Though we’ve put the year 2020 behind us, some things have yet to change. With vaccines being distributed, the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight. We’re all anxiously awaiting the return to normalcy but, in the meantime, we likely still have months of mask-wearing ahead of us.

Wearing a mask is one of the simplest and most effective ways to protect yourself and others. Unfortunately, wearing a mask comes with a few side effects including an increased risk for mask-related acne or, as it has been dubbed on social media, maskne.

Here’s what you need to know about mask-related acne and how to prevent it.

What is Maskne, Anyway?

When you hear the word “acne” you probably flash back to your teenage years. Acne affects about 85% of teens and young adults between the ages of 12 and 24. Just because you’ve transitioned into adulthood, however, doesn’t mean you’re safe. Acne can occur at any stage of life and, over the past year, many have come to experience a new form of acne – mask-related acne or maskne.

The truth is mask-related acne is nothing new. Mask-related acne is actually a form of acne mechanica or mechanical acne. This type of acne is triggered by pressure and friction on the skin and is commonly seen in athletes who wear tight-fitting clothing and sports equipment. Wearing a face mask for extended periods of time creates the ideal conditions on your face for this type of acne to form.

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Tips for Keeping Your Mask Clean

Acne develops when sebum combines with dead skin cells to form a plug in the pores. When bacteria from the surface of the skin enters the plug, it develops into an acne lesion. Warm, damp conditions (like those you’d find under a face mask) tend to proliferate acne-causing bacteria and trigger breakouts. If you wear a mask for long periods of time, you may want to take steps to keep your mask clean to avoid triggering new breakouts or making existing maskne worse.

Here are some simple tips for keeping your mask clean:

  • Carry extra masks so you always have a clean mask available
  • For cloth masks, wash your mask frequently using fragrance-free detergent
  • Avoid reusing disposable surgical face masks when possible
  • Take your mask off when it is safe to do so to give your skin time to breathe
  • Make sure reusable face masks are completely dry before wearing them

If you find yourself wearing a face mask for extended periods of time, you may want to consider applying a barrier cream to prevent friction and skin irritation. Avoid wearing heavy layers of makeup under your mask and choose non-comedogenic products to avoid triggering maskne.

Skincare Tips to Prevent Maskne

In addition to keeping your mask clean, it’s important to follow a daily skincare routine to keep your skin clean and healthy. This routine doesn’t need to be particularly complicated – just make sure to cleanse and moisturize on a daily basis. Additional skincare products can be added as needed to address specific skin concerns such as pigmentation, acne scarring, or anti-aging.

Follow these skincare tips to prevent and treat maskne:

  • Cleanse your skin twice daily with a gentle cleanser appropriate for your skin type
  • Use moisturizer to replenish your skin’s natural moisture barrier
  • Look for hydrating and skin-repairing ingredients like hyaluronic acid in moisturizer
  • Try using an over-the-counter acne treatment like benzoyl peroxide to treat blemishes
  • Consider a topical cream with retinoids like tretinoin to treat moderate to severe acne breakouts

If you’re struggling with mask-related acne and over-the-counter spot treatments aren’t working, talk to your dermatologist about prescription options. You can also take an online skincare quiz to find out the best skincare routine to help prevent and treat maskne.

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