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What is 'Maskne'?

What is “maskne”? It is a new term describing the acne caused by wearing masks. It is also simply referred to as “mask acne.” The CDC is recommending everyone to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially when out in public, and says that “your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you.”1 This current health crisis and the need to cover our faces has led us to this new medical condition, particularly for health care and front-line workers who work long hours and wear one, two or even three masks as protective barriers daily. Dermatologists describe maskne as “acne mechanica,” the type of acne caused by repetitive physical trauma to the skin, usually by rubbing or scratching. Having to wear a mask for protection has created the perfect storm of oil, sweat, heat, bacteria and friction now called maskne.

Prior to the pandemic, this form of facial irritation was primarily experienced by athletes, “commonly due to the sweat, heat, and friction in their helmets and straps,”.  Now we are seeing it more now with people wearing masks for an extended period of time.   Often, acne mechanica in general—is triggered by pores being blocked by sweat, oil, and makeup.  For masks in particular, while breathing for hours with the mask on, it creates humidity to [form] a breeding ground for acne. The friction of the mask can also block and clog pores, leading to the formation of comedones or blackheads.

Preventing Maskne

While wearing your mask out in public right now is essential–especially in social settings where physical distancing is difficult to maintain—remember you can (and should!) take the mask off and give your face a necessary breather when you're away from other people, like in your own home (provided you're not caring for anyone ill) and while driving your car.

If you start developing maskne, first and foremost, be gentle. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser avoiding products that are too drying because they will cause the skin barrier to become more compromised.  Use a face wash or toner with salicylic acid to help unclog the pores.  After washing your face, apply a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. Use a noncomedogenic product, which likely won’t block your pores.

If your maskne mostly involves irritation and raw skin, you may want to apply a mild cortisone cream to the area together with a moisturizer that contains ceramides. This can help protect your skin and relieve itching and irritation.  Take a break from makeup while you’re treating maskne. Beauty products such as foundation, concealer, and blush can clog your pores and prolong healing.

Using an antibiotic cream? It’s not uncommon for bacteria to build up under a mask, which can lead to acne. To prevent this, dermatologists often recommend applying a topical antibiotic cream or gel on your skin before putting on your face mask.  Talk to one of our compounding pharmacists first to ensure you are further clogging your skin.

There are several formulations that can be tailored to you specifically.  Call one of our locations and talk to one of our compounding pharmacists.  Locations where we have a prescribing pharmacist, they can assist you with assessing your maskne and quickly getting you a prescription if it is warranted.

Remember, wash you face after wearing a mask! Once you’re back at home, wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Follow with a moisturizer to protect your skin.  Washing your face is especially important after sweating while wearing a mask.


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