Maskne: What It is and How to Treat It

Staying safe and being considerate of others’ safety has become paramount in today’s world, as COVID-19 prevention becomes our #1 priority. But even necessary safety precautions can come with annoying, (but very manageable) side effects. I’ve previously written on how we can keep our hands healthy and looking young while washing them more frequently, and today I’d like to talk about another side effect of staying safe: maskne! Mask-acne, or maskne for short, is acne caused by frequently wearing a face mask, often causing breakouts centering around the mouth, nose, and chin areas of the face. A more technical term for maskne is “acne mechanica,”and is the result of mechanical friction against the skin. That friction, along with the moisture buildup inside a mask, and the overall stress of the pandemic, are all factors in the rise of maskne.

So how can we avoid getting maskne when we all have to wear our masks to stay safe? First things first: wash that mask! If you’re like most Americans, you’ve turned to using fabric masks as a way to stay safe and avoid the unnecessary waste of disposable masks. With fabric masks comes the need to wash them, so do so frequently! They should be washed and completely dried after every use, just as you should also wash your pillowcases frequently to help avoid oil buildup on your face. Once your mask is nice and clean, aim that cleansing energy towards your face. When washing your face, make sure you use light and gentle cleansers. Avoid anything with fragrance, oily products, scrubs, and products with SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), a chemical that strips the skin of its natural oils. Also, avoid heavy moisturizers like cocoa butter or coconut oil. Wearing a mask will intensify product delivery into your skin, so you want to use light and clean products. Then, once your face routine is complete and you’re all ready to go, make sure to wait AT LEAST 15 minutes before putting your mask on to allow all the products to soak in and dry properly. This increases to 30 minutes if you wear an N95 mask.

Unlike conventional acne, with maskne you have to be more careful and sensitive. I recommend spot treatments so as to not irritate any of the surrounding skin under your mask. This can be done using products like over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide treatments, focusing only on those with 2.5-5% concentration. Products with glycolic and/or salicylic acid are also recommended, such as my Glow Pads! If you’d like to explore further treatment options, feel free to give us a call at the office (212) 220-0776  to set up an appointment.

We may be currently living through strange and uncertain times, but we must remember we’re all in this together. As a doctor and health care professional, I firmly believe that any of the minor inconveniences caused by these safety precautions are well worth it in the end. Plus, if I can help educate more people about skin care and health along the way, then that’s just a bonus!

If you’re interested in learning more about treatments and what we can do to keep your skin at its best, feel free to make an appointment to come in! Please remember that masks are mandatory for all appointments, and you’re encouraged to call the office to discuss all safety precautions being taken.

Want more skin care tips and tricks? Follow me on Instagram where I answer all your questions as part of my #UnfilteredDerm Stories!

Marnie B. Nussbaum, M.D., FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in non-invasive aesthetic rejuvenation.

There is not a more caring, more attentive, smarter dermatologist than Dr Marnie Nussbaum. I trust her implicitly with anything and highly recommend her.

— Carolyn Rosen


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