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INDIANAPOLIS – Marion County is now a week into its mask mandate and some people are experiencing a new phenomenon known as “maskne.”

What is maskne?

It refers to irritation, acne and inflammation around where people are wearing their face masks. Often, the sores and lesions pop up around the jawline, chin and upper lip area.

“It’s definitely a problem” Dr. Syril Kenne Que, MD, MPH, said. “There are really two contributing factors to it; one of them being the mechanical friction from using the mask. That is leading to irritation and inflammation. It’s really the perfect environment for the development of acne cysts.”

Dr. Que said the second contributing factor is the heat stress. Just like masks protect people from an airborne virus, they are blocking our skin from fresh air and moisture that helps it to breathe.

“The constant breathing and talking and all the moisture from under the occlusion is again, contributing to inflammation, irritation and skin breakdown. That can propagate bacteria that causes acne, which clogs the pores.”

How to prevent maskne

Dr. Que advises it may be time to switch up your skin routine.

“There are several things I’d recommend. The first, I would suggest using a gentle cleanser. A lot of times, people think of using harsh toners and scrubbing the face to get rid of this condition. The key is to use something gentle to avoid that friction. Use something mild like Dove or Cerave. In addition, use a moisturizer that is lightweight and non-comedogenic.  Again, the moisturizer can help prevent friction, which is what you’re trying to avoid.”

Finally, Dr. Que says we need to pay attention to our masks.

“It’s important to keep these clean. If you’re using a disposable mask, try to dispose of them daily rather than reusing, if possible. If you’re using cloth or fabric masks, try to clean them every day. Also, you may consider using 70 percent alcohol. Spray them on the area to disinfect after washing and prior to use. If you think about it, there are a lot of bacteria in the mouth and in the skin. Then, there is sweat. All of these factors can worsen acne.”

When it comes to makeup, Dr. Que advised against wearing heavy foundations underneath your mask as it can worsen the problem. She said if people have to wear makeup, they should look for non-comedogenic products and wash their face well at night.

How to treat maskne if you get it

Dr. Que said there are several options people can try if they start to break out.

“There are a lot of good treatments, both over-the-counter and prescription,” she said. “If you start with over-the-counter treatments, one of my favorites is Benzoyl Peroxide. That’s something you can easily get at the pharmacy or grocery store. It comes in different brands.”

Dr. Que said to look for Benzoyl Peroxide that is between 2.5 and five percent.

“It’s something you can use as a spot treatment or you can use it on the entire face. The good thing about it is it not only treats existing lesions but also prevents new ones from forming,” she explained.

She warned the product can dry out the skin and bleach clothes, so users will want to be careful.

“The other thing you can consider using is salicylic acid washes. Again, this is very easy to find over the counter.”

She said people may want to use these products every other day to see how they work. If all else fails, she recommends seeing a dermatologist sooner than later.