Terrie Absher, a local esthetician, has clients coming in these days with a common question: “Why am I suddenly getting acne?”
The answer is that it is more than likely due to an accessory that has suddenly become part of people’s everyday lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic – a mask. Wearing a mask has caused what is referred to as “maskne.”
“This really isn’t something that is thrown out without merit,” Absher said. “There really is such a thing as maskne – acne as a result of wearing a mask.”
Absher, founder of Total Glow in Menlo Park, described the phenomenon as “your exhalation being trapped against your skin.” Wearing a mask creates a little bit of moistness and dampness in the area of the lower face. Because the mask entraps the area it covers, breath that contains bacteria becomes stuck on the inside of the mask. The skin desires oxygen, not dirty exhalation. But the mask prevents the skin from receiving the oxygen – and the bacteria that is there instead can lead to acne.
“It’s being deprived of that nice, clean air,” Absher said. “Your skin looks for reasons to break out.”
One clear indication of maskne is the visualization of an actual pattern of acne that encapsulates the borders of the mask.
To prevent maskne, Absher said disposable masks should be thrown away immediately after they are taken off. A washable fabric mask should be cleaned after every use. Absher noted that most people rewear disposable masks or don’t wash their fabric masks often – a result of the general public not being given these instructions pre-pandemic. Masks should be treated like an undergarment or pillowcases that should be changed regularly or hair that should be washed daily.
It doesn’t matter, Absher added, if the mask is worn for just an hour or even a few minutes – bacteria has already accumulated.
“In some ways, as crazy as it sounds – the people who go out even less, they are the big offenders,” she said.
Another reason people might be seeing more acne during the pandemic is an increased amount of stress in their daily lives.
“Stress in general affects our skin and affects acne,” Absher said.
And diets may have changed, too. Stress might lead people to eat unhealthier foods that result in outbreaks on skin.
Absher said that when she has patients – who were previously acne-free – come in and ask why they are suddenly seeing acne, she tells them it is likely because of wearing a mask. She also talks about proper skin cleaning and using creams that are antibacterial, as well as diet and other routines that might have changed due to the pan-
“If you never had acne, it’s very distressing,” Absher said. “If you’re laying that on top of not changing your mask, you can just amplify it.”
For more information on Absher’s skin-care services, visit totalglow.com.