Face masks are causing acne; dermatologist explains how to clear up 'maskne'

Posted at 5:12 PM, May 21, 2020

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — While face masks help fight the coronavirus outbreak, they’re starting a different kind of outbreak — acne.

The frustrating problem is popping up in the areas people are covering up with their mask.

Courtney Copeland says she is a victim of what she calls “maskne,” or acne caused by wearing a mask.

“Really on the inside of my nose— the sides of my nose get those big, ugly whiteheads that are gross,” says Copeland.

She was furloughed because of the pandemic, so she picked up a side job as a grocery shopper. There are times where she wears a mask 7-8 hours a day, and now pimples are popping up on her nose, cheeks and jawline.

Dr. Jonathan Schreiber is the medical director at Integrated Dermatology of Tidewater, and he says “maskne” is real and lots of people are suffering.

“What happens is the face is trying to sweat even if it's not particularly warm out, and the pores can get blocked. There's normally bacteria on the face, and those can get trapped in the pores,” says Schreiber.

The result is acne, and it comes in all forms. Some of the most vulnerable people are who wear a mask for hours during the day.

“The calls are coming, you know, and the first few came from the health care workers and that was in early April, but we're starting to see it more and more from people out in the community,” explained Schreiber.

If you have red bumps or whiteheads, Dr. Schreiber recommends using a face wash with benzoyl peroxide.

If you have blackheads, look for a wash with 2% salicylic acid. If that doesn’t work for your blackheads, try Differn adapalene gel in the acne section of the pharmacy.

Schreiber says people should avoid exfoliating or scrubbing their face. He also encourages people to be mindful of not touching their face throughout the day.

Schreiber says to do this twice daily and after taking your mask off. If things aren’t better in a week or two, consider a visit with a dermatologist - even if it’s virtual.

“These types of visits are very conducive to telemedicine, because we can see very easily on the screen as I'm talking to you - the type of acne, the distribution of the acne - and come up with a prescription-based regimen that's best,” says Schreiber.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent maskne. Even though it’s frustrating, Copeland says an outbreak on her face is better than one in the community.

“I'd rather have pimples and be safe than worry about spreading anything that no one else needs,” said Copeland.

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