Admittedly, if 2020 were a skin disorder, it would be acne. Well, it kind of is, right? How do I get rid of my maskne? The question on the tip of everyone’s tongues. The bane of safe day-to-day existence right now. And it’s a thing.
As industries begin to open up again, or if you are one of the exceptional human beings who haven’t had a day off work in all of this, how is your face faring?
Not so great? Suffering from chin acne? (can we call it chackne yet?)
Perhaps it’s blistering or bruising across the bridge of your nose from a wearing protective shield and mask all day long?
Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of maskne. Let’s learn precisely why our faces suffer from it. And what we can do to minimize the effects of wearing a mask all day.
So let’s go!
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What is Maskne?
Maskne (or how you were punished for practising safety in 2020 without even trying).
According to Dr. Adam Mamelak, an Austin-based dermatologist, “The type of breakout you may experience when wearing a mask, is known as acne mechanica.”
“Acne mechanica occurs when there is too much rubbing and friction on the skin. Friction forms micro-tears and allows acne-causing bacteria to enter”.
Are Certain People More Susceptible to Maskne?
Individuals who already have skin issues to begin with may be more likely to experience maskne. Some of these conditions can include:
•Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
Does Your Workplace Require You to Wear a Mask All Day?
Given that for many of us nowadays, masks have become a mandatory part of our new work attire, maskne really is a big deal.
Medical professionals and essential workers alike have been silently enduring the consequences of all-day mask wearing for a long time before 2020 came along. However, since masks are now as ubiquitous as the kitchen sink, maskne has become prevalent and is a genuine issue for many of us.
When we wear our masks for an extended time-period and tightly fitting to our faces, moisture can build up. As we know, moisture can lead to the formation of bacteria. And when this skin is already vulnerable, you know what comes next. The dreaded maskne!
“Masks can also trap oil, humidity, sweat, and dirt. As you breathe, the moisture from your breath gets trapped in the fabric. This environment makes areas like the nose, chin, and cheeks covered by a mask susceptible to acne. Furthermore, many of the materials that are used to manufacture masks can irritate and inflame the skin” Dr. Mamelak says.
What Type of Fabric is Your Mask?
Additionally, Dr. Mamelak recommends looking into the type of fabric of which your mask consists. He suggests a silk mask for the least amount of abrasion on the face.
Also, according to Practice Update, an online resource for medical professionals, documented cases exist regarding contact dermatitis or allergic reactions to the formaldehyde and bronopol present in some N-95 masks. And no doubt, these occurrences are on the rise in 2020.
By the same token, if your place of work requires you to wear a poly-propylene mask, and you find that these types of masks are not doing you any favors, it may be worth investing in liners to go inside the mask against your skin.
That way, the material of the actual mask is not causing friction against your face. Or perhaps you can wear a silk mask inside your work-regulated mask to manage your maskne?
Treat Your Mask As If It Was Your Underwear!
It’s also crucial to remember to use a new or freshly washed mask EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Perhaps you need to change it out even more regularly than that while you’re on the clock.
And keep it clean!
Think about it – your mask sits over your nose and mouth. And in case you forgot, this is where all of your breathing happens. In your breath is moisture. And heat.
So, throw your mask in the wash at the end of each day. Or get a new one. Nobody wants to put on dirty undies, and you should approach your mask-wearing in the same fashion!
Speaking of laundry – we should touch on that. Try switching to a fragrance-free and natural laundry powder or soap.
It may also be worth posing the question – when was the last time you washed your pillowcases?
Although this may not be the direct reason for your maskne, having clean pillowcases will help your cause.
How to Manage Maskne
Keep up your skincare routine, but don’t go overboard!
It may feel reassuring to be washing your face at every opportune moment, but doing so can over-stimulate your skin and do more harm than good.
Specifically, avoid harsh exfoliants at all costs. A face wash with a gentle cleanser twice a day is your first line of defense.
Dr. Mamlek recommends, “A gentle cleanser to thoroughly wash the skin to get rid of the oil, dirt, and sweat that has been trapped by the mask.”
He goes on to highlight how important it is NOT to wear makeup underneath your mask. “Foundation can further trap bacteria in your skin.”
According to Dr. Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD Dermatologist and Editor at www.DermBoard.org, “My colleagues, nurses, and I found pre-soaked facial pads with 2% salicylic acid very helpful and relatively inexpensive if used before and after wearing a mask.”
“Salicylic acid (a botanical from the willow tree) will keep pores clean and open. It will prevent the buildup of dirt and skin oil, and it will eliminate acne-causing bacteria (Cutibacterium acnes),” Tonkovic-Capin explains.
“Particularly useful are Acne BLU pads. Besides salicylic acid, they contain Resveratrol, which is a precious antioxidant from red grapes. Resveratrol works against acne bacteria. It also rejuvenates and soothes the skin making the entire formulation more effective against acne, even in the most sensitive skin. It also has blemish-brightening activity, so it evens out the skin tone”.
Consequently, it’s essential to keep the barrier of your skin healthy and protected. We can do this by using a moisturizer. So even though moisturizing may feel counter-intuitive, it will keep your skin barrier uncompromised. So don’t forget to moisturize!
Dr. Adam Mamelak makes the suggestion to “Use a skin-soothing moisturizer to hydrate the skin and reduce irritation.”
If you feel that even that is not enough to cure your dry skin you may be experiencing, Dr Anna Chien of the Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology recommends looking at baby care products.
Alternatively, check out this phenomenon Masque Bar Shield & Soothe Hydrogel Facial Under PPE Mask. Designed in a timely fashion to go to work while you are at work! What better way to manage your maskne?
Are Your Ears Are Red Raw and Irritated from the Elastic on Your Mask?
Surprisingly, a lot of us seem to wear ill-fitting masks. Let’s go exploring the fit of your mask. You may need to make adjustments to allow the mask to be firm but not tight!
Your ears should sit in their natural position whilst wearing your mask. They should not be folded, or bent out of shape (that’s left for you when you experience maskne!) or have any pressure on them from tension caused by the straps.
Once you’ve got yourself comfortable in your mask, and you continue to feel discomfort behind your ears, you can look into using a product called Moleskin. Wrap this around the elastic to provide a soft, padded barrier between the elastic and your ear.
I prefer buying moleskin in a roll, as I can cut it to size and shape perfectly for whatever the reason.
I have discovered these gems as well. Pre-made soft covers (with velcro backing to secure it) that you wrap around the elastic. These covers may offer a quick fix for the elastic dilemma. I have not used these myself, and they are intended for CPAP masks. But who doesn’t love a bit of appropriation when it comes to your safety and comfort?
And these beauties certainly look like they would be a perfect solution to those suffering in the ear department. I have been getting very accustomed and reliant on these brilliant mask extenders that not only take the pressure off my ears but keep the mask elastic far away from both the top and bottom of my ears. Once I have this on at work, I can comfortably keep my mask on for 12 hours.
Please comment below with any feedback if you have used the soft covers already – I love hearing feedback! I will update when I have first-hand experience with these guys.
Alternatively, if you’re more interested in other ways to modify your mask situation and you happen to have long hair, you can get creative and solve your ear pain all in one foul swoop!
Similarly, I suspect that some of these modifications and hacks will work wonders for folks who wear hearing devices.
Now, without straying too far for a minute, I wanted to mention these masks for the hearing impaired. The Clear Mask looks like an excellent compromise for those who have their lips read by hearing-impaired loved ones. Please comment below if you have any other suggestions, and I will gladly share!
Nurse.org has an entire page of suggestions to relieve your ears from your mask.
Some of the best recommendations include:
•Tie a high bun at the back of your head. And anchor the elastic around this, so it is not even in contact with your ears.
•Create a mini-bun above each ear, which will be the anchor for the elastic from your mask.
•Sew a button onto a baseball cap, headband, or cap (as worn by surgical staff) that sits just above your ear. This button will then act as the hook for your mask elastic and relieve your ears. (If you’re not so savvy in the crafting department, you can even buy the headbands ready-made here, the baseball caps here, the scrubs caps here!)
•these silicon mask extenders work wonders to do all the groundwork your ears had been doing previously.
•there are also many masks with long strand ties available. Those who can wear a mask of their choice at work, check out these high-quality masks featuring a tie at the back of the head.
•the simplest, yet one of the most useful hacks for your ears is simply to find an old t-shirt. And I think we can all do that one without even spending a cent! Follow these steps:
–Step 1. Cut a long strip from the t-shirt, about 3-4 inches thick. Like a long, glorified head-band or scarf.
–Step 2. Holding one end in one hand, one end in the other, lift the strip above your head and place it over your head at your hairline, where a headband would go.
–Step 3. Then, put on your mask (without hooking straps behind ears).
–Step 4. Next, thread the ends of the strips of fabric through the mask elastic, like tying a shoelace, loop around the elastic straps.
–Step 5. Finally, use these ends of your fabric and tie them together at the back of your head.
This method takes the entire stress of keeping your mask in place off your ears and places it securely on your glorified, repurposed t-shirt. Thanks, Nurse.org!
If you are still listening! And interested, there is also a Facebook Group specifically created for healthcare workers and their PPE issues. Well worth checking out if you are suffering from all of the new adjustments in the new world.
How Do Masks Work With Facial Hair?
Just when beards were the height of men’s fashion, they teeter on the edge of extinction!
To beard, or not to beard. That is the Covid question.
The solution for a lot of men has been simple, to shave. And that in itself can lead to issues with shaving bumps and ingrown hairs.
So, men, treat your faces kindly. Manage your facial hair well, and if you shave, shave with care.
•Always use a clean shaver with sharp blades.
•Use a very warm towel on your face before shaving.
•Try gently exfoliating your face before shaving.
•Go with the grain!
•Try not to shave too close. You are trying to shave hairs, not your skin!
How To Prevent Your Glasses or Shield From Fogging Up While Wearing a Mask?
It’s a given that your glasses or face shield will fog up at one time or another. You have created a small confined space where warm and moist air is trapped (that’s the whole reason this word maskne even exists, right?).
What can you do to prevent fogging up?
•First of all, ensure your mask is a good fit at the bridge of your nose. I’m sure you have that information by now! Seek out masks with a poseable wire inside the fabric that you can form fit to your nose.
•Check your glasses don’t have any special coatings on them before trying this method. Rinse your glasses with soapy water and then letting your glasses air dry should go some distance to preventing fogginess. The dry soap creates a film on the lenses to at least cut down your specs fogging up.
•Anti-fog wipes are a great pocket-size solution to this issue. We use these in my household and they are the bomb!
•There are suggestions to tape your mask down to your face across your nose. And while this will create a mechanical barrier from your glasses, it possibly won’t help your struggling skin in any way, shape, or form.
I just thought it was worth mentioning.
The Moleskin I discussed earlier would work for this. And I would also happily recommend Opsite Tape. This wonder-product is in my kit every single day I work on set. I use it for just about everything, so who am I to shamefully plug it for you? I promise you, Opsite Tape will come in use for everything!
It may be worth noting that I use it to protect people’s skin when I am applying prosthetic makeup to them. So this would be my absolute go-to in this situation. It’s very thin and flexible and was designed to use as a ‘second skin’ over burn injuries. Love it!
•Anti-fog Spray is another method for clearing your vision in all your PPE gear. Of course, this anti-fog spray is just one product I have linked to. Do some research and shop around if you like.
One Last Thing!
Consequently, we have explored your mask, taken a deep dive into your skincare, how to deal with that pesky elastic, and how our more hirsute friends can manage their maskne. I’ve even talked fogginess!
But we haven’t talked about your hands.
I know, you don’t get acne on your hands, but they touch your face all the time!
After all, my friends, unclean hands are a sure-fire way to introduce germs and bacteria to your face.
So remember to keep them clean! Rinse and repeat. Sing Happy Birthday!
And if you can’t do that, use a hand sanitizer! There are twenty to choose from right HERE!
By and large, I hope that you found something in all of this. Take something away with you. Please do put these methods into practice. Indeed I’m sure it will leave your skin a little happier, and your life a little easier.
Finally, feel free to drop me a comment below – I’d love to hear what works, what doesn’t work. And success you have or have had with any of these methods or products. Any more products you can recommend. Please do share! It benefits us all!
Until next time, stay safe, and hope you can say “Sayonara!” to your Maskne for good!
Featured Image by Engin Akyurt via Unsplash