What Is Mask Acne And How Do You Effectively Treat It?

Wearing face masks has now become the new norm for us.

But despite being effective in curbing the spread of the virus; it has also given rise to a slew of skin conditions—specifically, one that has become so common that it now has a name—“Maskne”.

Manifesting as red, itchy and flaky skin or a nasty acne outbreak,  we have been seeing more patients that are struggling to maintain their clear, flawless skin due to daily mask wear.

And unfortunately, maskne does not just plague those with acne-prone skin—anyone who wears a face mask can be affected, especially those already facing existing skin conditions.

It is also not uncommon to see patients experiencing pressure sores, which can be difficult to heal properly and result in scarring and pigmentation. And while it is NOT an option to stop wearing a mask—the key here is to work towards protecting and maintaining your skin with a mask on.

But first, let us understand why maskne occurs.

Maskne: explained

Maskne is the irritation, redness, and inflamed pimples and lesions that we see along our jaw, nose, cheeks, chin and mouth caused by wearing a face mask. 

When your skin is confined beneath the fabric of a face mask, your breath essentially creates a humid environment that limits air circulation; resulting in heat, oil, moisture and bacteria beneath it to get trapped and clog our pores.

And since the majority of us need to wear a mask for hours in a day, this means long periods where our skin is being exposed to sweat, grime and dirt. Living in hot and humid Singapore also works against us: higher temperatures increase our face’s sweat and oil protection; creating the perfect breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria to thrive.

And it’s not just the humid conditions that are wreaking havoc on your skin. The problem is effectively twofold: humidity and the constant rubbing of the mask against your skin.

Before maskne came about, this was often seen in athletes and workers who frequently wear helmets and chin straps and known as “acne mechanica”—what happens due to friction against the skin that irritates our hair follicles—which then triggers inflammation and gives rise to acne!

The friction eventually causes our skin’s natural protective barrier to break down over time, which is when you start to notice more serious and frequent flareups occurring.

The good news is: the difference between acne and maskne is simply the face mask. This means that maskne is a very treatable condition that responds well to regular acne medication and in-clinic treatments with a professional doctor or dermatologist.

How to treat Maskne

To help relieve the symptoms of maskne, it is recommended to first try using topical spot treatments and creams, such as products containing ingredients like alpha and beta hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulphur and retinoids.

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two ingredients that can be easily found over-the-counter—salicylic acid works to clear dead skin cells and unclog pores while benzoyl peroxide helps reduce inflammation and kill acne-causing bacteria. In fact, benzoyl peroxide is one of the gold-standard ingredients for managing acne!

Retinoids can also be helpful as they are effective in unclogging the pores, reducing the oiliness of the skin and speeding up cell turnover to decrease inflammatory lesions.

One thing to note; however, is that despite their effectiveness, some of these ingredients can just as easily dry out the skin, so it’s important to find the right balance when using them as part of your skincare routine.

Those with sensitive skin and aren’t used to retinoids need to be extra careful and should start by using a lower concentration at night to see how your skin reacts.

If maskne persists, it’s time to visit a dermatologist

While topical spot treatments mostly relate to mild to moderate acne, what about people suffering from more severe, deep, cystic acne?

Your best bet is to then book a visit to your trusted dermatologist to assess your skin condition and recommend a tailored treatment program to get you back on track!

Our doctors have more than 18 years of experience providing the best acne spot treatment in Singapore and treating even the most stubborn cases of acne, and we have created a unique set of protocol that effectively banishes acne for good! The 4-step process includes:

Step 1: Facial treatments e.g. HydraFacial

Step 2: Laser treatments e.g. Q-switch, Vbeam laser

Step 3: Localised acne treatment e.g. AGNES, Gold Photothermal Therapy (PTT)

Step 4: Topical and oral therapy e.g. Balancing Cream

The latest addition to our arsenal of acne treatments, the innovative Gold PTT treatment goes beyond your traditional laser acne treatment to provide thermal heating of the pores and sebaceous glands which are not possible with light sources alone, and can be effectively combined to bring you faster, long-lasting and better results!

Our patients typically see immediate improvements in their acne upon the start of their acne treatment, with 90% of our patients showing great responses and noticing a significant improvement in their skin.

The remaining 10% may still face persistent acne—but don’t fret just yet—our doctors will continue to work with you to design a longer-term acne treatment program and can also work on treating other skin concerns such as fine lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores, acne scar removal and pigmentation!

What else can I do to prevent maskne?

Consider simplifying your skincare regimen and be more mindful of the products that you choose to put on your skin.

Stick to fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and skin-boosting ingredients, and choose to wear lighter makeup such as a lightweight tinted moisturizer (containing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides) and religiously applying a mineral-based (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) rather than a chemical-based sunscreen.

Unless you are working in healthcare, opt for breathable materials such as silk or cotton/ cotton-blend masks that can be easily washed and reused.

Adopting simple changes to your mask-wearing and skincare routine can make a huge difference in preventing and treating maskne.

Sometimes, what you may see as acne may not even be acne; wearing a mask can also trigger eczema and rosacea which is best treated by a dermatologist.

Should you be concerned about any of your symptoms—don’t hesitate to book a consultation with us today!

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