Maskne: Calgary doctors weigh in skin reactions to masks

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Blog

Wearing a mask is a widely practiced recommendation from the CDC when it comes to limiting the spread of COVID-19. Not only do leading health authorities suggest wearing a mask in public spaces, wearing them has become enforceable by law in many areas of the world. Here in Calgary, face coverings are required on public transit, public indoor spaces and in city run facilities.

But as Calgarians do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, many are experiencing an unexpected symptom: maskne.

A common problem, just a new name

Although the colloquialism “maskne” (mask + acne) is making headlines, the condition is not new. Known in the medical community as acne mechanica, this form of acne is caused by heat, friction or pressure against the skin. Acne mechanica is quite common amongst athletes who wear protective gear such as helmets or shoulder pads. Sweat and heat build up underneath the materials, causing oil and bacteria to become trapped – leading to clogged pores. 

However, the bumps and imperfections caused by wearing facial coverings are not always linked to acne – allergic reactions and skin sensitivities can also lead to painful rashes and bumps beneath a mask. 

Tips to prevent Maskne

As workplaces and businesses alike implement policies making mask wearing mandatory, the frequency of skin conditions caused by facial coverings continues to rise.

Although some cases of maskne can lead to painful, even dangerous, infections – most can be improved by following some simple tips:

  • Always wear a clean, dry mask – moisture encourages bacteria to grow, and bacteria and dead skin cells can collect in the mask. Swap out your facial covering during the day if it becomes damp or dirty.
  • Avoid wearing makeup underneath your mask –  Wearing makeup, especially when it contains oil,  can result in clogged pores even faster. 
  • Wash and moisturize your skin – Dry skin becomes irritated quickly, and keeping it clean will reduce the amount of bacteria underneath the mask. Avoid introducing new products into your skincare regime if you are experiencing maskne, as certain ingredients could aggravate your skin even further.
  • Wear the right mask – Opt for breathable, natural materials. If you notice your skin is irritated or uncomfortable under the mask, try a different material. Also ensure that it is fitting snuggly, but not too tight – and don’t be afraid to take it off (when safe conditions are in place) to allow your skin to breathe throughout the day.

When should I see a dermatologist for my maskne?

In many cases, following the above steps could improve mild cases of acne mechanica. However, if your skin doesn’t heal or the blemishes appear to be spreading/worsening, it is advised to seek the help of a professional. Ignoring these signs could lead to infection, resulting in more serious outcomes and discomfort.

Experiencing maskne in Calgary? Our dermatologists in Calgary are here for you!

If wearing a mask has caused you to develop painful outbreaks, our family doctors and dermatologists Calgary are here to help. We are trained professionals with the necessary experience and expertise to address your unique skin care concerns. Wearing a mask shouldn’t be painful – so if you are having problems with your skin due to facial coverings, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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