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MASKNE: The problem is real

COVID-19 has swept the world with its terror that has left an indelible impact across the world. The most widely advocated precautionary measure for COVID-19 is a medical grade (surgical masks, KN95 or N-95 mask) mask. While wearing a mask has been absolutely important to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the closed environment and irritation due to mask fabric leads to mask-induced acne or maskne in a lot of us.

In one study, almost 62% of people complained of maskne and the problem seems to be persistent for a lot of them. Here is a quick knowhow on the cause and solution of maskne for making our masked-on life easier!

Maskne is a type of acne mechanica- i.e. acne induced by friction and irritation at the points of physical contact with your mask. The healthcare workers seem to be most affected due to long mask-donned hours at work.

In one study, it was found that females are more prone to develop maskne, probably owing to a more sensitive skin and use of cosmetics and make-up routinely.

The fabric of the mask and its contact points with your face is very important to consider. If you are involved in high-risk work where you need to wear N-95 or double masks for protection, consider using a cotton cloth mask under your N-95 or surgical mask. A close-knit cotton or silk mask with minimum folds is skin-friendly and sweat-absorbing and washable.

Wear a fresh or freshly washed and ironed cotton mask under your N-95 or surgical mask to reduce chances of maskne. Avoid re-using your masks because they would have absorbed sweat, oils and cosmetics for long hours.

A lot of manufacturers have come up with different types of masks which have less contact points on face and more on head and neck area. Choose a mask with optimal COVID protection and minimal risk of acne due to friction with fabric. Avoid masks with a metal rim since they doesn't carry much added protection but can be irritant for skin.

If you have acne in your mask area, you need to do the following:

1) Go minimal: Use minimal products on skin under mask. A good AHA/ BHA face wash and oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturiser is enough. Sunscreen can be avoided since this area is anyways sun safe due to mask. Avoid cosmetics under your mask because that is an important reason for breakouts in occluded environment.

2) Go for a mild anti-acne gel overnight: Benzoyl peroxide 2.5% is good enough since occlusion by the mask increases drug penetration, so choose lesser percentages of acne medications. If you are using azelaic acid, choose a 10% or 15% gel than 20% gel commonly used.

3) Avoid retinoids like adapalene and tretinoin since they can cause increased irritation or burning due to occlusion by the mask.

4) Alternate your mask every 4-6 hours if you are going to wear it for a long time of the day. wash your face with a AHA/BHA facewash and then wear back your mask if you have specifically oily skin.

Of course COVID-19 has disrupted a major part of our routine life and mask is extremely important to keep ourselves safe from its wrath. But mask-induced acne can be taken care of by some small and smart changes in your skincare routine.

P.S.- You can write back to us for any queries and get in touch with me and other dermatologists on Acne Consult app which is a simple and smart AI-based app to cater to your acne issues and treatments for it.

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