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CARMEL, Ind.—  More mask mandates mean new skin issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mask acne, now known as “maskne,” is one. Dermatologists said that maskne, and other mask related skin issues, are currently a growing problem.

“I am getting more breakouts,” said Alysse Patterson. Patterson works at Turkle and Associates in Carmel and has found herself to be one of many patients suffering from mask acne.

Doctor Emily Hrisomales is a plastic surgeon at the practice and said acne from wearing masks is on the rise.

“They are noticing breakouts along the areas that the mask covers. So, kind of along the bridge of their nose, on their cheeks and the jawline. And now that this has kind of become the well-known phenomenon, that’s given the name maskne,” said Dr. Hrisomales.

Doctor Victoria Negrete is a dermatologist at Forefront Dermatology in Carmel and said she’s treating more people for maskne too. Dr. Negrete is also seeing other mask related skin issues, especially when it comes to healthcare workers.

“Very big issue, especially when you are talking about N95s. People are getting increased abrasions on their nose, bleeding and contact dermatitis, where they are just getting rashes in the area,” said Dr. Negrete.

Doctors said that the main issue is that masks rub against the skin and breakdown its natural barrier. Plus, they hold in moisture and become a breeding ground for bacteria, especially during the hot summer months.

“So, when that barrier is compromised from continuous mask use, you are getting unwanted bacteria that are causing acne and then losing your skin moisture. So, a lot of dryness and irritation,” said Dr. Hrisomales.

Doctors said people can take a few small steps to combat the issues. First, people should make sure their mask is clean. Doctors urge people to wash their masks daily, and if they can’t wash it, use rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt. Dermatologists recommend that cloth masks be made of 100% cotton and not a nylon material. Doctors also urge people to not wear makeup underneath their masks and to instead apply a face moisturizer.

“What happens with masks is because they are irritating and they rub against the skin, is it actually causes a defective skin barrier. And so it sounds very counter-intuitive that you would want to put a moisturizer on, but if you can find a lightweight moisturizer with a little ceramide and hyaluronic acid, that really seems to help prevent maskne from happening,” said Dr. Negrete.

Doctors said over the counter products can work to stop maskne. They recommend using spot treatments with benzoyl peroxide on individual breakouts, not all over the face. They also encourage people to wash their face with a cleanser containing a small amount of salicylic acid twice a day. If issues persist, they said people should seek advice from a dermatologist.

Doctors said that while maskne is annoying, it is manageable and a small price to pay for safety. They encourage everyone to continue wearing their masks when they cannot safely social distance.

Story by Hanna Mordoh