Yes, it’s real! There has been a few new buzzwords and phenomenon that has come with the world of COVID and this is one is all about the conditions that are caused by mask-wearing.
Stress is well known as a trigger for acne, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and rosacea. Combine the physical manipulation and pressure of a mask on the skin and pandemic apprehension and you have a world of skin issues as a by-product of these “unprecedented times’
We talk to Dr Michael Rich about what we can do to treat these conditions and when it is time to seek your dermatologist’s help.
Are there any topicals that we can combine with mask-wearing that could help with chaffing or acne-related issues?
Friction can be a problem and if it is a concern moisten skin pre putting a mask on and moisten again after removing. If acne-prone oily moisturiser will aggravate acne, so use water-based, or if not adequate, then a light silicone-based moisturiser.
Is there a regular routine you can do with your skin to help with mask-wearing skin fatigue?
As above moisten, and always use fragrant-free products. Sunblock is essential. You can use a water-based block if acne-prone, or an oilier base if your skin is prone to dryness. Sunblock does two jobs: it protects your skin from the sun and treats the dryness.
Is wearing makeup an issue?
Reduce the wearing of heavy makeup as much as possible. Mineral makeup with a zinc base can be the best option as zinc can sometimes help with skin irritations. Also, avoid toners as they tend to dry the skin.
If you can, just wear a sunscreen that also acts as a moisturiser and eye make-up only.
It is common in the cosmetic industry to be suggesting to use multiple products, such as exfoliants which will irritate the already upset skin due to the mask. Oily creams, multiple serums, all of which potentiate and aggravate acne with the mask, leading to the skin which is irritated and upset. In my opinion, minimise all of these products.
Why is sunscreen helpful?
UVA and UVB radiation damage the vessels, the pigment network and elastin and collagen fibres and the cells which leads to redness, colour variation, laxity, wrinkling and skin cancers. So if you choose to use only one product on your face, it should be sunscreen.
Any moisturiser is helpful as it forms a barrier on the skin. I always advise my patients to wear sunscreen 50+ that also acts as a moisturiser on their face every day as protection from UV rays, even in winter.
Is there anything we should do with our masks to help prevent maskne?
- Wash mask regularly if using a reusable one.
- When you take your mask off, hang it up or put it somewhere, it does not attract more bacteria.
- “Sun wash” by hanging out to air dry in the sunlight. UV light will help to kill bacteria. Throw the mask in the dryer for a few minutes. This too can help.
- Be careful not to overtighten the mask.
- Fit it correctly, take the time.
- Avoid touching the mask once it is on.
- Find the right mask for you – obviously. If you are in the health profession, there are particular mask you must wear. If you aren’t a three-layered breathable cotton mask could be for you or one that is a combination of fabrics. Buy a few of the one you end up settling on so you can rotate and wash them regularly
What are the most frequent skin issues you have seen arise from the COVID pandemic?
In regards to mask-related issues, the two most common problems have been
- Acne and folliculitis (infection of hair follicles) due to heat and humidity and oily topicals are blocking the glands.
- Irritant dermatitis from skin drying out and being irritated from mask, topicals and resultant secondary scratching.
In regards to other “pandemic-related ” skin problems :
- Hand dermatitis and eczema.; the frequent washing and sanitising s drying out the hands and skin elsewhere is leading to inflammation, and in the winter months, the skin always is predisposed to drying. These extra measures are accentuating the problem.
As one would expect at times of stress, many existing conditions become worse. Such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, hair loss, rosacea, and many more.
Why is skin health so important during these mask-wearing times?
We are all already stressed and under pressure. For our skin to become inflamed, uncomfortable, itchy, full of pimples, just adds to the stress we are already experiencing. Nobody needs that.
When is it time to call your dermatologist?
Regular (annual or bi-annual) skin checks should be a part of your skin routine. Consulting a dermatologist on your skin health is a very positive action to take at least a couple of times a year and can often help to pick up issues before they reach a critical situation. Of course, as soon as a serious skin issue arises, a dermatologist visit is key to treatment and containment. Looking after your skin health will be even more important as we get used to our new normal. Avoid or treat your maskne quickly. Give us a call and we can talk to you about options or set up an appointment with one of our dermatologists.
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