Frequent hand washing and wearing face masks are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, with the increase in these practices, many people are experiencing breakouts (or “maskne”) and other skin irritations.
We reached out to local dermatologist, Dr. Laura Ganger of Ganger Dermatology to assist our readers with general skincare under these conditions. Please consult a doctor for any specific or serious health concerns.
Current Magazine (CM): What are some of the skin issues you’re seeing more often since the COVID-19 outbreak?
Dr. Laura Ganger (LG): The most common skin issues we are seeing are related to increased hand washing and wearing masks. Hand eczema from dryness of the skin is common, especially during the colder weather months, but we’re seeing that early.
Mask use is also contributing to more acne outbreaks due to occlusion (blockage). There are also specific skin findings as a result of COVID-19 infection such as the ‘Covid toes.’ Rosacea and perioral dermatitis also may get worse with masks. These are normally treated by a physician.
CM: Why does the skin breakout under masks?
LG: ‘Maskne,’ or the technical term ‘acne mechanica,’ is the result of the friction of the fabric against the skin. It is similar to the acne outbreaks that athletes find under chin straps or under hats. The acne can be triggered by occlusion and a humid environment which can promote bacteria overgrowth.
However, even though masks may cause some acne, this is not a reason to not wear your mask. Wearing a mask is one of the most important and effective things we can all do to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
CM: Any tips about how to choose an appropriate mask to wear?
LG: Make sure the mask fits properly around your face and ears. If it is too tight, the skin behind your ears may get irritated. Find one that fits well around your mouth at rest and when talking. Touching the mask should be avoided as much as possible. I personally prefer masks with the metal band over the nose to ensure a snug fit.
CM: What would you say to someone to help prevent breakouts under masks?
LG: Most importantly, wash your mask often. I would recommend a fresh mask daily, and if you exercise, change it afterward. Avoid any excessive make up under the mask. Use gentle skin care products to cleanse your face twice a day.
CM: What are your recommendations to handle breakouts once they occur?
LG: Prevention is most important. You can first try over the counter products like benzoyl peroxide washes that help reduce bacterial overgrowth on the skin. Also, salicylic acid washes may help. Differin is an over the counter topical retinoid that can help with acne outbreaks, however it may take 6-8 weeks to start working, so be patient.
CM: What about people who have to wear masks all day? Do you have any advice for them?
LG: A lot of our patients wear their mask for the entire day. Again, I recommend minimizing the use of make-up under the mask. Wash your face half way through the day with a gentle cleanser. If the acne is not responding, there are prescription medications that we start people on with great success.
Let’s also not forget about the hands, especially as we enter the cooler months. It is very important to continue with frequent hand washing or the use of hand sanitizer. To help prevent dryness, use a moisturizer after every hand washing. I like to keep hand lotions next to all the sinks so my family is more likely to use it after they wash their hands.
CM: Are there ways people can freshen up their skin right now?
LG: Nothing beats sunscreen! Sunscreen is always the most important product to apply to the skin. Starting a topical retinol to help with skin turn over is also great for the skin.
In the office, a hydrafacial will provide a deep cleansing, and we can deliver various serums to targeted areas. We’re also seeing patients take advantage of being home for downtime and getting laser procedures done.
Since the upper face is accentuated while wearing masks, starting a good eye cream and considering treatments, such as Latisse and Botox, to enhance your overall eye appearance are great options.
CM: What is your office doing differently since the COVID-19 outbreak?
LG: We implemented telemedicine at the very beginning of the pandemic. It has worked wonderfully to see patients remotely and minimize who has to come into the clinic, especially those who are at higher risk or have had exposure to the virus. For patients who need to be seen in-person, we escort them directly from their vehicle to their exam room. This way we minimize any patient contact with each other and other staff. All of the staff and patients wear masks inside the building. We also launched an online store with optional curbside pick-up so patients can easily keep up with their at-home skincare. All of our locations have been modified with barriers and we are sanitizing constantly for the safety of patients and our team.
Some additional preventative tips from the dermatologists at Ganger Dermatology:
- Use a fragrance free, sensitive skin detergent when washing masks to prevent allergies or additional irritation from the mask, recommended Dr. Angela Rondina.
- Moisturize your lips and minimize make-up + use non-comedogenic products on the skin, said Dr. Thy Thy Do.
- Use ear savers with your mask to help prevent rubbing and irritation on top and behind the ears, suggested Dr. Megan Iacco.
For more information or to book an appointment with one of the dermatologists, contact Ganger Dermatology.