Dermatologist offers tips to treat mask acne

Skin care and washing cloth masks are two ways to prevent "maskne" breakouts

Various self-sewn masks to protect against viruses and bacteria, piled on a wooden table

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks are now a common sight.

Face coverings help to mitigate the spread of infection. But, some say they’ve experienced acne breakouts because of wearing a mask.

Joanne Montgomery, a dermatologist for Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota, says it makes sense to see breakouts, because wearing a mask “provides a perfect place for bacteria to grow.”

“It’s a warm, humid environment. Bacteria, yeast, and other microbes will grow. That can make the problem worse. They are really going to thrive in that environment.”

What to do about ‘maskne’

Montgomery says despite the higher risk, there are ways to prevent and treat breakouts.

“If you’re wearing a mask quite a bit, really take care of your skin. Make sure you are washing your face twice a day: Start with a gentle skin cleanser twice daily, and use a mild moisturizer. You can also use a sunscreen every day, which is what we recommend.

“The mineral sunscreens and zinc-based sunscreens are great for wearing underneath your mask,” she added.

Learn more: Dermatology at Sanford Health

Limiting the use of makeup can also be of benefit, according to Montgomery.

“Don’t go too crazy with makeup. Thick, oil-based makeup products are going to make the acne worse in that mask area. So, go light on the makeup. If you have to wear something, you could choose a tinted mineral sunscreen instead,” she said.

Switch cleansers, wash masks

She adds that if breakouts continue, switching cleansers may help.

“Switch to one that contains salicylic acid. That will help to gently exfoliate the skin and prevent acne breakouts. I would use that twice a day in place of your gentle skin cleanser.”

The reason salicylic acid is so helpful, according to Montgomery, is because it’s a mild exfoliant, “helping to break down those dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, which contribute to clogging pores and causing acne.”

Related: Latest CDC guidelines on wearing masks

Because of the infestation of germs and bacteria, Montgomery also stresses the importance of washing your mask if it’s cloth, and switching masks if they’re disposable.

“Disposable masks are great, making sure you’re changing them each day, as long as we are not in a shortage type of situation. If you’re wearing a cloth mask, make sure that you are washing it. Don’t take it off, lay it down, pick it up two days later, and put it back on,” she said.

Don’t be so aggressive

Montgomery says being gentle with your skin, whether you’re experiencing a breakout out or not, can go a long way.

“If you’re doing a lot of rubbing and scrubbing, that will irritate and potentially make the acne worse. Also, be careful introducing other, harsher products,” she said.

Although there is a risk for acne breakouts associated, Montgomery says it’s still critically important to wear a mask.

“I do think masks are really important. Know that you can try some of these simple steps to help with acne, and we are here to help if the problem gets out of control.

“I would encourage people to keep wearing their masks. Keep in mind that your mask will cover up some of those blemishes when you’re out in public, too. So, you don’t have to worry quite so much.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Dermatology, Wellness