By Anne Marie Tremaine, MD
Maskne has been a recurrent topic of discussion since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The medical term is acne mechanica, and it is not a new phenomenon. Those that wear masks have been plagued with this condition for as long as the mask has been around. This is a type of acne caused by heat, occlusion, and friction. Wearing masks for long periods mixed with the heat and humidity of Southwest Florida is the perfect storm for maskne and it can present in many ways, including pimples, pustules, redness, and itchy dry or raw skin.
You can help prevent maskne by wearing a clean mask. With each use, your oil, saliva, sweat, and nasal secretions build up on your mask. If your mask is disposable, you need to replace it regularly. If it is a cloth mask, then it should be washed daily with an unscented, mild detergent and rinsed well. It does appear that soft cotton fabrics are better for those suffering from maskne. In addition, avoid wearing makeup under the mask. The mask plus makeup, plus a moist environment is a haven for acne to thrive. Finally, wash your face once you can remove the mask. A mild cleanser and gentle massage with your fingertips is all that is needed to cleanse the skin.
If it is too late to prevent maskne, we have many treatment options. The first step is using topical agents to unplug pores, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, azelaic acid and retinoids. It is important to note that you can over do these acne treatments resulting in the skin becoming too dry. Therefore, I recommend just starting with one of these agents and making an appointment to create a treatment plan. If the acne is severe enough, I sometimes use short courses of oral antibiotics. On the other hand, if the concern is more of irritation and allergy, rather than acne, other topical treatments are necessary.
Maskne is not an excuse to not wear a mask. The widespread use of facial masks lessens the spread of the coronavirus. We will help you get through the maskne while protecting yourself and your community.
Anne Marie Tremaine, MD
Board Certified Dermatologist
Harvard Cosmetic and Laser Medicine Fellowship
Dr. Tremaine is a board-certified dermatologist with fellowship training at Harvard Medical School in laser and cosmetic surgery. She has contributed as a dermatology expert for online and print magazines including Family Fun, msn.com, menshealth.com, and ccn.com. In addition, she frequently lectures to professional societies on her diverse research.
For more information about skin care visit the Skin Wellness Physicians website at: www.skinwellnessflorida.com