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Behind the mask: Is wearing a face mask causing your acne?

Expert's tips to prevent mask acne and other skin conditions

Expert's tips to prevent mask acne and other skin conditions

Published Mar 18, 2022


Wearing a face mask can result in the skin’s pores becoming clogged, which can cause pimples to form. The warm environment of the mask also promotes the growth of bacteria on the skin, which can lead to an acne flare. Unfortunately, we need to wear a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19. A mask also triggers a host of skin problems for children and teens, including acne, irritation, rashes, and chafing behind the ears. School going children are the most affected, as they need to keep the masks on for eight hours or longer if they have after school activities.

“Fortunately, you and your family can take some key steps to prevent and treat these problems, making mask-wearing much more comfortable,” says Dr Sadaf Hussain, an attending dermatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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Dr Hussain offers the following mask-acne prevention tips for children and teens to follow. (Adults can try these too):

  • Wash your face with a gentle, oil-free cleanser twice a day, rinsing thoroughly. You should also wash your face before you put your mask on and after you take it off.
  • Apply a gentle moisturising cream to your skin before putting on your mask to help reduce friction. Select a cream that’s less likely to block pores. Wear sunscreen if you will be spending any time outdoors.
  • Make sure that your mask fits your face well and is comfortable. If it’s too loose, it is more likely to move around and cause chafing, which can lead to acne. It can also irritate the skin if it’s too tight.
  • Select a mask made of a soft, breathable, natural fabric like cotton. (Synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and rayon can be more irritating to your skin.) This is especially important if you are prone to acne or have oily skin. Disposable masks are also very breathable and can be a good option.
  • Although the mask may look clean after one use, the fabric collects oil and dead skin cells. Wash your mask (or ask a parent to wash it) after each use, either hand washing it or running it through your washing machine.
  • While make-up becomes increasingly popular as teens get older, it’s important to avoid wearing it under the mask. The make-up can block pores and increase the risk of acne forming.
  • If skin gets sweaty under a mask, take it off and wash your face.

Everyone’s skin is likely to be more sensitive than usual due to the mask, so it’s a good idea to just stick to your normal routine and avoid experimenting with new facial products right now, concludes Dr Hussain.

“Reusing a mask without washing it first is like wearing yesterday’s dirty underwear.”— Dr Hussain

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