Health & Wellness

How to Get Rid of “Maskne” (5 Tips You Need to Know)

Believe it or not, COVID-19 has caused yet another issue: mask-induced acne. In fact, it’s so common that it has its very own name: “maskne.”

Here’s the good news: While studies have shown that it’s running rampant, there are some things you can do to stop maskne and even prevent it.

So, I want to invite you to learn exactly what maskne is, how it’s different from regular acne, and my top tips on how to avoid it altogether! Let’s get started.

 

What is “Maskne”?

In short, “maskne” is a term that was first coined during the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic due to facial outbreaks related to wearing masks. And it seems it’s pretty common.

According to a 2020 study, since the COVID-19 outbreak, more than 22,000 Instagram posts have used the hashtag “maskne.” [1]

So, what is maskne and why is it happening?

Maskne is technically a variant of acne mechanica, which is a type of acne due to mechanical stress such as friction or pressure on your skin. [2] As a result, it’s traditionally associated with athletes who wear headgear and other protective equipment.

It’s believed that maskne can be attributed to both mechanical stress and microbiome dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance due to heat and excess moisture). [3, 4]

This combination is really a perfect setting for acne, especially when you combine that with the stress we’ve all been under. Keep reading to learn why ….

 

Maskne - Dr. Pingel

 

What Really Causes Maskne

OK, here’s the deal: Your face contains anywhere from 400 to 900 sebaceous glands per square centimeter. [5]

The purpose of those glands? They secrete sebum, a waxy and oily substance often associated with both oily skin and acne-prone skin.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. You may be surprised to learn of the findings published in a 2019 study, which stated that for each 1-degree Celsius rise in temperature, sebum excretion increases by 10 percent. [6]

Why is that important? Well, according to a July 2020 study, wearing facial masks caused significant temperature increases on the face—up to a 3.3-degree Celsius increase in a span of 10 minutes. [7]

That means wearing a face mask for as little as 10 minutes could cause the skin on your face—which contains the highest concentration of sebaceous glands throughout your entire body—to secrete 30 percent more sebum than it normally would. Mind-blowing, right?

But there’s more. The study also mentioned the fact that increasing facial temperature has been associated with triggering panic disorders, which can manifest in hot flashes and additional sweating.

This only increases your facial temperature further, quickly becoming a cycle that creates the perfect environment for acne.

Meanwhile, along these same lines, newer studies and scientific articles have begun to show that wearing face masks actually trigger the “fight or flight” response by elevating cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. [8]

As you may recall, studies have shown that stress and acne are closely related. In a 2017 study on 144 female medical students, researchers discovered that those with higher stress levels had more severe acne than those who were less stressed. [9]

Meanwhile, another study on teenagers found that there was a “significant association” between stress levels of teens and the severity of their acne. [10]

But, in normal states, how does stress cause acne? Well, there are a few ways this happens. First, stress can cause your liver to slow down. And when that happens, the toxins in your liver can actually come out on your skin, resulting in acne.

Stress also slows your digestion, resulting in constipation, malabsorption, and leaky gut. And guess what? All of these are known to cause acne as well. But there’s more.

In addition to affecting your liver and digestive system, stress causes your body to have less parasympathetic activity, which impacts skin healing and regeneration.

This makes your skin more fragile and prone to acne outbreaks because your dead skin cells remain on your skin, causing clogs in your hair follicles that can become infected with bacteria, which leads to acne. [11]

Combine all of that with what we now know about your sebaceous glands and the increase in temperature from wearing masks, and you truly have the perfect storm for maskne!

Do You Have Maskne?

Now that you know what maskne is and what causes it, let’s talk about the top signs that you have it.

According to a scientific article published in 2020, there’s a set of criteria for diagnosing maskne. [12] They include:

  • An onset of acne that occurs within six weeks of wearing a face mask regularly;
  • Worsening acne within the area covered by a face mask, termed as the “O-zone” by the authors;
  • Exclusion of other potential skin issues, such as inflammation, rashes, or rosacea.

So, if you find that you’re experiencing an acne outbreak within the “O-zone,” or the area covered by your face mask and it’s appeared within a few weeks of wearing a mask on a regularly basis, odds are pretty high that you’re dealing with maskne.

While we don’t know when masks will be making their much-anticipated departure from our daily lives, the good news is that researchers and dermatologists have made suggestions on things you can do to help prevent or eliminate maskne.

So, let’s dive into some of the top maskne-fighting tips you can start using today.

5 Tips for Fighting Maskne

Here are the top five tips for fighting maskne. [13] Keep this list handy in case you experience an outbreak in the coming months.

1. Swap sunscreen for light-colored fabric masks with UV protection.

Because a lot of sunscreens are oil-based, which will only increase your likelihood of developing maskne, consider switching to masks with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) 50 or higher.

Also, try to stick to masks that are lighter in color, which will help to reflect sunlight instead of attract it. This will help to keep your face cooler under your mask.

2. Use oil-free makeup.

Along the same lines of sunscreen, try to keep the area underneath your mask free of all oil-based products—and that includes makeup.

Look for brands that offer organic ingredients and clearly state that they’re oil-free products.

3. Wash your face with a natural anti-bacterial face wash.

Get in front of the acne by using a foaming face wash designed to clear clogged pores but also help prevent breakouts.

Personally, I love the brand Eminence. They have a variety of products for all skin types but also feature offerings designed to help balance the pH level of your skin.

4. Consider spot treatments with natural anti-microbials.

Whether you prefer salicylic acid or diluted tea tree oil, spot treating breakouts is a great way to clear them up quickly.

I tend to favor the all-natural essential oil treatments, and with good reason!

First, studies have shown that tea tree oil is effective in reducing the number of inflamed acne lesions in a breakout while also improving scaling, pruritis, and dryness. [14]

Meanwhile, another study found that tea tree/melaleuca oil was 3.5 times more effective at reducing total acne lesions and 5.75 times more effective at improving acne severity when compared to a placebo! [15]

To use tea tree oil, dilute a drop or two with a little carrier oil and use a cotton swab to apply it directly onto your acne lesions. Do it after every face wash until the lesions are healed.

5. Take a probiotic daily.

Finally, I like to recommend taking a probiotic daily to fight maskne. Here’s why: First, we know that stress and poor gut health are linked to increased instances of acne.

So, the more you can do to support your gut microbiome, the better your skin will be.

Second, we know that an imbalance of microbes on your skin can make you more prone to experiencing a maskne outbreak. As a result, taking a microbiome-balancing probiotic will only help to keep things in check.

Plus, studies have shown that taking an oral probiotic along with traditional acne therapy can improve acne flares more quickly than trying the traditional therapy alone. [16]

 

Key Takeaways

  • Believe it or not, COVID-19 has caused yet another issue: mask-induced acne. In fact, it’s so common that it has its very own name: “maskne.”
  • Maskne is technically a variant of acne mechanica, which is a type of acne due to mechanical stress such as friction or pressure on your skin.
  • If you’re looking to relieve or prevent maskne, try these tips: replace sunscreen with UPF fabric masks, use oil-free makeup, wash your face with anti-bacterial wash, try spot treating with diluted tea tree oil, and take a probiotic to help support your skin microbial balance.

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