Wearing a protective face mask to slow the spread of COVID-19 has become part of our daily routine. It is now mandatory to wear a mask as a barrier against the new coronavirus spreading through respiratory droplets in many public places such as restaurants and markets.

If you get pimples on your face due to wearing a mask, you are not alone. This condition, also known as mechanical acne, is a common side effect of using masks.

Mechanical acne does not simply cause pimples. It can also cause skin problems such as redness, swelling, and irritation.

What to know about mask-induced skin problems

Generally, mechanical acne is a general term used for the various skin conditions that can be caused by wearing a face mask. It may include:

  • Acne. Acne happens when your pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and dirt. It can cause pimples, whiteheads or blackheads.
  • Rosacea. If you have rose disease, wearing a mask can cause a flare-up of the disease. As a result, there may be an increase in the amount of acne and rash.
  • Contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs when you are allergic or sensitive to the material of your mask. It can cause a red rash as well as irritation and blisters.
  • Folliculitis. Folliculitis or infection of your hair follicles causes swelling that looks like acne breakouts. You may also experience itching or pain.

If you already have one of these skin problems, you may be more prone to developing mechanical acne problems.

The effects of the mask on the skin?

Since mechanical acne can involve a variety of skin problems, the exact cause of your symptoms can vary.

In most cases, the problem is the result of clogged pores. Your skin already contains oil, bacteria and dead skin cells. However, when you wear a mask, these substances can accumulate more and clog your pores.

The mask also traps moisture from your breathing, which can increase the risk of acne.

Another possible cause is the friction created by the mask. The material of the mask you use may rub against your skin and cause friction and irritation.

Or you may have sensitivity or allergies to the material of the mask you are using. Some masks are pre-treated with chemicals or hardened on the skin. Similarly, wearing a mask washed with a scented detergent can cause irritation.

How are mask-induced skin problems treated?

Even if your face is full of acne, it is very important that you continue to wear your mask during the covid-19 outbreak. Keeping your mouth and nose closed is one of the best ways to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19.

There are several ways to treat the symptoms of skin problems caused by the use of masks.

Wash your face regularly

Keep practicing your regular skincare routine to keep your skin healthy during the pandemic.

Wash your face:

  • once in the morning
  • before going to bed at night
  • after wearing a mask.

Use lukewarm water while washing your face. Dry your skin with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing your skin as it can cause irritation.

Use a proper cleaner

A proper cleanser can help remove excess oil, sweat, and bacteria. Avoid cleaners that contain alcohol or perfume. These ingredients can cause irritation and make it difficult for your symptoms to improve.

If your symptoms are more severe, you can try a medicated solution containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid as a cleanser.

If you have sensitive skin, ask your doctor or dermatologist what type of medicated cleanser is best for your skin.

Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer

Apply moisturizer after washing your face to keep your skin moist. Use a non-comedogenic product that won't clog your pores.

Apply cream and moisturizer containing ceramide

If your skin problem is mostly caused by irritation, you may want to apply a moisturizer containing ceramide to the area. This can help protect your skin and relieve itching and irritation.

Take a break from makeup

Take a break from applying makeup while treating mask-induced skin problems. Beauty products such as foundation, concealer and blush can clog your pores and extend the healing time.

How to prevent mask-induced skin problems?

Since you will need to continue wearing a face mask in public for the foreseeable future, it may be helpful to follow some tips on preventing mask-induced skin problems.

Wash fabric masks after each use

Never reuse fabric masks without washing them. Use unscented, hypoallergenic laundry detergent, then allow the mask to dry completely.

Use a topical antibiotic cream

It is not uncommon for bacteria to accumulate under a mask and cause acne. To prevent this, dermatologists usually recommend applying a topical antibiotic cream or gel to your skin before putting on your face mask.

Dispose masks after each use

Discard the mask after using a disposable mask. Consider keeping a few disposable masks with you so you don't have to worry about needing a new one.

Rest your skin by removing your mask for 15 minutes every 4 hours.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends removing your mask for 15 minutes every 4 hours. This break will help your skin in its renewal journey.

You should only take off your mask when you are out and about if you can fully comply with social distance rules. It is important to wash your hands before taking a mask break.

Apply moisturizer before wearing a mask

If your skin tends to be dry, the mask may cause irritation. Applying a non-comedogenic moisturizer can help keep your skin hydrated. The moisturizer can also act as a barrier between your skin and the mask.

Choose the right mask

To avoid skin problems, pay attention to the type of mask you are wearing.

Try to use a face mask with the following properties:

  • fits well but not too tight
  • have two or more layers of fabric
  • made of natural, soft fabric (like cotton)

Avoid masks made from synthetic fabrics such as nylon or rayon. These materials can irritate the skin.

Wash your face after removing your mask

When you get home, wash your face with a proper cleanser. Apply a moisturizer to protect your skin. Washing your face after sweating while wearing a mask is important for skin health.

Mechanical acne or mask acne includes acne breakouts caused by wearing a face mask. Symptoms can include pimple-like bumps as well as friction and irritation if you have rosacea or dermatitis.

While masks can be frustrating, it is important to continue wearing face masks during the COVID-19 outbreak. Regular facial washing, moisturizing, and wearing the right type of mask can help prevent skin problems.

If your mask-related skin problems are more severe or persist after trying these suggestions, be sure to check with your dermatologist.