Since the beginning of COVID-19, the body’s largest organ – skin – has faced a new problem adapting to the times. Dermatologists have seen an outbreak of Maskne, or acne caused from wearing a face mask.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. John Phillips of Dermatology Specialists of Florida can attest to this new phenomenon.
“Basically, we’re all having to wear masks these days over the mouth and nose,” Phillips said. “So, as we breath out, moisture and heat are simulating a barrier where our mask is being worn and some people are starting to have issues in their skin with acne, as well as irritation from the mask.”
Phillips said that the added stresses of the pandemic have increased acne as well.
Combining mask wearing with the moisture and heat, what happens is people get buildup of bacteria and yeast under their mask.
“That causes an imbalance in the microbiome of the skin, leading to skin issues, acne being one of them, as well as skin irritation from the mask itself,” he said.
Given that we live in Florida with the constant high humidity and high heat, these skin issues are likely heightened here than in other parts of the country.
“Some other things we see are people that have rosacea – the adult form of acne – are being kind of exasperated by the heat,” Phillips said. “The heat and chronic wearing of the mask causes the skin to break out more into bumps and pustules that we consider acne.”
At Dermatology Specialists, the health professionals wear a mask eight to 10 hours a day, as well as other workers worldwide where it is required now. As one could imagine, trapping moisture and bacteria under a mask for that long takes a toll on the health of their skin.
Phillips added that he is also commonly seeing irritation behind the ears, due to the pressure and friction of the ear loops of the masks.
Obviously, we are still encouraged to wear masks to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
“As dermatologists there are some things we can recommend, and good skin cleansing is No. 1,” Phillips said. “A mild, hypoallergenic skin cleanser that’s not too harsh is advised. Probably a good foaming face wash would be good to use for people that have this issue.
There is such a thing as over washing your face. In fact, it can even cause acne in and of itself. Dermatologists suggest washing no more than twice a day to maintain the natural microbiome of the face.
For people with sensitive skin, a layer of light, water-based, hypoallergenic moisturizer is recommended before they put their mask on. This provides a protective barrier against the skin and reduces friction.
Even light makeup might help.
“Generally, we find that makeup makes acne worse,” Phillips said, “But if it’s a water-based, hypoallergenic makeup it can help. Something like a mild press powder or a tinted lotion can actually protect the skin from issues with the mask.”
It is also important to wash reusable masks daily because bacteria will build up easily. Consider a cloth mask a new article of daily clothing, washing it in the laundry with your other clothes. The blue and white medical grade masks are not meant to be worn multiple days. Dermatologists suggest that may be reused a couple of days. Then, it is best to use another one.
Men that have facial hair can cause irritation as well.
“For men with facial hair we sometimes recommend using a toner on their face or using a dandruff wash on the face or ketoconazole wash a couple of times a week, which you can buy over the counter,” Phillips said.
Stay away from benzoyl peroxide wash if wearing a cloth mask, because it will irritate skin and stain and decolor the mask.
Did you know that people who have cold sores and wear a mask can potentially spread more cold sores to their mouth? The masks can even make the cold sores worse. The mask is on the face and rubbing the virus around. It is recommended to seek treatment for cold sores as soon as they are noticed to prevent worsening.
All in all, masks are encouraged for safety of yourself and the safety of others, but so is appropriate facial cleansing. After cleansing, don’t forget to moisturize to balance the microbiome of skin.
Dermatology Specialists of Florida offers a wide range of services, including biopsies, excisions, skin surgery, laser surgery, skin treatments and the management of not only acne, but eczema and psoriasis as well.
Dermatology Specialists of Florida accepts almost every form of insurance and they are open Monday, Thursday and Friday. Call 850-932-1455 for more information or to schedule your appointment. You can also go online to DermatologySpecialistsFL.com.
Dermatology Specialists of Florida
2053 Fountain Professional Court, Suite B