Certainly the stress of the new normal and the additional home snacking and comfort eating occasioned by covid circumstances is contributing to more skin complaints and in particular pimple and acne breakouts but the essential and lifesaving wearing of masks and facial coverings for prolonged periods is contributing its own complaint- to what dermatologists are dubbing “maskne”.
So while we have this new name “maskne”, it’s not a new condition, workers whom have long worn visors or facial PPE and sports people with helmets and face guards have been dealing for decades with this form of acne – known as acne mechanica – so the good news is we know how to treat it.
In essence it is a complication of the covering of the skin, so with medical masks and facial covering the breakouts tend to affect around the mouth, chin and bridge of nose – the pores beneath the reach of your mask being less aerated and more prone to friction and agitation, can become blocked by sweat, your natural oil secretions, and makeup, thus laying a seedbed for acne (which is bacterial in nature) to erupt – then the fact that we are breathing heat and moisture into the masks and across the contained skin’s surface fuels the activation and spread of the bacteria and more frequent breakouts.
There are a couple of steps we can take
Mask etiquette. Masks are essential to our fight against covid, it’s a problem we can’t ditch so quick but some mask etiquette will go a long way to prevention and faster recovery – a fresh mask each day or several changes over the course of a day will help, after each use dispose of your disposables or wash your renewables.
Face hygiene. You won’t have to wash your face as frequently as we all wash our hands now, but washing your face before you put a mask on and after you take it off will reduce the bacteria that causes the breakouts. Don’t use harsh soap or strong chemicals that can disrupt your skins barrier layer and only put it under more stress. A gentle soap and warm water will do the trick.
Cleansing regime. There is no need for hard exfoliation or strong peels, a big part of ‘maskne’ is the friction of the mask, so think gentle – let the skin recoup when not under the mask rather than trying scrubs and treatments. You can continue to cleanse but in a very soothing way – there are many natural cleansers that will soothe skin irritation while removing bacteria and excess sebum and simultaneously supply a gentle exfoliation of dead skin cells that may house the bacteria. Coconut oil, honey, dilute apple cider vinegar, oatmeal can all be utilized to cleanse and care for affected areas
The ‘go to’ supplement – Essential fatty acids are great to balance hormonal and stress triggered acne but also are very useful when topically applied, to inhibit bacterial growth and work against both infection and inflammation. One of the best is gamma-linolenic acid – potent in evening primrose oil, borage seed oil and black currant seed oil.
Other Garden aid – Cleaver juice is great for all types of skin eruptions. Witch hazel extract makes an excellent pore closer and cooled thyme tea is a natural cleanser with potent antibacterial properties.
Where I currently work I have to wear full PPE. At first I had a moment of looking like a teenager, for there was a couple of youthful looking spots appear, but now I use teatree face wipes and my looks have gone back to the usual for my age.