Mask Acne: What Are The Causes And How Can I Treat Maskne?

Treatment for Mask acne/Maskne

In 2020, wearing a mask has become part of a daily routine. Because of this, a secondary, less known “pandemic” has also plagued many in the shadow of COVID-19: Acne caused by wearing a mask for long durations, also known as “Mask Acne” or simply “Maskne”. In fact, we have seen a marked increase in patients seeking treatment for acne or other skin irritations caused by constant mask wearing since February. In light of this, we will share with you the causes behind maskne, and how our doctors can help you treat and manage this condition.

Causes of mask acne (maskne)

Acne is usually caused by oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, and other debris clogging the pores on your skin. As a result, the clogged pore becomes irritated and inflamed, which thus lead to the formation of pimples. Having a mask covering your face constantly only complicates things:

  • The mask traps moisture, heat, oil and debris on your face, creating an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria.
  • The mask also rubs against your skin. This can cause irritation and minor abrasions which can, in turn, trigger acne breakouts.
  • Chemicals used to treat/sterilise disposable masks, detergents used to wash reusable masks or the material of the mask can irritate the skin as well.

Maskne is typically caused by one or more of the above factors. In fact, because our face is usually exposed, covering it up for extended periods of time can aggravate the condition.

Treating and managing maskne

If your maskne is causing you distress, you should seek professional medical help. We offer several acne treatments to tackle stubborn and recurrent acne including mask acne.

  • Q-switch laser is a quick, 10-minute laser treatment with minimal to no downtime. It works by using laser energy to kill acne-causing bacteria, decreasing sebum production from the sebaceous glands, and shrinking pores so less debris become trapped inside. The 3 effects combined help prevent the formation of acne. In addition, Q-switch laser is effective at addressing skin pigmentation, including discolouration from acne scars as well!
  • Another treatment we have is the Gold Photothermal (Gold PTT) treatment. This treatment utilises unique gold nanoparticles to enhance the effects of laser treatment. During Gold PTT treatment, an ampoule containing gold nanoparticles will be first applied to your skin. Next, the nanoparticles are delivered into your pores using Bellasonic, a South Korean ultrasound device specially designed for this purpose. These nanoparticles are then ‘excited’ with the 808nm Diode Laser and the 1064nm Long-pulsed Laser, causing them to heat up. The heat lyses the overactive sebaceous glands and kills the acne-causing bacteria.

Gold PTT is distinct from other lasers as the gold nanoparticles focuses the laser energy in the sebaceous glands, allowing for a highly precise treatment targeting the root cause of the acne.

  • Alternatively, you can consider AGNES Radiofrequency (AGNES RF) treatment. The treatment works by using microneedles to deliver RF energy deep into the dermis of the skin. Our doctors will first identify the acne-prone pores on your skin before using the AGNES handpiece to deliver RF energy directly to the sebaceous glands in these pores. The RF energy collapses the gland, permanently reducing its sebum production and in turn alleviates the active acne. Similar to Gold PTT, this treatment also targets acne at the core.

Each of these acne treatments have their own advantages and disadvantages, and are suitable for different patients. Our doctors will better advise you during the consultation session and customise an optimal treatment package for you.

In addition to these treatments, our doctors also have the following advice, especially for those with acne-prone skin.

  • Keep your face clean

Even prior to the pandemic when masks were not as common, it has always been important to wash your face regularly to keep it free of excess oil and dirt. Keep your face clean by washing with a gentle cleanser daily. Doing these will prevent maskne from surfacing in the first place and save you from trouble in the future.

  • Choose the correct mask to use and keep it clean

It may seem obvious, but you should always keep your mask clean. Most disposable masks are made of a synthetic material called polypropylene, which is a dense mesh of fibres. The outside of the mask is definitely effective as a barrier from external pathogens, but the inside is an ideal environment to promote the growth of acne-causing bacteria. This is why disposable masks should not be reused for another day.

Reusable masks should be washed daily, which will prevent accumulation of bacteria, oil, perspiration and dirt on the mask as well as on your face. In addition, choose masks that are made of soft, natural fabric like cotton as synthetic fibres like nylon, polyester and rayon are more likely to cause irritation. Alternatively, masks made from smooth silk can further reduce the irritation and friction on the skin, but these tend to be slightly more expensive.

When washing the masks, be sure to use only detergents and fabric softeners free of dyes and fragrances. This will reduce the likelihood of chemical residue on your masks irritating your skin.

  • Use products with salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a gentle exfoliating agent commonly used in many skin products for managing acne. It is well-known for its ability to reduce acne by keeping pores clear and eliminating acne causing bacteria.

When applied to the skin, salicylic acid diffuses into your skin, softening and dissolving dead skin cells and other debris clogging your pores, which then shed off naturally or when you wash your face.

Salicylic acid is effective in both preventing acne and addressing active acne. Hence, it is highly recommended for those who wish to prevent maskne, as well as those who are already affected by it.

  • Avoid putting makeup whenever possible

Many people may be tempted to cover up their maskne with makeup. However, heavy cosmetic products like concealers and foundations can clog pores easily. The trapped moisture and oil also makes it more likely for these products to clump together and worsen the irritation.

Final words

Even though a viable vaccine for COVID-19 is already within sight, it will be some time before the vaccine is widely distributed. It is fair to say that that face masks and probably maskne are here to stay for the next couple of months. If wearing a face mask constantly has caused acne or other skin irritations to arise, feel free to arrange a consultation with our doctors.

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