MANILA -- Along with the new coronavirus came a new type of skin concern that has affected millions -- maskne.
Face masks, albeit critical in protecting ourselves and those around us from the dangers of COVID-19, can, unfortunately, trigger breakouts around the nose, mouth, and chin, when worn for hours on end.
According to Dr. Jarische Lao-Ang, volunteer expert for skincare application Picky and board-certified dermatologist, the flare-ups are caused by the friction and pressure the mask puts on the skin.
"This leads to a damaged skin barrier and inflammation. It is the starting point of irritation due to the loss of the normal healthy protective skin barrier," she explained.
The doctor continued: "The buildup of sweat and moisture also cannot be avoided underneath the mask. This leads to clogged pores that can eventually result in acne flares."
To prevent skin issues from developing or exacerbating under the face covering, Lao-Ang and her fellow dermatologists and Picky experts Dr. Beibei Du-Harpur and Jenny Liu recommend these tips:
The doctors emphasized keeping the skin barrier healthy is imperative in curbing the annoying breakouts.
Thus, Liu said it is essential to protect the skin with moisturizer and sunscreen daily.
"The mask further compromises the skin barrier, [leading to] irritation, worsening acne. I’ve had a lot more breakouts along my chin and jawline. I’ve also experienced more skin irritation and dryness," she admitted.
“Keeping that skin barrier in peak condition is most important, so use a good moisturizer with a nice mix of occlusives, emollients, and humectants,” Du-Harpur instructed.
Liu also suggested using chemical exfoliants (AHA or BHA) instead of physical scrubs to rejuvenate the skin.
“A few times a month, try doing a gentle chemical exfoliant. I personally like leave-on treatments in place of my retinoid once or twice a week,” she shared.
Until masks remain as a fashion must-have, Du-Harpur encouraged putting off experimenting with new products.
“[It] could potentially irritate the skin— especially when your skin is already being exposed to an unusual environment regularly,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Lao-Ang urged individuals to wear light make-up or skip it entirely.
The dermatologist also reiterated the importance of keeping the face clean.
"Wash your face right after wearing a mask, but do not over-cleanse," she cautioned.
"If you’re wearing a mask for an extended period, try to have a rest period of 15 minutes to gently wipe away accumulated dirt with facial wipes."
DERMA RECOMMENDED INGREDIENTS
The dermatologists advised incorporating products with “soothing and barrier supporting” properties such as Centella Asiatica, niacinamide, panthenol, and allantoin into your skincare routines.
Centella Asiatica, tiger grass, gotu kola, or cica is rich in antioxidants, Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, and C. According to Picky, its ability to neutralize free radicals, prevent the growth of different bacteria, reduce redness, accelerate wound healing, improve blood flow and boost collagen production make it a potent anti-maskne.
Niacinamide or Vitamin B3, dubbed by the skin and product analyzer as the "most powerful ingredient you can incorporate into your skincare routine," can effectively moisturize and strengthen the skin barrier as well as smoothen wrinkles, minimize the appearance of large pores, increase ceramide synthesis, and even improve several skin conditions such as rosacea and atopic dermatitis.
Meanwhile, panthenol or pro-vitamin B5 is among the go-to ingredients for relieving and soothing skin, as well as keeping it hydrated. The digital skin expert noted panthenol contains emollients, which help smoothen skin texture and decreases water loss. It also possesses anti-inflammatory attributes and can improve wound healing.
Similarly, Allantoin is a botanical extract also associated with healing, calming, and soothing -- making it a powerful addition to the routine of those with sensitive, irritated, and acne-prone skins. The property is capable of protecting the skin from harmful external factors and is considered an excellent temporary anti-irritant. Picky also reported the agent is believed to stimulate new tissue growth and repair damaged skin.
Picky, however, reminded individuals to be mindful of the formulations they apply as there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to skincare. How your complexion will react to a product depends on your unique skin type.
WEAR THE RIGHT MASK
The Picky experts all agreed single-use masks are least likely to cause maskne.
“Using a surgical mask that is frequently changed will probably be the most maskne safe option,” Du-Harpur explained.
“Disposable masks offer the least irritation and friction,” Lao-Ang chimed in.
On the other hand, if you prefer reusable masks, Liu noted it is essential to change and wash the cloth daily.
Soft and breathable fabrics, such as cotton or silk, the doctors added, are also the ideal materials, especially for people with “sensitive skin or fragile skin barriers.
Du-Harpur, however, emphasized the chosen mask should meet the requirements recommended by international health bodies and their respective local authorities.
“Use a mask that matches your public health advice to protect you from potential risks is the most important,” she said.
For instance, to effectively stem the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization stated face coverings should consist of tightly woven fabrics, have at least two to three layers, completely cover your nose, mouth, and chin, fit snugly against the sides of your face and do not have gaps.
CDC also warned against the use of masks with exhalation valves or vents because they “may allow respiratory droplets to escape." They also pleaded with the public to reserve N95 respirators for medical practitioners.
WHEN TO VISIT THE DOCTOR
While maskne is not necessarily an issue that needs to be treated at a doctor's clinic, if it has not improved or has aggravated further, the dermatologists concurred it is time to turn to professional guidance.
"If you’re trying some basic measures at home and things are only getting worse, then seek support," Du-Harpur reasoned.
According to experts, masks are not the only trigger for breakouts and not all blemishes that pop up are acne. Underlying factors such as hormones, diet, allergies, and other health concerns could also cause similar flare-ups. In these cases, the diagnosis and aid of a dermatologist are needed.
"My opinion is to seek professional help at the first sign of maskne since it could be due to other causes," Lao-Ang said.
“If you have severe acne to start, or if your acne isn’t improving after a few months of acne treatments, then it may be best to see a dermatologist," Liu added.
When it comes to our skin, prevention is always better than cure. Thus, Du-Harpur stressed] "if you are concerned or bothered about your skin," seeking a medical expert is always the best course of action. Dermatologists, after all, can better treat the skin issue, avoid exacerbation as well as the development of additional skin conditions such as scarring.
"If you’re already seeing scars from your acne, then I definitely suggest seeing a dermatologist further damage," Liu explained.
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