Best face masks for people with acne-prone skin

woman wearing an anti acne face mask

Wearing a face mask can be very uncomfortable, especially for those with acne-prone skin. People with acne-prone skin are at higher risk for breakouts related to the improper use of face masks. There many types of masks on the market. Disposable single-use surgical masks, N95 masks, silk masks, stretchable homemade cloth masks, and finally anti-acne face masks.

What are the causes of face mask-induced acne (Maskne)?

Heat, humidity, and a lack of airflow under most protective face masks create the perfect microenvironment for Maskne to develop. Dry oil and dead skin cells accumulate under face masks, where bacteria and fungi can grow and thrive on the skin's surface. The friction of face masks against the skin can damage its natural protective layer, allowing the bacteria and fungi to invade the pores and cause acne breakouts. Fortunately, choosing the right type of masks combined with a few simple preventive measures can keep COVID and maskne away.

Is Maskne preventable?

Fortunately, Maskne is very preventable! Wearing the right type of mask, keeping the skin under the face mask clean and dry will help prevent new acne from forming. It is also essential to choose a face mask that is suited for acne-prone skin.

illustration of the location of maskne on the face

What the worst type of face mask for people with acne-prone skin?

The worst masks for acne-prone skin are tight cloth masks made with polyester or other synthetic materials, which create hot, humid environments – perfect for the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria (p.acnes), Staph aureus, and fungi.

A recent large study on 883 people has looked at the prevalence and skin reactions to the covid face masks. 40.3% wore cloth masks, 57.7% surgical masks, and the rest used surgical masks with cloth covering or N95 masks. 66.9% were changing the mask every day, and 33% reported that they change the mask only every 2-3 days.

The researchers found some adverse skin reactions in 54% of the people wearing covid face masks. Maskne (acne) was noted in 39.9% of people that wore covid masks, followed by a red rash (15.5%) and itching (15.6%). Rashes behind the ears were found in 6.7 percent. Wearing a surgical mask showed a significantly higher risk of acne and other adverse skin reactions than a cloth mask. A duration of face mask-wearing of more than 4 hours per day and the reuse of single-use surgical face masks increased the risk of adverse skin reactions.

Based on these findings, the authors suggest that all people, except health workers, should look for cloth masks and avoid single-use surgical masks. Ear savers were reported to help with preventing friction behind the ears.

Covid-19 masks Prevalence of skin adverse effects prospective study

Data source: The Effects of the Face Mask on the Skin Underneath. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health Volume 11: 1–7

Do disposable masks cause acne?

Yes, they do! Most single-use masks are made of polypropylene, and some are made of other synthetic materials such as polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, or polyester. Polypropylene is a synthetic plastic material, close relative to the polyethylene in our trash bags. The manufacturing process of those single-use masks starts with a hot melted plastic that is pressed into shape. It is later cooled down, and the straps are welded into place, and the masks are sterilized. This very dense synthetic material traps the moisture and heat under the mask, creating a perfect breeding environment for bacteria and fungi.

In addition to causing more acne, those plastic surgical masks are a severe environmental threat. Polypropylene, the main ingredient of single-use masks, is an oil-derived plastic that takes hundreds of years to break down. Thrown to the ocean, it sheds. Meanwhile, they also dropped tiny harmful microplastic particles, consumed by fish and then us when we eat seafood. Single-use masks are complicated to recycle. Single-use masks are produced of a complex blend of synthetic materials that require specific and expensive machinery to recycle. As it costs more to collect, separate, and recycles single-use masks than the resulting recycled material's value, there is no business incentive to recycle those masks.

Can Disposable N95 professional masks cause acne?

Yes, they do. Unfortunately, the N95 masks are the worst for our skin. Similar to the regular disposable masks, the N95 respirators are made of multiple layers of polypropylene. This thermoplastic polymer (often polypropylene) is denser than the one in a surgical mask, completely blocking airflow. The tight wire around the mask causes the masks to be complete, airtight, increasing the mask's heat and humidity. In many people, this wire abrades the skin and causes hard to heal friction marks. Having said all that, the N95 should only be used by medical personnel or people in contact with confirmed COVID patients.

Can silk masks help with Maskne?

Mulberry silk pillowcases are believed to help people with acne on the sides of their faces. Using silk in protective masks will not help and can even make acne worse. Silk is very smooth and does not absorbs, reducing humidity under the masks. Thus, people with a silk mask will frequently have more sweat and moisture under the mask than people using natural cotton masks.

What is the best type of face mask for people with acne?

The best masks for acne or acne-prone skin people are natural cotton, breathable masks impregnated with copper and silver particles. These masks harness copper and silver particles' power to kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses on contact. Copper particles have been proven to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Silver particles have well-documented antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial activity and, as shown by recent studies, are effective against other airborne pathogens. Copper and silver fibers are used extensively in hospital bedsheets to fight infections and can also be found in antibacterial and antimicrobial pillowcases to help prevent acne breakouts.

What is so unique about MDacne's Anti-Acne Face Mask?

MDacne's copper and silver infused face mask is the world's first face mask that can reduce the risk for Maskne. An important feature of MDacne's anti-acne mask is that the copper and silver particles are an integral part of all three layers of the mask (not sprayed on the outer surface like some other copper/silver masks). The slow release of the copper and silver particles from the MDacne mask provides long-lasting protection, even after washing.

Masks made with natural cotton are ultralight and breathable. Unlike the single-use surgical masks made of polypropylene and most other cloth masks containing polyester, the MDacne anti-acne mask is not too tight. It does not rub on the skin, offering a sweat-free, breakout-free experience.

Multi-layer cotton face mask vs. disposable surgical mask vs. homemade masks - filtration power compared:

A recent study from Lake Forest Medical Center tested 13 different face masks, looking at their ability to filter out particles of 0.3 – 1.0 microns in diameter, the size of many viruses and bacteria. Cotton cloth masks with two or more thick cotton layers filtrated 79% of breathable particles compared to surgical masks that filtrated only 65% of the particles. The worst performers we single-layer Homemade masks with 1% filtration.

How do you clean your protective cloth mask?

For optimal results, reusable protective cloth masks should be washed every 1-2 days. It is recommended to have two masks handy to ensure that there is always a clean one available to wear. The use of improper cleaning methods can compromise the effectiveness and appearance of protective cloth masks. In some cases, certain detergents can cause allergic reactions or breakouts, so it's best to look for mild, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free detergents. Good examples are this one and this one.

Washing a protective cloth mask in a washing machine or by hand are both equally effective. It is essential always to remember to use hot water to kill the germs. Fortunately, the coronavirus is killed quite easily by most detergents, so there is no need to use extra harsh detergents to sanitize the mask.

What is the best way to dry a protective mask?

The easiest ways to dry a protective cloth mask are to place it on a rack in the sun or put it in the dryer on a high heat setting.

More info on Anti-Acne Face Mask

Why you need to wear a mask - PBS

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