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  • Writer's picturePaty Cholewczynski

How to deal with Mask Acne.

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Wearing protective masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but there is an unwanted "side effect" that is starting to show up as a problem.

We can't avoid the fact that as we sweat underneath our mask, bacteria and oil from our skin can trigger "Mask-Ne" or Mask Acne.😱

When wearing a tight mask on the face, there is very little air flow and this creates a warm, moist environment, which is ideal for skin bacteria to flourish and cultivate. As this skin bacteria grows, it starts to occlude or block the openings of hair follicles causing black heads, white heads, painful pimples and pus bumps (i.e. pustules).

The constant pressure of the mask pressed against our skin, heat and sweat can disrupt our skin's barrier causing skin irritation, infections and acne breakouts. So what can you do to minimize this problem?

Let me give you some useful tips to help you prevent and deal with "maskne".

If in your line of work you can use a cloth mask, try to have about 3 cloth masks that you can use throughout your shift and wash them every day, have a few available for you to use during your work week and rotate them, do not reuse a used mask that it hasn't been washed as you will be depositing the left over grime and bacteria from the previous day. Purchase more masks and wash them more regularly. You wouldn’t wear gym clothes more than once, why would you do it on your face?! As soon as you feel your mask is getting a little heavy with moisture through your shift....swap it for a fresh one.

Also, make sure the detergent that you are using to wash this cloth masks will not be irritating as this can exacerbate the situation with skin irritation. Skip the fabric softner

If you are acne-prone, it is especially important that face masks, clothing, bath towels, bed sheets, blankets, and pillowcases are not washed with brands such as Tide, Purex, Gain, Arm & Hammer and All.

Scented laundry detergents, additives, and fabric softeners leave harmful residues that can irritate sensitive skin, cause contact dermatitis, and worsen acne or eczema. Acne-free laundry means you must avoid additives, enzymes, chlorine bleach, and fabric softeners. Fragrance-free dryer sheets leave a waxy residue that can clog your pores and irritate your skin.

By adding a cup of white distilled vinegar into the washing machine with your laundry, in the fabric softener dispenser can seriously save your skin. Not only is it a fragrance-free way to soften your clothes, but it also gets rid of some of the irritants that can linger behind. It also removes detergent and mineral residues from the clothes. There will be no toxic fragrance clinging to the fabric.

If your line of work doesn't allow for the use of a cloth mask, such as in the healthcare sector. If in short supply and not able to use a fresh one every few hours. Then you will need to make sure you keep your skin's barrier as intact as you can using the right ingredients and also being very consistent with your skin care regimen at home every day.

Skip wearing face makeup... You can doll up your eyes, but skip the foundation (for now)

For both scenarios above the following is a good skin care routine to maintain proper skin hydration and avoid pores from clogging:

1. Must wash your face AM/PM (choose preferably a creamy cleanser or hydrating gel cleanser, nothing too stripping).

2. Add a Hydrating Toner (try to avoid alcohol based toners... Alcohol based toners tend to strip the skin).

3. Exfoliate your skin. Physical exfoliation and some sort of AHA ingredient will be great to maintain your pores from clogging. (Gentle exfoliation routine: 1x - maybe 2x per week... remember more is not better, but being consistent is key).

4. Add a Vitamin C Serum. (Vit C. is a powerful antioxidant that is known for fighting free radical damage to skin cells and may help treat acne and can reduce acne-induced inflammation.)

5. Moisture, Moisture, Moisture! Make sure your moisturizer is able to provide the necessary hydrating ingredients to protect & repair your skin's barrier. I will suggest, a light formulation during the day will be best and then a heavier restoring moisturizer cream for the evening. (Hyaluronic Acid is a great hydrating ingredient that can help boost your skin's hydration).

6. Do a hydrating face mask at least twice a week.

7. You can use also a think layer of a barrier cream before you put on your mask every day. One that I totally recommend is: Cicalfate Restorative & Protective Cream by Avene. (Only OTC product, I will recommend for compromised barrier skin).

If you need help selecting some products to help you manage your Maskne, I will be happy to help.

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