Here's the Rub: The Realities of Mask-Wearing

Doctor Valerie Tokarz answers questions you may have about “the new acne”


“Maskne” is a term that is getting some buzz these days. It’s a portmanteau coined to describe acne that is produced after wearing a face mask. Also known as acne mechanica, this unpleasant side effect has been around for quite some time for people in the medical field, but it is just now getting waves of attention due to our “new normal” of wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Ever since masking up has taken over, more and more people are noticing breakouts around the areas where they place their masks every day. Dr. Valerie Tokarz, a board-certified dermatologist and laser specialist at Tokarz Laser and Aesthetic Dermatology, knows all about the “maskne” trend and how to tackle it. 


When did you first discover that “maskne” was upon us?

I would say “maskne” became a thing in the last couple of months with Coronavirus, so around April or May. But, it’s always been an issue. With any type of mask wearage, we would see some cases of breakouts due to a person’s allergic reaction to the fabric.


Are there any specific masks we should be wary of wearing?

No, not specifically. But, I would favour either disposable masks or masks with soft natural fibers, such as cotton. The reason being is because synthetic materials, like neoprene, would develop allergic reactions. Wearing these kinds of masks could cause some to even break out in rashes.


How can someone distinguish a “maskne” breakout from a regular breakout? 

“Maskne” breakouts tend to follow the pattern of the mask, such as the folds between the nose and the corners of the lip. They may also show up as a defined pattern around the elastic bands of a mask. 


What are the best tips to follow for those trying to avoid or currently battling this issue? 

Make sure your mask is clean at all times! When cleaning it, use something that doesn’t have a scent, like fragrance-free laundry detergents. If you’re wearing the mask a lot during the week, try to wash it daily. If you only wear it once a day to run a quick errand, you do not need to wash it as often. Also, if you have disposable masks, the same rules apply, but try to wear a new mask the following day. Find masks that have soft, natural fabrics. For breakouts, use over-the-counter spot treatments, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid wash. 


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