In the age of COVID-19, there’s a new type of skin condition caused by wearing a face mask for extended periods. Some have dubbed it “maskne.”

I know it can be frustrating. But there are two things to remember:

  • Your dermatologist can help you manage maskne.
  • We need to protect our community from being overwhelmed by COVID-19, and the best way to do this is by masking up in public.

I’m afraid this dreaded new skin condition will be with us for the foreseeable future. When you wear a face mask, the fabric or paper is in constant contact with the skin. This can cause irritation, redness, rashes and conditions similar to acne, folliculitis and rosacea. 

This can be even more frustrating for any teenagers in your family, who are already dealing with acne due to hormonal changes, stress and inflammatory diets with excess simple carbohydrates/sugar.

How can you Prevent Maskne?

First, everyone should be gently cleansing, moisturizing and avoiding manipulation of the skin. This is good advice always, and has become even more important now. This will maintain a healthy skin barrier in all conditions. 

Also, don’t rub or pick the flaky skin off, as this can cause new problems. Wash your face with a gentle hydrating cleanser as soon as you take off your mask. Here are some great hydrating cleansers:

  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
  • Vanicream bar soap or liquid facial cleanser
  • Dove bar soap

After you’ve washed your skin, pat it dry, then apply a moisturizer. Depending on how irritated the skin is, you may need an emollient (a thicker, greasier moisturizer). If you are experiencing milder irritation, you can just use a lotion (made with water) or cream (made with oils). I have some favorites. 

Emollients:

  • Vaniply (Vanicream ointment)
  • CeraVe Healing Ointment
  • Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Lotions:

  • CeraVe lotion
  • Aveeno 24-hour moisturizing lotion
  • Lipikar La Roche – Posay Body Lotion

Creams:

  • CeraVe Cream
  • Lipikar Balm AP+
  • La Roche- Posay Body Cream

Also, before putting on your mask, you may want to apply moisturizer to the areas of your face where you mask typically rubs.

Add Acne Fighters to Your Routine

We tend to treat maskne similarly to acne or rosacea. Some great over-the-counter things to add to the general washing and moisturizing at least twice a day are products with acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and retinols/retinoids (as long as you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding).

Generally, it is good to start with one product for a few weeks so you don’t get too dry or irritated, and you know what helps or what your skin can tolerate.

Some things to look for:

  • PanOxyl benzoyl peroxide wash
  • Neutrogena salicylic acid wash
  • Glytone Glycolic creamy wash
  • Differin Gel

Remember to moisturize more if you are starting any of these products and notice more dryness than usual. It takes time for skin to get used to new regimens.

If you notice scarring, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist immediately. Scarring is difficult and expensive to treat, so we want to stop the process and prevent scarring. If you are overwhelmed or need stronger medication, we will be able to prescribe helpful treatments.

Maren Gaul, D.O., is a Dermatologist at the Monument Health Rapid City Clinic on Fifth Street.
She is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Dermatology.
To make an appointment, call (605) 755-5340.