The coronavirus outbreak has increased the use of surgical and non-medical protective masks when leaving home. Unfortunately, the improper use of face masks is a frequent cause of acne breakouts for sensitive and/or acne-prone skin. As an integral part of our lives in the present and near future, we must find ways to incorporate them successfully. Fortunately, it seems a new kind of 3 layers cloth mask impregnated with copper and liver particles can reduce the number of COVID face mask related acne breakouts.
The standard single-use surgical masks are made of plastic!
The name non-woven fabric is misleading. 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, an oil-derived plastic that can take hundreds of years to break down. Thrown to the ocean, they shed tiny harmful microplastic particles, which are then consumed by fish and then us when we eat seafood. Single-use masks are complicated to recycle. They are made of a complex mix 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.
How Can Protective Masks Cause More Acne?
Breathing in and out under a mask increases the temperature and humidity of the face's covered areas, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to breed. Wearing a mask causes constant friction against the skin, damaging the outer protective layer. The resulting vulnerable and damaged skin allows the bacteria on its surface to easily enter deep into clogged oil glands, causing increased inflammation and acne breakouts.
11 Tips to Prevent Acne When Wearing Protective Masks ("Maskne")
- Cleanse and moisturize your skin immediately after you remove the mask. Gel-based and water-based moisturizers are lightweight and can prevent clogged pores. Look for a moisturizer with aloe vera and tea tree oil to help calm your skin and heal marks from friction and irritation.
- If you use a disposable mask, discard it after use, and wear a fresh one every day. If you are using a reusable mask, wash it every day.
- Touch the mask with your hands as little as possible. Always wash your hands immediately after if you do touch your protective mask.
- Do not use very tight masks. You want the mask to be close enough to your skin to stay in place without being too constricting.
- Wash your face 2-3x a day with a gentle cleanser. If you have acne, look for a mild medicated cream-based cleanser with salicylic acid to effectively remove oil.
- If your skin is oily, you can use oil-free wipes or blotting papers to remove excess oil and sweat that can accumulate under your mask throughout the day.
- Elastic cloth masks and single-use surgical masks create a more moist, hotter environment for your skin, as your breathing is more constricted. The accumulation of sweat and oil underneath the mask can cause inflammation, rashes, and acne breakouts. Masks made of natural cotton are much better.
- Wear minimal or no makeup under your mask. Try to avoid thick foundations and concealers, leading to clogged pores and increased breakouts.
- Do not apply petroleum (vaseline) on your skin. This heavy thick ointment will clog your skin pores and frequently cause more maskne breakouts. Use a light anti-acne oil-free moisturizer instead.
- Wait 15 minutes after applying moisturizer before you put your mask on. If your skin is slippery, the seal will not work as well.
- Try to avoid wearing lip gloss; Lip gloss tends to stick to the mask. Look for a lip serum or a waxy lip conditioner instead.
What is the best treatment for Maskne?
Best treatment starts with prevention. Look for cotton masks that will not rub on your skin and will not increase heat and humidity under the mask. In the morning and evening, clean your skin with a mild hydrating acne cleanser with salicylic acid. Do not use cleansers with benzoyl peroxide of cleanser with > 0.5% salicylic acid. These cleansers will over irritate the sensitive skin around and the mouth, causing more acne breakouts. Pat dry your skin and apply an oil-free moisturizer. Look for a moisturizer that is specifically formulated for people with acne-prone skin. Moisturizers with niacinamide are the best choice. Niacinamide will help protect the natural skin barrier, reduce acne bacteria's proliferation, and calm skin redness. In the evening, apply a small amount of benzoyl peroxide 2.5%. This night treatment has potent antibacterial and antifungal properties and will help reduce the number of active red pimples faster than any other anti-acne treatment cream.
The Best COVID-19 Masks for People with Acne-Prone Skin
The worst masks are tight cloth masks made with polyester or other synthetic materials. Those masks create a hot, humid environment – perfect for the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria (p.acnes), Staph aureus, and fungi. The same is true for disposable surgical masks. Made of plastic, these masks trap humidity and hot air under the mask, creating a perfect breeding space for bacteria and fungi.
The best masks for acne-prone skin seem to be cloth masks impregnated from the inside and the outside with copper and silver fibers. Copper and silver particles have proven antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. These fibers are used extensively in hospital bedsheets to fight infections and can also be found in antibacterial and antimicrobial pillowcases to prevent acne breakouts.
How to choose an anti-acne face mask?
When choosing a copper or silver infused face mask, look for cotton masks, and are not too tight. This type of anti-acne face masks is more breathable, reducing the heat and humidity under the mask. Beware that most copper or silver face masks are sprayed with the metal particles from the outside can help with external germs but not acne. To reduce the risk for maskne, the mask's inner layer that touches the skin needs to be impregnated with the metal particles. (Three-layer, copper/silver infused anti-acne mask)
Tips for Wearing a Protective Mask During Acne Treatment
The thorough removal of oil, dirt, and bacteria from the skin before and after wearing a mask is the best way to reduce the risk for mask-related increased acne breakouts. Adding an oil-free moisturizer prevents over-drying of the skin and makes the skin more resilient to bacteria and inflammation.
- Cleanse Gently. Wash your face with a very gentle acne cleanser. The best choice is a cleanser with BHA (salicylic acid) to penetrate the skin glands and provide an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.
- Use oil-free wipes. If you feel that your face is getting too hot or sweaty under your mask, you can use oil-free wipes to freshen up.
- Treat your acne. If you already have active acne, it is more important now than ever that you stick to your acne treatment routine, as good anti-acne skincare will help treat your current active pimples and prevent future mask-related acne breakouts. The best choice would be an acne treatment cream with a low percentage of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Try to avoid adapalene (Differin) as it is much more irritating than benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.
- Moisturize your skin. An oil-free moisturizer helps protect and repair your skin without clogging your pores. Apply a thin layer of a light, water-based moisturizer underneath your mask. The best time to moisturize is after you wash your face in the morning. As for makeup, it's best to apply a lighter foundation (preferably mineral-based) than what you would typically use to prevent clogged pores.
What is Mask related contact dermatitis?
Contact dermatitis, AKA allergy-related skin eczema, happens when the skin overreacts to an allergenic compound. Mask related contact dermatitis will cause the skin under the hood to be red and itchy. In contrast to maskne that causes more acne pimples under the mask and does not itch, contact dermatitis will cover the larger area, making the skin red and itchy.
How to Prevent Mask Related Eczema?
The color in the mask cause allergies. Thus, choosing a white cotton mask would be the best choice. To further reduce the risk for allergies, wash the mask with fragrance-free detergent avoiding softeners.
More info on Anti-Acne Face Mask
Best face masks for people with acne-prone skin
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