The pandemic has normalized the use of face masks to help slow and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19; however, researchers have recently discovered that the long use of face masks may have unintentional side effects on the skin.
A board-certified dermatologist at Thomas Jefferson University, Nazanin Saedi, explained Maksne as “acne formed in areas due to friction, pressure, stretching, rubbing or occlusion. You can see it in the areas covered by the mask and also the areas where the mask and face shields touch the skin.”
Explaining how the long use could affect the skin, Dr Erum Ilyas, a US board-certified dermatologist and the CEO/Founder of Montgomery Dermatology says: “When talking and breathing with a mask in place, there is a good amount of humidity that builds up between your mouth and the mask. The heat and humidity concentrated around the mouth can alter the pH of your skin and make you more prone to three issues–bacterial overgrowth can result in folliculitis or infected hair follicles; yeast overgrowth can result in perleche or cheilitis, which can present as persistent chapped lips or dry cracked corners of the mouth; and, lastly, perioral dermatitis, a variant of rosacea that can present as dry patches around the mouth and painful deep cystic pimples.”
Top dermatologists in Yale Medicine’s Aesthetic Dermatology Program have found out that this particular skin disorder is known to cause acne, pimples, redness, and skin irritation. The director of Yale Medicine’s Aesthetic Dermatology Program and an Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Kathleen C. Suozzi maintains that Maskne is technically referred to as acne mechanica.
“Prior to the pandemic, this form of facial irritation was primarily experienced by athletes, commonly due to the sweat, heat, and friction in their helmets and straps but we are seeing it more now with people wearing masks for an extended period of time. Maskne—and often, acne mechanica in general—is triggered by pores being blocked by sweat, oil, and makeup,” Dr. Suozzi says.
For masks in particular, “while breathing for hours with the mask on, it creates humidity to [form] a breeding ground for acne or pimples. The friction of the mask can also block and clog pores, leading to the formation of comedones or blackheads,” adds Dr. Suozzi.
A renowned Dermatology researcher and Medical Director of MDacne, Dr Yoram Harth, had advised that the disposable masks are the best to be used as they will not allow for the accumulation of excess oil and dirt.
“The best masks are regular, disposable paper masks. These can be frequently replaced; they will not collect oil and dirt and will not make acne worse. To avoid rubbing and skin damage, the mask should not be too tight. If you choose to use a cloth mask, you should wash it every day or two,” he said.