Local Dermatologists Offer Advice To Help Clear ‘Maskne’

Monday, July 13th 2020, 6:28 pm
By: Ashlyn Brothers

TULSA, Okla. -

The year 2020 certainly isn’t a time of clarity nor the year of clear skin. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum's draft ordinance requiring face coverings in public goes before the city council on Wednesday. If it passes, then Tulsans will have to wear a mask in public. For some, the masks are not just an inconvenience. They are also conflicting with skin care by causing a surge of acne flare ups. Some are pushing back as a result.

A new phenomenon called "maskne" is caused by bacteria formed from friction when your mask rubs against your skin. It is a type of acne mechanica now recognized by the American Academy of Dermatology. According to skin care professionals, this is like the acne football players get from the chin strap on their helmet.

"Mine was very cystic. Like, I had the really hard cystic lumps under the skin, but then I've also seen like the perioral dermatitis form where it's almost a little irritated looking," said Tara Linville, Utica Park Clinic Dermatologist.

Because masks provide very little ventilation, people breathe their own natural bacteria onto their faces. This also results in sties, staph infections and the heightening of conditions like rosacea. People of all ages are susceptible to maskne.

Jennifer Puckett, a certified Medical Assistant at Utica Park Clinic, says she and her teenage son have both experienced maskne first-hand.  

"Some of them are painful. Some are like super irritating,” said Puckett. “Like you feel like it's almost like a burning sensation, and then of course you have the itchiness."

Maskne is made worse by stress and sweat sourced by extreme summer heat. The solution is not your traditional treatment.

"Some of the medications we use to treat acne, they are a little irritating to the skin, and under exclusion they are even more irritating, and so our normal acne treatments we're finding are irritating the skin more,” said Tara Linville, a Physician's Assistant at Utica Park Dermatology.

Linville said cotton masks seem to be less irritating to the skin. She also said people need to treat their masks like any other article of clothing and wash them regularly. For people seeking over the counter treatment, dermatologists recommend a mild benzoyl peroxide wash.

“[Wash] your face in the morning before you put your mask on and [apply] a lightweight moisturizer that will be a little bit of a barrier for the friction," Linville said.

She also recommends streamlining your skin care routine and wearing minimal makeup.

Linville said she has seen a roughly 10% increase in patients coming in with skin irritation and maskne-like conditions. Treatment could take four to six weeks before seeing desired results.