"Maskne" Prevention and Treatment

News Team's picture
By News Team on July 22, 2020

Wearing a protective face covering to prevent the spread of coronavirus is a sweaty, irritating job.

Health care workers can attest to that! They wear face masks and other personal protective equipment nonstop for many long, uninterrupted hours at a time. Front line workers in other industries wear masks throughout their shifts too.

And even the rest of us, who only tend to wear masks for short periods when we're away from home, can find them irritating to the skin.

Padma Chitnavis, M.D., a specialist with Carilion Clinic Dermatology and Mohs Surgery, spoke with WSLS Channel 10 News about acne mechanica, or acne that develops from the friction—in this case of masks—rubbing against skin. 

Start by making sure you have enough cloth masks that you always have one clean and ready to wear. Put it on securely but loosely, so that it hugs your face without putting pressure on it. Dr. Chitnavis also recommends:

  • Washing your face with a gentle cleanser as needed throughout the day
  • Using a high-quality moisturizer that contains ceramide
  • Maintaining your regular summer skin care regimen
  • Continuing to use prescription skin medications

"A light moisturizing lotion can provide a little protection to the skin barrier," says Dr. Chitnavis. "Ceramide can protect the integrity of the skin," thereby preventing minor cuts and the bacterial infections that can cause acne. 

Mask Fabrics
Homemade and commercially available face masks are made from various fabrics and take on different shapes. Be sure to wear your mask secured tightly but not rubbing on your skin. 

While medical professionals can't wear a comfortable cotton mask during their long shifts, they may be a more comfortable choice after hours and for others. "At home, a cloth mask or an athletic type fabric can often be little more comfortable and breathable and less likely to aggravate your skin,” Dr. Chitnavis said.

If your mask doesn't fit comfortably, be willing to try another. What you don't want to do is set aside your mask altogether!

When To Seek Help
To treat acne at home, try an over-the-counter remedy that contains either vitamin A (sometimes listed as adapalene), salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. 

But don't hesitate to seek medical care if your acne is physically painful, emotionally distressing or causing a scar. Reach out to your primary care provider for a referral to a dermatologist.

And keep wearing your mask!

See us safely at CarilionClinic.org/safe.

As always, and like never before, we're here to see you safely through all your health care needs. Visit CarilionClinic.org/safe to learn how. For up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19, visit CarilionClinic.org/coronavirus.