What is maskne?

The term maskne was coined at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a catch-all phrase to describe acne mechanica – a form of acne caused by friction and associated with wearing a PPE mask. 

Acne mechanica occurs when airless environments cause P Acne bacteria to proliferate, friction to break down the barrier function of the skin and trap humidity resulting in increased sebum that further activates inflammation in nearby skin cells.  

Those affected by the condition often struggle with acute and angry acne breakouts appearing on areas of the face that are usually covered by a mask, such as the cheeks, nose, chin and jawline.

How is maskne best treated? 

To best treat maskne and take steps to prevent an outbreak, Dr Yusra recommends making certain lifestyle changes, as well as adapting beauty regimes. Here are her ten top tips for fighting maskne:  

  • Cleansers 

Dr Yusra says “it is really important to ensure that you cleanse your face in the morning and double cleanse in the evening. I love the Obagi foaming gel for this as it removes all make up, grime and deep cleanses pores.” She also recommends pore therapy – a prescription item that contains 2% salicylic acid to reduce inflammation on the surface of the skin and breaks up excess oil. This will help to reduce angry maskne with pustule spots, quickly.  

  • Hypochlorous acid 

This can be bought over the counter as Clinisept or you can purchase Thoclor, a stabilised and pure form of hypochlorous acid. Dr Yusra recommends using it every day after washing your face in the morning and evening, spraying it onto the affected area and leaving it to dry. Hypochlorous acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and has similar effects to an alpha hydroxy acid, exfoliating the upper layer of the skin gently to reduce congestion. It also has disinfecting properties, killing the bacteria that causes acne, acting as a mild exfoliant and helping to reduce inflammation. 

  • Benzoyl Peroxide 

Benzoyl Peroxide or BPO degrades and releases oxygen to kill P acnes. It can be bought over the counter, or the more effective forms are available on prescription. In accordance with the National Institute of Clinical Evidence, this is the first line measure for treatment of acne and works well on moderate outbreaks that are angry, red and painful to reduce inflammation. However, it needs to be used in moderation as overuse can lead to dryness and irritation and so it is best to moisturise well after use. As BPO can lead to post inflammatory pigmentation; it is important to also layer on SPF if the area is exposed to the sun. Dr Yusra recommends Obagi Clenziderm therapeutic lotion due to its fast acting properties which is available on prescription only. 

  • HydraFacial

HydraFacial is a six step medical grade facial which helps to resurface the skin. Dr Yusra says: “HydraFacial has specific acne protocols to reduce inflammation and acne breakouts. It uses hydrodermabrasion, a salicylic acid skin peel and glycolic acid skin peel and one treatment per week, for six weeks, with progressive medical resurfacing and an increasing percentage of peels will help to control and improve acne quickly.”

  • Exfoliants

Removing harsh and abrasive exfoliants from a beauty regime can also make a difference.  Dr Yusra says: “Do not exfoliate with any harsh abrasive exfoliants because they can cause more problems than good by creating microtears in the skin, damaging the skin barrier function.” Harsh exfoliants could include those that have ingredients such as apricot kernels or crystals. Instead choose a liquid exfoliant like glycolic, lactic or phytic acid to gently remove dead skin, respecting and maintaining the integrity of the skin”. 

  • Oil based makeup

“Stay away from any oil-based makeups” is another of Dr Yusra’s tips for preventing any further breakouts, this is because they are comedogenic and will cause congestion. Oil is a barrier and can trap and encourage bacterial proliferation and break outs. 

  • Makeup brushes

Always ensure that brushes used to apply makeup are clean- make up brushes can harbour more bacteria than a toilet so, clean between use to prevent bacterial spread. 

  • Mineral SPF

According to Dr Yusra, not all SPFs are created equal and many products are actually chemical SPFs that are reliant on a chemical reaction to provide adequate protection. In her experience, many patients with acne will find their skin doesn’t agree with chemical spfs and recommends to use these a mineral SPF instead. This is because chemical SPFs can clog the pores and cause breakouts. Dr Yusra recommends using a zinc oxide based SPF because zinc is very healing on the surface of the skin. Dr Yusra always opts for a mineral SPF herself, with her preferred products being either Obagi SPF50 matte or Colorscience mineral face shield.

  • Clean masks

A clean mask is crucial for keeping the maskne at bay. Good mask hygiene involves making sure that your mask is clean and changing it every time it becomes wet.  Says Dr Yusra “You can also spray Thochlor inside the mask to kill bacteria that stagnates on it during the day. Also consider the type of mask you wear – cotton is more breathable and therefore gentler on your skin”

  • Specialist consultation

For those with persistent acne, Dr Yusra recommends a consultation with a skin specialist. As a result of the pandemic many clinics are now holding virtual consultation so getting sorted with the right blend of products for each individual case can now happen pretty quickly. The Dr Yusra Clinic has wellness practices in both London and Liverpool that cover skincare and skin specialists who offer virtual consults, and products can be shipped worldwide – contact us for more information.