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The existence of covid-19 has brought unprecedented changes to everyone’s lives, and with the second wave rushing in, there’s no way we can avoid social distancing. Masks have become as integral as clothes today, and as stepping out has gotten more dangerous, wearing layers of masks to avoid contamination has become the utmost priority. Since the prevalence of wearing a mask has increased, maskne (mask+acne) has become a common occurrence. The first cases of maskne were diagnosed around April 2020. Even though maskne resembles acne, it’s not just acne.
Maskne is an umbrella term which is used for various skin issues ‒ Acne mechanica, rosacea, contact dermatitis, folliculitis. The perspiration and trapped humid environment that is restricted to the mask, along with the friction on the skin, causes irritation in small hair follicles. It then triggers inflammation, and also leads to pore clogging, which together causes acne mechanica.
Regular acne treatment can cure this, but one must constantly use moisturizers as the skin dries out due to acne creams. Correspondingly, chemical exfoliation shouldn’t be done more than once a week. An individual suffering from rosacea could see a flare-up with regular mask usage ‒ the skin capillaries may dilate, because of the temperature under the mask, which may worsen the rosacea. One must use cotton masks underneath regular masks; opt for fragrance-free products, apply sunscreen and moisturizers for a cooling-down effect.
Contact dermatitis could develop on sensitive skin that is allergic to the material, that is coming in contact with it. The usage of cotton masks underneath regular masks is advised to avoid such a situation. A steroid cream is generally prescribed to calm the inflammation.
Folliculitis, as the word suggests, is an infection of the hair follicle, especially common in males around the beard area. When hair gets caught recurrently in the fabric, mainly in certain surgical masks, folliculitis is prompted. Antibiotic creams work well in overcoming this situation, but one can use a very smooth fabric with a higher thread count for the mask to catch less stubble.
First and foremost, one must wash their face thrice a day (morning, night, and after removing the mask), with lukewarm water, after which the skin must be dried by patting, and not by rubbing the face. Moisturisers are essential to maintain the skin barrier, but one must opt for a non-comedogenic moisturiser as they don’t clog the pores.
People with oily to combination skin should use a water-based, gel moisturiser that is oil free; the ones with dry skin can use a cream moisturiser with ingredients such as ceramides. Individuals with normal skin can use a lotion-based moisturiser. Wearing sunscreen is the last step for morning skincare. Indian skin due to obvious reasons needs at least a SPF 30 in the daytime, while the masks provide only SPF 7; that’s why it is essential to choose one’s sunscreen carefully. People with oily to combination skin may use a matte finish sunscreen that is gel or silicone-based. The ones with normal skin can use a lotion-based sunscreen, and for those with dry skin, moisturising sunscreens that are again lotion or cream-based are advised. If avoiding makeup is not possible, one must look for makeup products that are non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic.
It is very important to wash the mask with a gentle detergent or toss it if disposable after each use. Wearing a face mask that fits snugly, yet is not very tight, and has three layers of fabric is necessary. If the fit of the mask is not correct, one might touch their face more often to fix the mask which can lead to an increased chance of contamination. Avoiding masks made of synthetic fabrics such as nylon or rayon is important, as these materials can irritate the skin. For sensitive skin, one must opt for a mask made of natural, soft fabric (like cotton) to wear under a regular mask.
According to The American Academy of Dermatology Association, after every four hours of nonstop usage of a mask, a 15-minutes break for the skin is essential, while maintaining social distancing. It’s also important to wash hands before taking a mask break.
While being quarantined is the best way out of such a situation, if one can’t completely avoid social contact due to various reasons, masks and sanitizers play a very crucial role to help flatten the curve and to stay protected. Keeping the mouth and nose covered is the best way to protect oneself and those around you from covid-19.