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The daily mantra for leaving the house used to be “phone, wallet, and keys”, but now during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), we need to add another thing to the list: face masks.
With face masks becoming a crucial part of our everyday activities, people have also reported the rise of something called “maskne“: basically, mask acne.
Usually focused around the nose and mouth area that is covered by the face mask, even people who do not often have pimples on their face may be alarmed to see acne pop up. So why does it happen, and how should we deal with it?
Why it happens
The main change of wearing a face mask for long periods of time is the high humidity levels in the air within the mask and your face, and the friction caused by movement of the mask against your skin.
Proper usage and storage of face masks are also crucial. The Ministry of Health has already issued a guideline for wearing masks: do NOT pull it down to your chin. The exposed areas of your neck and chin may already have bacteria, virus, or germs on it. By pulling your mask down, it can easily contaminate the inside of the mask, so when you re-wear the mask, it can introduce such contaminants onto your skin, causing maskne.
Acne develops when our body’s natural oils, called sebum, gets trapped in our pores. This, in addition with the humidity, creates an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.
How to deal with it
Skin consultant Mieko Lee says that maskne can be prevented and dealt with relatively easily.
Firstly, always ensure your mask is clean. Remove your mask directly and fold it so that the inside areas are not exposed. Again, DO NOT pull your mask down to your chin area.
Secondly, if you do not have access to a sink, you can use a toner of your choice to wipe around your nose and mouth area to clean it. Then, dry the area with a clean tissue paper.
Thirdly, either swap for a new mask, or re-wear your previous mask as long as it was not contaminated. Regardless, you should only wear a mask for a maximum duration of a day, and change to a fresh one the next day. This applies for both disposable and reusable masks.
However, if you already suffer from acne and are trying to find a way to get rid of it quickly, over-the-counter acne spot cream will work fine to dry out the acne.
While it might be tempting, do not use “acne stickers” on your skin unless it is medicated, as covering the acne with an additional layer of cover will cause even more sebum and moisture to be collected where the acne is, making it worse. Additionally, a lack of oxygen will also trigger a stronger inflammatory response.
What’s important to note in treating acne is to keep the area as clean and dry as you can. While wearing a mask is certainly important, don’t forget to care for your skin as well, too!
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.