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Maskne: The New Acne

Handsome man looking at himself in the bathroom mirror squeezing pimple


Expert tips to deal with acne caused by wearing masks

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Have unwelcome zits been popping up on your face lately? You’re not alone. You have maskne or mask acne—a term coined during COVID 19—to describe acne that occurs on the face in the areas covered by the mask. Yes, the pandemic is the gift that keeps on giving. Thankfully, maskne can be taken care of by following proper mask hygiene and a bit of dermatological intervention.


The primary reason for new breakouts on your face?  This is a no-brainer: We are spending a lot of time in masks.  Mumbai-based celebrity dermatologist Dr. Jaishree Sharad, explains, “When we exhale into the mask, there’s a lot of moisture, and this humid environment leads to clogging of the skin’s pores. The heat makes you sweat under the mask, and the sweat salts also clog the pores. So does moisturisers or other products applied on the skin beneath the mask.” Did you know that we also breathe out microorganisms? “These multiply and the skin microbiome changes. All these result in pustules and pustular acne.” In other words, those annoyingly ugly boils!
As the temperature rises and you sweat more, you’ll need to keep the mask clean. “I see many people reusing their masks without washing them. Some even wear a disposable mask on repeat,” exclaims Dr. Sharad. These are serious offenses against the skin and can lead to maskne.


The right mask and mask hygiene: First things first: Choose masks wisely! “Go for soft, pure cotton masks, as they let your skin breathe and reduce irritation. Or use disposable marks,” suggests Dr Sharad. 

Then comes, mask hygiene. Treat masks like your innerwear, and wash it daily. You don’t want all of that oil and sweat and dirt to sit there and then you reapply it to your face constantly. Now, if you’re not-big-on-clean-underwear kind of guy, we don’t know what to tell you. “Wash your reusable cloth mask daily with a mild fragrance-free detergent,” advises Dr. Sharad.

The right skin-care: Wash your face twice a day. Dr Sharad recommends washing your face in the morning with a mild exfoliating facewash with salicylic acid. “Apply a water-based or gel-based moisturiser before wearing your mask, as this will prevent dryness and friction on your skin,” she adds. Avoid applying oils and heavy/rich creams on your skin below your mask. You can apply a barrier cream like a Sebamed rash free cream or Desitin cream that is used to prevent diaper rash in babies in case your skin is thin or sensitive or if you have a history of allergies or eczemas.

Everyone sweats under their masks, and using micellar water or a gentle cleanser to do a quick wash once the masks come off will keep the zits at bay.
A caveat: Over-washing your face dries it out, stripping off its natural oils—tricking it into thinking that it needs to produce more oil. This in-turn, can give you more of what trying to avoid, acne.


Unfortunately, masks aren’t going away anytime soon. Not until all of us are completely vaccinated. Chances are you’ll end up getting maskne at some point. If you do, don’t panic. “Apply an anti-acne cream at bedtime.” Use an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide treatment only on the spots; starting with a 2.5 or 5 percent concentration, and not 10 percent. Those with hyperpigmentation should wear sunscreen even indoors because the blue light from devices can make the problem worse. “Apply a gel-based or water-based sunscreen on the forehead and under the eyes before you step out with a mask,” recommends Dr. Sharad. Always use clean masks. Whenever you’re alone in a room or outdoors, take off your mask for a few minutes and let your skin breathe. 

Don’t go full gangster-mode on your maskne and pop it with your fingers. Stick to the recommendations above. If the breakouts persist, it’s best to consult a dermatologist.


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