In this series in conjunction with the Dermatological Society of Singapore, dermatologist Dr. Teo Wan Lin shares her tips on treatment and prevention of mask acne, how to get rid of mask acne, including her recommendations for the best type of face mask for maskne.
Skin problems caused by friction
I want to touch on something known as frictional dermatitis right now. It will take us to important factors that influence whether or not you develop face mask skin problems related to the design of the face mask itself.
The constant contact of the face mask with various parts of our face especially when we’re wearing it throughout the day while going about our daily activities in indoor environments actually creates friction and for areas like the face where the skin is slightly thinner and more delicate, it can lead to dysfunction in the skin barrier. We spoke about dermatitis earlier but the very fact that we have to wear the face mask throughout the day creates a new issue and that’s not just relating to the microenvironment with the humidity, the bacteria but also mechanical forces of friction.
How to get rid of mask acne – Ideal face mask design
What type of face mask is best to get rid of mask acne?
That brings us to the topic of how our face mask design can influence the development of these various dermatological conditions. In the case of maskne and facial dermatitis/facial eczema, we would do well with a mask fabric that is breathable.
Traditionally we spoke about natural fibres such as cotton, linen and silk being the most beneficial for skin because of their ability to wick moisture away and while the surface of the skin does not really breathe as our respiratory system does, it is a good descriptor of what we hope can help to improve the local skin microenvironment in terms of allowing airflow and preventing humidity and moisture build up which can increase the growth of harmful bacteria and other germs like fungi.
However, the major problem with these natural fibres is that they are not waterproof and this is the very reason why when we talk about personal protective equipment, we’re not dealing with natural fibres but rather synthetic materials. Your N95 Mask, the surgical mask these are all synthetic and derivatives of fibres such as polyester.
The water resistance is a critical part of your mask design. We’re not wearing the face mask just to be compliant with local laws, we want it to reduce infectivity of the disease within the population and in the case of personal protective equipment, we actually hope that it can prevent infection risk especially with a highly transmissible virus such as COVID.
What type of fabric face mask should I choose?
How to get rid of mask acne or maskne? Reusable face masks made with biofunctional textiles. Essentially, biofunctional textiles are engineered materials that have beneficial properties for skin, specifically the skin microbiome. We know that there are naturally beneficial properties of a textile such as silk on skin because of its metallic content. For example, it contains copper.
The silk is produced by the silkworms as they spin the thread. What is being done in the field of biofunctional textiles is essentially incorporating these metallic nanoparticles, it could be copper, silver, zinc into synthetic materials so that while they retain the properties of being highly durable as well as being waterproof. Additionally, they also have these added bactericidal benefits. Bactericidal means that it kills bacteria on contact and that is something that has been proven with copper nanoparticles for example and silver.
Copper and silver have been used in the development of textiles as adjunct treatment for those with eczema for example, and it has been shown to be effective in terms of improving their quality of life as well as symptoms with use. It really helps by treating the skin microbiome so you may have heard of this term in the media.
The microbiome is truly an important area of dermatology research and treatments. It is no longer about us developing more powerful antibiotics to treat disorders such as acne or rosacea because we know that the inherent problem is that the bacteria develops resistance, and the root cause of these conditions isn’t really a pathogenic infection or bad infection. Instead, it is a problem with that being an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria. So biofunctional textiles hold promise in terms of treating this sort of microbiome imbalance.
How to get rid of mask acne
In this last part of my talk, we’re going to be discussing how you can manage mild symptoms of maskne, how to get rid of mask acne and hopefully even prevent it. First of all, the design of your face mask does make a difference. Many of us opt for reusable face masks because it’s just not eco-friendly or sustainable to be using disposable PPE although one must carefully consider the risks of infection and transmission given that we are seeing new variants of COVID as well as increasing knowledge about long COVID symptoms as well. However from the pure skin perspective, you can consider these factors.
First of all, one that can stay in place when you are speaking especially because we are wearing masks throughout the day in indoor environments is going to reduce friction on skin as opposed to an ill-fitting mask that you constantly have to touch and adjust and certainly that’s very bad from an infection control point of view as well.
The other factor that you should think about is the material of the face mask and it is firstly important to not wear cotton, linen or silk face mask because these frankly are not going to be as effective as one that is water resistant so synthetic material is actually preferable but then you have to consider the downside, which is everything we discussed earlier and this is why you may consider newer textiles such as biofunctional materials.
Solutions to get rid of Mask Acne
Finally, if you have the odd one or two pimples that come up say a certain target month for ladies that coincides with your period, you should use a good pimple cream. Avoid highly irritant pimple cream ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, retinols are sometimes found in over the counter acne creams. These are very irritating for skin. So the key here is that we are managing a different type of acne, maskne because you are constantly wearing a face covering which means whatever you apply on your pimple is going to be absorbed much more.
It is a phenomenon that occurs under occlusion which is when the skin is in a sense suffocated, that increases the irritant potential of benzoyl peroxide which itself can cause skin irritation signs such as redness, flaking. There are active ingredients without irritation that can be effective for the treatment of acne as well. So botanical ingredients that suppress inflammation, for example Berberine and Chlorella Vulgaris, these can be useful in the treatment of maskne.
How to get rid of mask acne – skincare for maskne
Another thing that you may have observed is your pimple cream can actually bleach your face mask. This may come as a surprise for many but the reason behind this is the benzoyl peroxide content that can bleach textiles. So I think it’s very important for all of us to appreciate the value of a good skincare regimen for acne sufferers, those who want to get rid of mask acne or even prevent maskne altogether. The basics of that would be an antibacterial face wash that’s also gentle on skin.
Natural antibacterial derivatives such as medical grade honey, even soya-based emulsifiers, these tend to be less harsh on skin than chemical antibacterial agents such as triclosan, which in the very long term also has some concerns with regards to whether there are potential side effects on the hormonal axis and we certainly don’t want to breed more drug resistance.
The second tenet of good acne skincare would be using an effective pimple cream which we spoke about earlier. Moisturizer is also important. If you suffer from oily skin, you may want to use a serum or a lotion which is lighter than a cream.
When should I see a dermatologist to get rid of mask acne?
If you have a pre-existing skin condition that has worsened after mask wearing then you should see a dermatologist because in many of these cases, whether it’s facial eczema, acne or rosacea, you do require treatment with prescription medication. If you have mild acne which is getting a little bit worse but still not severe enough that it is causing you emotional distress, you can try switching out your face mask, adding on an antibacterial cleanser, taking care of active pimples, not picking at them using a hydrocolloid patch can help.
If you have new onset, moderate to severe acne – so if you have anything more than five pimples a month, or to the extent that you feel emotionally disturbed by it, then you may want to seek medical attention earlier. Finally, it’s important to note that it is not recommended for lay persons to try to self diagnose their condition. If you have any doubt at all or if you have a previous history of a skin condition, then do visit a dermatologist so that you can get prompt and accurate diagnosis and start on effective treatment.
That wraps up my talk on maskne – what is it and how we can prevent it. I am really happy to be able to share these tips with you on world skin health day and thank you all for listening to my talk.
Dr. Teo shares on what causes maskne, where it develops as well as other face mask skin problems that may be mistaken for maskne in Part One of the transcript here.Tags: ~All Topics, Acne, Dermatology, Skin Health