As the world faces a protracted fight with the COVID-19 pandemic, various new health and lifestyle issues have surfaced. For example, wearing a mask has become mandatory in many nations. However, this has also caused a new wave of skin problems now coined as the “Pandemic Skin”. Now, we have this thing called “maskne.”
Since June 2020, we have seen an influx of clients with some common skin problems:
Maskne or acne because of masking
Maskne has become a common skin problem since the beginning of the pandemic. | Image source: iStock
Wearing disposable or reusable cloth masks for long periods of time can cause skin reactions such as itchiness, rashes, peeling, and acne.
A new hashtag has appeared on social media during the pandemic – “#maskne”, which is an amalgamation of the words “mask” and “acne”, to reflect a condition where mask-wearing causes acne, especially in places with warmer climates or in the summer. Wearing a mask creates a moist and warm environment under the mask, which becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria which in turn causes acne, usually around the nose, lips, and chin. Some other patients suffer skin irritation, sensitivity and rosacea flare-ups. Oil and dead skin cells also become trapped on the skin’s surface and cause blocked pores.
Not all acne can be blamed on wearing masks. Certain lifestyle and habit changes due to the new “WFH (Work From Home)” culture have also exacerbated some skin problems. Consumption of excess sugar, carbohydrates or even milk – all known to worsen acne, baking (related to the process of baking or eating yeast or baked foods?), eating take-out foods, or an over-exposure by the sun when working close to the window whole day.
Another skin problem that has increased during the pandemic seems to be pigmentation.
While most people would agree that wearing sunscreen when going outdoors is important, not many realized that there may be a good reason to wear sunscreen even at home. The sun shines everywhere, and its UV rays permeate into homes as well. Did you know that our windows protect against UV-B mostly, but not UV-A rays? It is UV-A rays that cause photo-ageing on our skin, creating fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. What’s worse is the blue light we absorb when facing the computer and mobile screens. If you have sunscreen lying idle at home, use it at home.
Dry, tired, wrinkly skin
Image source: iStock
We have seen an increase in clients returning for botox and filler treatments. Many of them frequently acclaimed, “all the pores, lines and wrinkles are coming back!” Treatments such as skin injectables, botox, and fillers, while they help skin looking youthful, they are not permanent and need to be maintained. Conversely, good daily habits such as a healthy diet, quality nutrition, a sensible skin care regime, and sufficient sleep, are much more important in keeping our skin in as pristine a natural baseline as possible.
Eczema and skin irritation
Our skin loves consistency. Any disruption by a change in habit or activity, can also affect the natural barrier function of our skin. Wearing masks for sustained periods of time, coupled with spending more time at home, with a tropical heat and humidity, and the use of air-conditioners and fans, can all be contributing factors to worsening eczema, rosacea, and skin sensitivity.
So, how can we cope with all these skin issues?
A few effective ways of dealing with “Pandemic Skin” are:
Wear masks made of breathable materials
This allows your skin to breathe better. Choosing masks with an antibacterial lining can also help reduce the bacterial load on your skin.
Change and wash your reusable masks regularly
Among the many problems this pandemic has brought about is the thing we now call “maskne”. | Image source: iStock
Wash your mask daily. If you sweat during the day, put on a fresh mask. Keep multiple masks with you so that you do not wear a sweaty mask as they breed more bacteria which in turn can worsen acne.
Maintain good oral hygiene
Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and using mouthwash regularly. These habits help to reduce the bacterial load in your mouth, which in turn reduce the number of bacteria that clings onto your mask when you talk or breathe.
Reduce sugar, refined carbohydrates and dairy products in your diet
Eat more vegetables and fruits. Reduce refined carbohydrates and processed foods in your diet as these foods are known to be associated with acne. You may see an improvement in your acne or “Maskne” after some time.
Use mild and oil-free moisturizers
Image source: iStock
Unless you have very dry skin, avoid heavy or oil-based moisturizers. With mask-wearing, the humidity under the mask is higher than that of the ambient or air-con environment your skin is used to. Use mild and oil-free moisturizers if you live in a warm climate.
Clean your face and remove make-up
This is true whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or not. Always clean off your make up after a day so that pollution, makeup, and bacteria that had built up over the day get washed off.
Exfoliate twice a week
Image source: iStock
By gently exfoliating twice a week, you can help to reduce the dirt and dead skin cells that build up on your skin and help avoid blackheads and acne flare-ups.
Avoid scratching or picking on skin
When there is a flare-up of acne, or when your skin is irritated, avoid scratching, rubbing or picking on the skin, as these actions disrupt the barrier of the skin and encourage bacterial entry, further exacerbating the problem.
Get a medical facial
Meet your doctor or aesthetician to have your facial regularly and talk to them to design a home regimen that addresses your skin needs in these trying times.
For more serious acne or pigmentation issues, visit your doctor for an assessment and an early treatment to avoid delays or permanent scarring.
Dr Kwan Yuan Dong obtained his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh before spending a number of years practising a wide range of specialities in London. He has attended aesthetic courses around the Asia Pacific region, and is accredited in procedures including dermal fillers, Botox, laser treatments as well as non-surgical contouring and rejuvenation techniques.
Established in 2005, DTAP clinics, a pioneer of the GP plus, or “General Practice with Special Interest” model in Singapore, provides holistic and comprehensive medical care for everyone. We provide basic GP services with a key focus in HIV & STD testing and management, Men’s Health (Andrology), Women’s Health, Allergy, Skin and Chronic Disease Management services. Our clinics are located in Singapore and Malaysia. Visit https://dtapclinic.com.
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