If you haven’t already, you’re about to get up close and personal with a new and essential accessory: your face mask. Now that the government has made them compulsory on public transport and in shops the likelihood is, you’ll be wearing yours a lot more.
But despite offering a vital first defence against airborne bacteria, they come with their own set of problems. Feedback from frontline workers and people increasingly wearing them day to day is that repeated use can cause unwanted skin flare-ups including acne, also known as 'mask-ne'.
We caught up with our Consultant Dermatologist of Pall Mall - Dr Vikram Rajkomar to find out why this is happening and how we can prevent it!
Why can the combination of summer and mask wearing lead to acne/breakouts?
“Acne is caused by overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands. Wearing tight-fitting face masks means that sebum and sweat remain in close contact to the skin, akin to wearing heavy oil-based makeup. This combination increases the risk of acne. As the weather gets warmer, we produce more sweat which increases our chances of developing acne.
How can we prep the skin BEFORE putting on a face mask?
“You should ensure that the skin is well hydrated, by drinking enough water and using a fragrance-free moisturiser to the skin to avoid direct rubbing of the mask with the skin. You also need to make sure that you wash your face twice per day with a gentle wash. Try to avoid facial scrubs or exfoliating as this can damage the skin. If acne is already present, constant rubbing with a face mask will worsen the inflammation of acne, avoid wearing a tight mask.
What can we do to sooth our skin AFTER taking the mask off?
“We should be following the government guidelines on wearing face masks but it is important that we remove them when they are not needed. For example, if you are alone, in an empty room or in the car etc. Take your mask off and top up your moisturiser application to keep your skin hydrated and avoid further irritation when you put your mask back on.
Make sure that you wash your mask regularly (if it is reusable) as they can accumulate sebum and face oil (including makeup) which leads to development of acne. If you are wearing a disposable face mask there is no set time, nor recommended number of masks you should use each day. It all depends on what you are doing. However, if your mask gets dirty, wet or damaged, or if you touch the inside of it, then you should change to a new one. When you take it off to eat or drink, you should dispose of the old mask, wash or sanitise your hands, and replace it with a new one once you have finished eating.
It is important to note that some people can naturally react to face masks due to other underlying skin issues, the use of a mild steroid such as hydrocortisone may be sufficient for them. If this does not work, patients should see their GP / dermatologist.
Do beards make mask-ne worse?
“Beards can lead to folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) which appears similar to some acne lesions. Having a beard means that it is more difficult to clean the face properly, leading to accumulation of sweat, sebum, debris and bacteria which can cause acne development. So yes, beards can increase the chances of developing acne under your mask.
What simple changes can we make to our daily routine to prevent the possibility of breakouts?
“A well-balanced diet can decrease the chances of developing acne. Try to avoid eating low glycaemic index food (food which increases blood sugar quickly) such as white bread, white rice, sugary drinks and sugary cereals.
It is also important to use SPF daily, even if it is not particularly sunny as your face still requires protection from UV rays. UV can get through glass in houses and cars so continuing to do this is an important step in your daily routine even if you are working from home!”
If you have noticed unusual changes in your skin you can book an appointment with one of our dermatologists / GPs. We offer private appointments via telephone and video call.
You can book an appointment by calling 03300 58 44 55.