Wearing a face mask when you can’t socially distance is one of the key recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “Maskne”—when your face breaks out or becomes irritated from wearing a mask—is an unfortunate effect of wearing masks for some people. There are ways to prevent or treat acne due to face masks that can keep you and others safe from infectious disease and help keep your skin clear and looking good.

1. Keep your face clean.

Wearing a mask traps bacteria-filled moisture close to your face that can cause breakouts. Keeping your skin clean will reduce the germs, so wash your face before and after you wear your mask. Try a cleanser with up to 5% benzoyl peroxide (a higher concentration might irritate your skin). Leave the cleanser on for a couple of minutes before you rinse. You can also try a pH-balanced cleanser. Whatever you use, make sure it is fragrance- and oil-free. More is not better—don’t over wash your face because that can make your skin produce more oil, causing more acne.

2. Take it easy on the skin care routine.

Now is not the time to experiment with a lot of different skin care products that might cause irritation or imbalance. Avoid peels, exfoliants and products with retinol if you are not used to them. Avoid salicylic acid products that you leave on, as well as aftershave, which may contain alcohol. Face masks can make your skin dry, and alcohol will increase dryness. But don’t over moisturize; choose your moisturizer thoughtfully. Look for products with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or dimethicone. Dimethicone will help create a barrier that can reduce irritation.

3. Apply an appropriate acne treatment.

Treating breakouts from masks can be tricky because the products can be harsh and further irritate your skin. Try a topical acne treatment with 2% or 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, but only put it on the pimples. Don’t use the stronger 10% solution. If you have black or brown skin, acne may cause some hyperpigmentation. In that case, use a product with glycolic acid to help clear your skin and treat the discoloration. Do not use a skin lightening product unless you consult a dermatologist.

4. Consider the kind of mask you’re wearing.

When masks rub your face, the friction can cause a kind of breakout called acne mechanica. Masks may also lead to contact dermatitis or irritation on the nose and ears. Silk or silk-like masks may cause less irritation, but offer less protection than some other materials. Avoid synthetics like polyester and nylon. The most effective masks, like the N95 respirator, are made from plastic fibers that can also irritate the skin. Try a cotton mask with layers that lets the skin breathe, and make sure your mask fits snugly but comfortably. Modify your behavior according to the level of protection your mask provides.

5. Clean your mask as well as your face.

A dirty mask will transfer bacteria to your face and could cause more maskne. Wash cloth masks after each use, using the hot water setting. You can wash them with other laundry that is suitable for hot water. Add a bleach alternative to increase cleanliness. Dry your masks on the highest heat setting and make sure they are completely dry before use. If you are washing masks by hand, use 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. Let the masks soak for five minutes. Dry them in direct sunlight if you can. If you wear paper or surgical masks, dispose of them after each use.

6. Be aware of trade-offs between protection and skin breakouts.

The tighter and thicker a mask is, as a rule, the better protection it will provide against pathogens like the novel coronavirus. The N95 provides the wearer one of the highest levels of protection, but can also be very irritating and needs to be tight fitting. Though masks may cause acne breakouts, protecting yourself and others is more important than pimples. Minimize maskne by keeping your skin clean and always wear a clean mask. Remove the mask as soon as you are in a safe environment and if you can, take a 15 minute “mask break” every four hours.

7. Face masks can cause chafing as well as acne.

Some people will notice a rash on their face from wearing a mask. You may have contact dermatitis from the metal or rubber parts of the mask, or a reaction to materials in the fabric or dye. To treat the rash, try an over-the-counter cortisone cream, applied sparingly. You can also use a barrier product like zinc oxide or petroleum jelly. Try different masks until you find one that fits comfortably but tightly enough to protect you and others. Avoid touching your face, which can spread the virus as well as the bacteria that causes acne and irritation.

source: www.healthgrades.com