HOW TO AVOID SKIN IRRITATION WHEN WEARING FACE MASK
Wearing a face mask is a way to protect oneself and others from the spread of Covid-19. However, for some people, wearing a mask comes with one embarrassing side effect - acne. These breakouts are so common that mask acne has been dubbed “maskne” on social media. Healthcare professionals on the frontline against the Covid-19 battle are mostly affected due to the need to constantly be on personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep the virus at bay.
What causes maskne?
Maskne may be due to “acne mechanica,” which is the result of mechanical friction of a fabric against the skin. The friction causes inflammation and irritation which leads to clogged pores. When combined with emotional stress, it is the perfect recipe for acne.
“Miliaria” or heat rash, is the result from the immune system responding to the trapped dead skin cells, bacteria and sweat under the mask. When one wears a mask, the covered skin is exposed to elevated carbon dioxide levels, increased humidity and temperature as well as more bacteria from the mouth and respiratory system.
Maskne can worsen or trigger rocasea; a chronic facial redness caused by skin barrier dysfunction, overactive local immune response and hypersensitive nerves around the blood vessels.
How to prevent and treat maskne
1. Choose the right mask material
A 100% cotton mask that is soft and breathable is the recommended material.
If you're using a fabric mask, wash it on a daily basis
Avoid synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and rayon.
2. Wash your face
If you're prone to getting acne, wash your face twice a day
Use a face wash containing salicylic acid or antibacterial benzoyl peroxide
3. Use gentle skin care products
Avoid using products made of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as it contains harsh sulfate that strips the skin of its natural oils and breaks the barrier
Do not use exfoliators or scrubs as they will damage the skin barrier further
4. Use protective products
Apply moisturizer on your face at least 30 minutes before wearing a mask. This is the best way to decrease the friction between the skin and mask.
5. Spot treatment
Use spot treatment like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide at night when you're not wearing a mask
An alternative is to use hydrocolloid acne patch which helps to suck out the moisture and residue in the pores.
If you are not seeing any improvement in your acne despite following the steps above, make an appointment with a dermatologist.
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