What is Maskne | Mask-NE?

Written by Sheena Spencer


What is Maskne?

Maskne is an irritation of the facial skin caused by wearing a mask or face covering. This irritation can be seen in many forms from redness to Acne. It is not a new term but has become more familiar over the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are wearing masks for prolonged periods of time. Doctors, nurses and dentists as well as anyone who is used to wearing face coverings for work purposes have long known of the annoyance of this specific skin disorder. This condition is generally worse during the hot summer months.

What are the signs/symptoms of Maskne?

The visual symptoms of Maskne are pimples, inflammation and breakout, as well as painful redness, friction or micro tears in the area where the face covering is worn. The most common areas affected are the chin, jawline, cheeks and nose areas. There are early warning signs of Maskne which include slight irritation, dryness and fine roughness of the facial skin.This is the stage to action in order to protect the skin against further damage. These signs may be visible over the whole area covered by the mask or just specific patches that have become affected.

What is the cause of Maskne?

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In short the rubbing or friction and the humid environment caused by wearing a mask for prolonged periods is the main cause of Maskne. Face coverings are designed to limit airflow from entering or exiting to protect from viral components. Annoyingly, the lack of air circulation and a moist environment are also the perfect conditions for bacterial growth. This humidity also affects the skin cells that would normally separate and shed from the surface. The dead skin cells are now trapped in this environment causing them to remain on the skin’s surface and block the pores.

This condition may also be seen with other external factors that give rise to fine irritations on the skin, such as hats, scarfs, sunglasses or sportsmans helmets. However, these are normally not worn for the same length of time compared to masks.

The combination of rubbing on the skin and moist bacteria build up is not ideal for the skin’s normal performance. The constant rubbing can cause skin irritation, resulting in the natural protective barrier being broken down. This barrier protects the skin and helps prevent water loss so therefore maintains your skin’s natural hydration. Once skin is dehydrated micro tears can form on the skin allowing bacteria and dirt to enter. This is the perfect environment to encourage infection and the emergence of small whiteheads. Following on from this inflammation and larger breakouts may result if proper care is not taken.

Another term for this kind of break out is ‘Acne mechanica’. This is different from the normal type of acne which is normally a result from a disorder of the skin’s sebum production or caused by hormonal imbalances.

How long does Maskne last?

Unfortunately, everyone’s skin is different and the healing times from Maskne will differ from person to person. Every person’s skin reacts differently and will recover at different rates. If the protective barrier of the skin continues to be imparied the micro tears, redness and pimples will remain. Maskne will also reoccur after the area is healed if the above external factors are recreated.

However, generally speaking once you remove all the factors or find products to heal and protect your skin, it can take between 1-3 weeks for the skin to heal and be protected. It is then recommended to use a moisturiser to keep the skin hydrated. Practicing a regular facial routine can help ensure the skin is kept in the best condition, preventing the irritants from causing the maskne to reoccur.

Can Maskne be prevented?

In theory you can take many steps to help protect the skin and reduce the likelihood of Maskne from occurring. Everyone’s skin is different and will react to the irritation from the face covering in different ways. If you have sensitive, breakout prone, oily or dehydrated skin you will be more likely to suffer from maskne. Below are a few different things you can try that may help in the battle against Maskne from occurring:

  • Wash your mask – bacteria can build up very quickly, so it is recommended you wash your mask after every use. This can be by hand or in the washing machine.
  • Mask sizing – If your mask is too tight or too loose it will cause extra friction and cause more irritation to the skin.
  • Mask material – Silk or cotton are preferable over synthetic materials. This is because these materials are more breathable. Medical single use masks can be quite harsh on the skin as they take a while to soften and need to be changed regularly. (High risk individuals and medical practitioners are advised to use these due advanced protection).
  • Wash your face – make sure you wash your face every day and night to get rid of dead skin, oil and bacteria that has built up over the day. Remember to be gentle rather than using scrubs, as the aim is to help protect your skin rather than damage it further.
  • Skincare routine – Try to use good products, non comedogenic/heavy moisturisers. Calming hydrating cleansers. Spf to protect the skin barrier. Mainly listen and watch your skin’s responses to the products you use, this is the best way to protect it.

What are the treatment options for Maskne?

Unfortunately with COVID-19 cases still prominent in the UK and around the world the continued use of masks is inevitable. It is important to stay safe and protect others by using your mask. However there are many different treatment options that can help with replenishing, dry, irritated and oily skin, so that when masks are no longer needed you have glowing and hydrated skin. Below are a few things to consider in the treatment of Maskne:

  • Friction from the mask needs to be removed. Try different mask materials and experiment with the use of a SPF with zinc oxide in it. This creates a protective barrier from the sun but also acts as another layer to help lock in moisture and prevent the mask from rubbing directly on the skin. We recommend RAD SPF 15 from Environ.
  • The protective barrier of the skin needs to remain intact! Use a hydrating cleanser which will keep the skin healthy. Make sure the cleanser contains ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid. This helps the skin hold onto water keeping the skin supple and plump. We remmoned Mild Cleansing Lotion from Environ.
  • Red, sensitised or inflamed skin needs to be calmed. When these symptoms arise it is usually due to the protective skin barrier being damaged. In this case products with intense soothing ingredients need to be introduced to help heal and repair the skin. In combination with the above mild cleansing lotion we would suggest Colostrum Serum from Environ.
  • Once the skin has started to create white heads and congestion you need to introduce some light exfoliation. Be careful not to over exfoliate as this may increase the skin’s sensitivity. We suggest the Sebu-masque from Environ using it only on areas of congestion for 10 mins to help reduce oil build up on the skin.

Professional treatments such as facials are a great way to help deep cleanse, hydrate and repair the skin. As well as the facial treatment your therapist will give you advice on what home care steps to take. With the use of the right ingredients you may notice a difference after just one session.

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