Wearing face masks to help slow and prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, may have unintentional side effects—on your skin. Whether you're using store-bought disposable paper masks, washable fabric masks, or home-made masks fashioned out of scarves or bandanas, the constant friction against your face, as well as trapped breath and moisture can create or exacerbate existing skin problems.
"Unfortunately, face masks are becoming a regular part of our daily wardrobe," says Dr Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD dermatologist and editor of DermBoard.org. "With it, a host of skin problems can occur. I've seen allergic contact dermatitis, worsening acne, new onset of rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, friction dermatitis and new patterns of skin wrinkling."
Tatler reached out to top dermatologists to get their professional tips on how to prevent and treat "maskne"—redness, irritation and acne caused by face masks. Turns out, derms knew exactly what we were talking about, first hand—because most of them wear face masks all day long. Here's what we learned.
What is maskne?
Skin irritation caused by face masks can be any of a number of things—triggered by any of a number of factors, including but not limited to bacterial overgrowth and yeast overgrowth.
"When talking and breathing with a mask in place, there is a good amount of humidity that builds up between your mouth and the mask," says Dr Erum Ilyas, a US board-certified dermatologist and the CEO and founder of Montgomery Dermatology. "The heat and humidity concentrated around the mouth can alter the pH of your skin and make you more prone to three issues–bacterial overgrowth can result in folliculitis or infected hair follicles; yeast overgrowth can result in perleche or cheilitis, which can present as persistent chapped lips or dry cracked corners of the mouth; and, lastly, perioral dermatitis, a variant of rosacea that can present as dry patches around the mouth and painful deep cystic pimples."