So over the past couple of months under lockdown, I have had a few people get in touch that are working either on the front line or in a place of work where they need to wear a face mask. The issue a lot of these people are getting is their skin is breaking out. Even if they aren’t prone to spots, some have never had a spot in their life but the constant wearing of these face masks are causing them to get consistent breakouts.
The condition that is being caused by these masks is what we call acne mechanica. This type of acne is caused by the friction and heat from wearing the mask for long periods of time, even if you are not prone to acne or have an existing condition. If you are wearing make-up under the mask this can exacerbate the condition causing the pores to clog up even further. If your skins natural barrier function is compromised this may cause you to be more prone to having this condition. The condition presents as papules or pustules and may even progress to the more severe cysts that are a characteristic of grade 5 acne.
To treat acne mechanica, our first approach would obviously be removing the trigger, which in this case would be the face mask. This is not possible in most cases at the minute and may not be for many months or even years to come if you are working within the NHS. Many people may reach for the harsh acne fighting products, but this is likely to cause more irritation and impair the barrier function further.
My approach here will be initially to repair and support the barrier function and work on reducing the infection. I would start slow and gently to not cause any further irritation from skincare that is too active if you have a busy skincare regime you may need to step it back a little. A gentle cleanser that is going to cleanse the skin effectively yet support the barrier function, remember we don’t want a squeaky clean feeling from our cleanser, this is an indication of dehydration and a compromised skin. A hydrating non-comedogenic moisturiser, I always recommend Dermaviduals, their approach in treating the skin via the principle of corneotherapy is perfect for this skin condition. My go-to acid would be a low % salicylic acid initially; this is an oil-soluble acid that will gently clear out the pores and help to reduce any inflammation.
Avoid wearing make-up at times when wearing the face mask, this will just add to the clogged pores and make the ‘Maskne’ worse. Changing your mask frequently will also benefit the skin, once the mask gets damp this is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Once you have finished your shift or period of wearing a mask, give your skin a good cleanse to remove any bacteria or excess skin cells hanging around.
I hope if you are reading this and suffering from ‘Maskne’ you found it useful, if you feel you need a little more support and advice on your skin please don’t hesitate to get in touch. My online consultations are free until the 4thJuly and you can book one here, we can discuss your skin concerns and get you on the road to beautiful skin!