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Maskne: Is Your Covid Mask Making You Break Out?

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How are you feeling about the coronavirus pandemic at the moment? It’s hard to escape its impact, isn’t it? Whether we’ve had the virus ourselves, know someone who has, have been financially impacted by it or are suffering the anxiety of venturing out. We’ve all been affected in some way by this global crisis.

As it stands, in the UK, we’re all expected to wear a face mask or face covering when we’re on public transport or inside a transport hub or shop. We’re also expected to wear one when we’re inside hair and beauty salons, visitor attractions, libraries and places of worship.

There are of course exceptions to this expectation and not everyone has to wear a face covering. This includes children under the age of 11 years old and those who have a physical or mental illness or disability.

As the world opens up more, and we’re able to travel (with restrictions), shop and order a takeaway coffee, more of us are wearing face masks and coverings, more of the time.

Whilst the majority of us understand that this is to help stop the spread of the virus, there are some annoyances that come with having our noses and mouths covered. Not least the problem of wearing a face mask at the same time as glasses - the struggle of steamed up glasses is very real!

Physically, we’ve all seen images of healthcare workers and other heroes with facial bruising caused by wearing a face mask every day. It must feel so uncomfortable having to continuously wear something that’s already caused bruising, scratching and irritation.

But another consequence of wearing a face mask or covering for long periods of time is acne breakouts. So called ‘maskne’.

Could your face mask be causing your acne breakouts to feel worse? Could it be causing you to experience spots and breakouts when you never have before?

Here, we investigate the impact of wearing a mask on your skin. Could it be causing spots? Or are we all just adapting to something new?

What is maskne?

2020 has been an extraordinary year, and we’ve barely begun Autumn. What will come out of this year will be a cacophony of newly created words and the popular use of words that were previously only used by scientists and medics.

Google has seen a surge in searches for us, the ‘normal’ public, asking what the difference is between a pandemic and an epidemic. Or what antibodies are and how to quarantine vs how to self isolate. Terms such as ‘flatten the curve’ and ‘social distancing’ have quickly become the norm.

We’ve also developed new words, such as coronageddon, quarantini and doomscrolling. Whilst we now also shorten the scariest words, talking about ‘Rona as if it’s some kind of cartoon character.

But perhaps the most pertinent to us here at Sönd is ‘maskne’ - the concept of developing spots as a result of wearing a face mask or covering.

Here, we understand what it is to have non conformist, contrary skin. We’re acne sufferers and know that it doesn’t take much to stress our already stressed out skin more. So when the announcement was made that we’d all need to be wearing face coverings when travelling and shopping, our thoughts did turn to our skin.

How would covering our faces cause our skin to react? Would it make us more sweaty? Would our pores struggle and become blocked? It turns out, according to skin experts, we were right to be concerned.

How do face masks cause acne spots and maskne?

The impact of the coronavirus has impacted our health in many ways. For some, being in lockdown meant a renewed sense of vigour for healthy home cooking and getting more exercise. For others, it meant a downward spiral of worry, anxiety and depression at our lives being disrupted by lockdowns at a worldwide, national and now, local, level.

In terms of our skin, lockdown has had it’s impact here, too. Drinking more alcohol, eating fewer healthy food choices, a lack of vitamin D from being outside and a general disruption to our routines have all taken their toll on our skin. Stress has also played a major role, and stress can have a huge impact on the health and appearance of our skin.

This is something that skin specialist Lucy Xu understands. She spoke to Glamour magazine and says that maskne is just another thing our skin has to contend with at the moment.

Lucy says that wearing a mask or face covering can lead to acne breakouts due to a number of reasons.

Wearing a mask can cause friction on the skin. This can lead to irritation and inflammation, and lead to acne breakouts. Also, wearing a mask has the unfortunate and unintended consequence of making us touch our faces more. Whether this be to apply, take off or constantly adjust our face masks and coverings, it still has the same side effect - touching our face will mean transferring more bacteria and dirt to our skin.

This bacteria and dirt can then become trapped behind our masks, and clog the pores. The conditions behind our masks, warm, moist and sweaty, are the perfect conditions for bacterial growth leading to spots and acne breakouts.

This irritation and congestion will cause most problems over the nose area, the lower cheeks and around the chin and jawline.

Wearing a face covering can also lead to the development of heat rashes and rosacea.

How to prevent maskne

Choosing a breathable, fabric mask that fits snugly and comfortably over the ears is best. This will help to prevent you touching your face to adjust it whilst it’s on. Have a few on you at all times too, so that you can replace your mask with a clean one every so often, or each time you wear one.

The buildup of sweat behind your mask will be quite quick, especially in hot weather. And you don’t want to be layering old sweat onto your skin.

Washable masks are ideal for having a few in rotation at all times. This will also help to protect your skin from bacteria and dirt, as well as helping to slow down the spread of the virus. Wash them on a hot wash with a gentle, sensitive skin detergent that is less likely to irritate your skin.

You could also try avoiding makeup such as foundation and blusher when you know you’re going to be wearing a face mask all day. This can help the skin to breathe more easily. If you do wear makeup, make sure it’s an oil free version to help avoid your pores getting clogged by the mix of oil and humidity behind your mask.

Finally, only wear a mask when you need to. When you’re alone in your car, walking outside or sitting down in a restaurant, remove your mask to allow your skin to breathe. Then, when you need to, replace it with a clean one.

Skin care to prevent maskne

Please don’t get us wrong. We understand the importance of face masks in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. We also feel for all those who have to wear masks and face coverings all day long, often in hot, stressful and uncomfortable conditions.

But a big concern is with our skin. If you too have acne prone skin, then you’re probably also worried. As we all adapt to our new way of life following a global pandemic, we all have valid concerns regarding our own health, including our mental and physical health, as well as that of our skin.

Looking after your skin will help to give it its best defence when you do have to apply your face mask. Our range of skin care products have been designed with acne prone and non conformist skin in mind. It’s been developed using plant botanicals and alkalising silica salts to support and nourish the skin.

And now we have our brand new Clear Out Face Mask that helps to detoxify the skin and rid it of dirt, bacteria and toxins deep within the pores. It's ideal for using after a long day wearing a face mask!

Sources:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own#:~:text=In%20England%2C%20you%20must%20wear,and%20coach%20stations%20and%20terminals)

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/social-distancing/what-you-need-to-do/

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/face-masks-may-be-irritating-your-skin

https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/acne-from-face-mask


Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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