Amid COVID 19 safety concerns, it is likely mask wearing will continue to be part of our daily lives for many months to come.
That’s not good news for those experiencing outbreaks of acne spots on areas of the face covered by a mask – now known as “maskne”. Symptoms include pimples and red bumps on the nose, chin and cheeks, according to the Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada.
Dermatologists with the society offer 5 Things you might not know about maskne to help those with this condition improve their skin:
- Maskne is not new. It is medically known as acne mechanica or more casually as sports acne. It is caused by a combination of something rubbing against the skin and trapping oil and bacteria causing the skin pores to become blocked. Acne mechanica is often seen with the wearing of sports helmets and shoulder pads in hockey and football but can also be caused by having heavy shoulder straps against the body such as a golf bag or backpack.
- Good skin care can help a lot. Be gentle with your skin to avoid further inflammation. Cleansers remove excess oil, dirt, sweat and dead skin cells from the skin. Start with washing the face twice a day with a cleanser containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Don’t use harsh cleansing scrubs, exfoliants or tools. Applying a non-comedogenic, light moisturizer before putting on your mask will help reduce skin friction by providing a fine layer between your skin and the mask.
- You can start acne treatment yourself. Begin with an over the counter acne treatment containing benzoyl peroxide and apply daily after cleansing. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria that thrive in blocked, oily skin pores and can help exfoliate the skin’s surface, helping to unplug pores. Salicylic acid is another ingredient to look for. Its main benefit is in breaking down surface skin cells which helps to mildly exfoliate the skin. If maskne is still a problem after 6 – 8 weeks, or if the acne is causing scarring, see your doctor. There are many effective medical treatments for acne.
- Maskne can make people feel self-conscious and less confident. There are many studies showing acne can result in significant emotional distress ranging from bad moods and embarrassment to anxiety and even depression. Be kind to yourself and others with maskne! Talk to family or friends if maskne is getting you down.
- Proper mask wearing can help. Straps should be snug – not too tight or loose – to lessen skin friction and pore blockage. Take a mask break when safe to do so every 40 to 60 minutes to reduce blocking of skin pores.
Acne Awareness Month September 2020 was designated by the Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada / La Société canadienne de l’acné et de la rosacée to raise awareness about acne, a common skin condition affecting 5 million Canadians that can cause significant physical and emotional effects.