Covid-19: how to effectively treat maskne (mask acne) in salon

With people wearing face coverings to help keep the coronavirus infection rate down, “maskne”(aka mask acne) is becoming a more common skin issue. With clients suffering with chaffed and irritated skin on their mouth, chin and jaw line as a result of wearing a face covering, skincare professionals will undoubtedly be sort out for advice on how to manage the symptoms of this frustrating, uncomfortable and, at times, painful condition.

Understanding how the condition develops is the starting point to addressing the symptoms, acknowledging with a dose of pragmatism that complete elimination may not happen for everyone until there is no longer a requirement for the offending protection. That being said, there’s a lot that can be done to reduce the severity of the symptoms in most cases, so let’s explore the facts.

Why does maskne happen?

Breakouts, increased oiliness and blackheads are the result of a condition known as acne mechanica, and this type of acne is caused by friction, increased heat and/or pressure. It is really common among athletes and dancers where sports clothing or protective wear can rub, and it is also exacerbated by sweating. 

Since face coverings rub and irritate the skin too, they can also result in this condition. So, if your clients are already prone to breakouts then wearing a face covering will amplify the condition. A mask also traps the breath which causes an increase in humidity and temperature in this region. As the skin temperature increases so does circulation and sweating, and this combination of friction and heat means accelerated oil and cell production. 

Together with increased sweating, this can result in clogging and congestion on the skin. The warm, moist environment is the ideal breeding ground for cutibacterium acnes (formerly propionibacterium acnes) – bacteria commonly associated with inflamed and infected breakout lesions in acne conditions.

Initially the skin may feel rough, but it gradually becomes bumpy, and then starts to develop more blackheads, raised papules and painful lesions.

How can I effectively treat maskne?

There are several strategies to reducing these breakouts. Firstly, advise your clients to wear a clean mask or face covering each day. Reusable fabric face coverings should be washed and left to dry thoroughly.  

Trying to reduce bacterial build-up is beneficial for the skin but also ensures essential hygiene necessary for controlling coronavirus risks, too. Taking the mask off for a period, if it is appropriate to do so, will also give the client’s skin some respite.

Advise your clients to avoid wearing make-up underneath a mask if at all possible and get them to introduce products into their regime that can help keep the skin clear. A face wash with salicylic acid is an excellent choice as it reduces clogging and has an anti-inflammatory action, such as Dermalogica’s Clearing Skin Wash, or try a balancing probiotic cleanser like Active Clay Cleanser

Gentle and regular exfoliation with either a mild AHA or BHA is an important addition to the regimen provided the skin is not experiencing dermatitis or chaffing. Keeping skin hydrated with a light or mattifying moisturiser which will improve the skin’s barrier, help regulate sebum production and reduce irritation. Dermalogica’s Active Moist is a great option.  

When choosing a spot treatment opt for a less drying formula like Dermalogica’s Age Bright Spot Fader, which can add to skin irritation when friction and rubbing are a concern. Breakouts are not the only concern though. Irritant contact dermatitis or eczema can develop in these pressure areas where masks or face coverings abrade the skin. Apart from red and sensitive patches, skin can even become raw and weeping.  

To ease discomfort and pain, restore the client’s lipid barrier with soothing barrier products such as Barrier Repair, and keep their product regimens simple. Cleanse with a gentle cream or gel-cream cleanser and keep skin well moisturised. Get clients to avoid artificially fragranced products, or those with astringent botanicals, as not only will they sting on application, but they can increase redness and aggravate the sensitivity.   

Look out for beta-glucan from oats or oat kernel oil, which is excellent at reducing inflammation, soothing irritation and restoring the natural skin barrier. Vitamin B5, also known as panthenol, is particularly good at promoting healing of this tender skin. 

Support the skin with hyaluronic acid and plant oils rich in vitamin E, antioxidants and essential lipids such as avocado, sunflower and chia seed oil. Moisturisers, light facial oils and nourishing masques could all prove beneficial as the inflammation reduces.

Focus on practical advice that is easy for your client to implement because it may be some time before we can be out and about without the need for face coverings. 

Check out Dermalogica’s full range of products for treating breakouts

Candice GardnerCandice Gardner is education manager – digital & content at skincare brand Dermalogica.

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