The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things including what dermatologists in Melbourne are seeing in their clinics. Maskne has become common. So, what are the answers to the four most common questions we get asked about Maskne? Get the answers in this blog.

Everyone knows about teenage acne, hormonal acne and even acne caused by certain medications and as of mid 2020. With mandatory mask wearing in many parts of the world, many literature reports surfaced about the prevention, causes and treatments for maskne.

1. What is the scientific definition of Maskne? Maskne has been defined in medical literature as the onset of acne (blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and pustules) within 6 weeks of wearing masks regularly or worsening of existing acne in the masked area (called the “O-zone”) around the nose, cheeks and chin.

2. What causes Maskne on a biological level? Multiple factors are at play with maskne,including genetic tendency, occupation (front line workers for example, are more likely to get maskne) and application of other products on the skin. It caused by blocking of the hair follicles from mechanical stress (from pressure, occlusion and friction) and an altered skin microbiome (caused by changes in heat, pH and moisture droplets on the skin). These two things are made worse by increased duration of mask wearing, warmer weather and sweating.

3. What is the best way to prevent Maskne? Treating maskne can be very challenging, particularly for those that work in occupations that require long duration of mask wearing. There is not one single product or thing that will make maskne disappear, but there are a few things that we suggest trying to prevent and treat maskne.

  1. Wash reusable masks regularly (ideally daily if you have creams on under the mask, or every second day)
  2. Wear disposable masks just once – not only do they become ineffective when used for more than one wear, but they are also more likely to harbour bacteria, sweat and cream and make up particle over time
  3. If your job allows it, get some ‘mask-free’ time if possible
  4. Try to towel off sweat under the mask when possible
  5. Avoid drinking hot drinks like tea and coffee and food like hot soups just before you put on your mask. Doing this increases heat and moisture on the skin which is then covered by the mask and therefore increases the chances developing maskne
  6. Avoid heavy make-up under your mask – the great thing about a mask is that many women don’t have to worry about make up in that region! Bonus!

4. What is the best way to self-treat Maskne? Treatment of maskne will depend on the severity of the maskne, underlying genetic tendencies and a person’s skin type and occupation. Your medical practitioner or dermatologist will be able to guide you on this.

Getting the right skin care products is important too and when it comes to maskne, less is more! Some “must haves” are;

• Soap-free, hydrating ceramide-containing cleansers – we love CeraVe and QV which are easily purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy (when they are in stock! Demand is high these days!)
• Ceramide-containing moisturising lotion. Lotions are less occlusive than creams so are better for most people with maskne
• Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) is an excellent anti-irritant ingredient. We love Propaira’s skin defence serum in the morning
• You can also treat small spots with spot treatment. Azelaic acid can be bought over the counter to assist with this
• Over-the-counter retinol can be used at night, but these won’t be as strong or effective as combination antibiotics and vitamin A derivatives that are prescribed

The tips above are just a starting point and a great place to start. But, if your maskne persists or if you are unsure what kind of acne you actually have, it is best to see your medical professional. There are safe and effective creams, gels and tablets that can effectively control maskne.

If you have skin of colour, post- inflammatory hyperpigmentation after acne can be even worse than the acne itself. Use niacinamide and retinoids (prescription ones are best) and remember that prevention is better than cure. So, get on top of your maskne quickly with the tips above. Of interest is a new generation vitamin A cream which is less irritating to the skin, but can provide the same results as the more irritant topical retinoids!

Maskne is not always easy to treat, but masks are here to stay for possibly many years, so hopefully this post sheds some light on ways to keep it all under control!

We have more information on diet and acne and even acne in Chinese skin if you need to learn more.

The information contained in this blog post is intended as a guide only and should not substitute seeking medical attention. Please see your healthcare provider for more information on suitability of products, treatments or procedures.