin is oilier and has more blackheads or small spots that weren’t there before. It all depends on how long you wear a mask everyday.

Can a mask cause acne? A Chinese study showed a significant increase in acne breakouts among people who wear a mask for more than four hours every day for over two months. Sebum production can rise by as much as 10 %.

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Hygiene and care that prevent and treat are the main solutions for maskne. Don’t hesitate to change your routine before problems arrive, with well chosen maskne products.

Morning and night, use a gentle yet effective cleanser. Using a micellar water or foaming gel with a pH similar to that of the skin won’t strip it. Micellar water makes it possible to eliminate all residue accumulated under the mask during the day, while respecting the skin’s barrier function and natural balance. Choose one that doesn’t require rinsing, formulated specifically for oily skin.

Good to know

Wearing a mask can make it feel like pollution is getting even deeper under our skin. It feels like the CO2 we naturally exhale is blocked by the mask. Micellar water eliminates not only perspiration and excess sebum but also all kinds of air pollutants.

Maskne skincare routine

To prevent and treat maskne, it’s important to find the balance between a product that can moisturise skin to preserve its barrier property while also prevent blemishes. Indeed, even skin with blemishes can suffer from irritation. A daily skin cream must also be soothing and moisturising, not too rich and especially not comedogenic. There’s no need to help a breakout come out!

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1. Wash your hands regularly (yes, still!), and systematically before touching your face.

 

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2. Wash your fabric mask at least once a day with a gentle detergent, and rinse well to remove all traces of it. If you use disposable masks, renew them regularly (every four hours).

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3. Let your skin breathe without a mask when you are alone in a room or in your car.

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4. Leave your blemishes alone, even if they’re hidden under your mask. You may have scarring that will be visible after the pandemic is over.

 

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5. Apply your moisturiser at least 30 minutes before putting your mask on so that it has time to penetrate into your skin.

 

Which is better for maskne, a fabric or a disposable mask?

It’s difficult to say which type of mask is better for avoiding maskne. Much depends on the type of fabric, its softness, how much it breathes. There is no rule. Test different types of fabric masks and compare them with disposable masks to see which is better for you. Don’t hesitate to try each mask over a few days to evaluate both comfort and the effect on your skin.