While we all understand the importance of wearing a face mask in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus and other infectious diseases, mask wearing can sometimes affect our skin. The most common one being 'maskne', or skin breakouts caused by wearing a mask.
According to Clinical Associate Professor Derrick Aw, Senior Consultant for Dermatology Service at SKH, those affected by maskne fall into two categories — those who already have acne and mask wearing aggravated their conditions, and those who have never had acne but developed it after starting to wear masks.
If you already have acne
Clin Assoc Prof Aw recommends some self-reflection measures. "Some people tend to be less consistent with their treatment medication because their focus is now on something else — wearing a mask — and they forget to apply their creams."
But if you have been applying your medication diligently and your condition is not getting better, it may be time to make changes to your treatment to suit your skin's current condition. Clin Assoc Prof Aw suggests consulting your doctor or dermatologist for advice on how to enhance your treatment.
If acne is new to you
You are advised to take a look at the products you are using to see if they may be unfavourable to your current skin condition. "You may need to switch to using products that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, which are products that have been clinically-proven not to cause breakouts."
If you are already using non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic creams and still finding it hard to manage your maskne, Clin Assoc Prof Aw recommends using antiseptics for the short-term to kill the bacteria – which can come in the form of a cleanser, cream or gel; or adding a topical retinoid treatment to your skincare routine for the long-term.
Retinoids are Vitamin A-derived medication that promote faster turnover of your skin cells so new skin cells come out quicker to rejuvenate the skin and 'push out' the acne. You can get retinoids either off the shelf, from a pharmacist, or with a doctor's prescription, and each has its own pros and cons.
"Off-the-shelf ones have the weakest medicating power but are the safest. Prescription retinoids have modest intensity but are most drying and irritating to the skin. Certain prescription retinoids can also be dispensed directly by a pharmacist and these are gentler to the skin yet offer additional anti-inflammatory action."
If you are unsure how to proceed, it is always best to get advice from your doctor or dermatologist.
How to manage your maskne
Change your mask often. Regardless of how long you wore the mask or how 'dry' it seems, research has shown that masks will get damp once you wear them and this creates an ideal breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.
Use the correct products especially if you have sensitive skin. Products with labels such as 'hypoallergenic' or 'suitable for sensitive skin' are generally good enough for regular use.
Treat and prevent at the same time. Apply your retinoid medication not just on your acne spots but on your entire face as well to treat and prevent breakouts.
A little goes a long way. When applying creams or gels on your face, one fingertip unit (the area between the tip of your finger to the first.
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