I’ve been suffering from breakouts on my face. Even as an adult with aging skin, I periodically battle acne, but feel like it’s been especially pronounced recently. In some ways, my reusable cloth mask is a nice way to hide my recent acne breakout, but I realize it might also contribute to it. Recently, the term #maskne has been used to describe acne appearing around or underneath masks. However, I am a mask-wearing advocate and believe a mask should be worn during this pandemic when in public or around others outside my household. Outside of staying home more and un-masking, here are some things I’ve done to address my #maskne:
1. Wash my reusable masks or change them more frequently
Reusable masks should be washed after every use. My usual routine at the start of this pandemic would be to handwash my only reusable mask with a laundry bar soap as soon as I was home for the day. Four to five months into the pandemic, I started to get lazy and would re-use an unwashed mask if I only wore it briefly the day before. I recognize this is poor hygiene and have resumed ensuring my face covering is washed before wearing it, even if I wore it for only 30 minutes the day before. Also, now that I have more face coverings, I throw them in the hamper to eventually be machine-washed with my weekly load of laundry.
Another thing is it’s been a lot warmer since the pandemic started. We have had heat-waves where I’ve been continuously sweating, and my cloth face covering would absorb my sweat. I’ve had to replace my face covering multiple times daily to ensure it was clean; I didn’t want to have a dirty piece of fabric resting on my face all day. When a reusable face mask is soiled, stop using it and wash it!
2. Change my toothpaste
Before masks ever became a standard fashion accessory, I would periodically suffer from adult acne. I would breakout, particularly around my mouth. I read a blurb in a magazine stating that ingredients in one’s toothpaste can cause breakouts and skin irritation. After reading that article, I switched up my toothpaste and noticed a considerable improvement in my skin. I would rarely break out around my mouth.
To celebrate my recent graduation, I went on a road trip vacation with my family. Unfortunately, I did not pack my usual toothpaste. Complacency got the best of me, and I didn’t think it would matter for a 3-day getaway. I got a zit by my upper lip and then a pimple on my lower lip shortly after our trip. I’ve since switched back to my usual toothpaste.
I also started washing half my masks by hand to see if it makes a difference compared to my machine-washed masks. Just as personal care ingredients can cause skin irritations, detergents’ ingredients can irritate the skin, too. It’s for this reason that there are non-allergen and fragrance-free detergents. If your skin is breaking out by your cloth mask and you clean the mask regularly, try washing with a different detergent.
3. Use acne patches or dots
When I was a teenager, acne dots or patches did not exist. The popular anti-acne products back then were Sea Breeze, Clearasil, Clean & Clear, and Neutrogena. I only discovered acne dots or patches recently and started using them about a year ago. Some patches contain medication (like salicylic acid, a typical anti-acne ingredient), and some are merely hydrocolloid patches. In nursing school, I learned hydrocolloids are used to treat some wounds. My acne can sometimes be painful and feel like a wound! I never had the opportunity to perform wound care on a patient using hydrocolloids, so I think it’s neat that I get a sense of what hydrocolloids are like when I use these patches on myself.
I love these patches or dots because they protect the pimple or zit from further irritation. If I have a pimple and wear an acne dot, I don’t have to worry about fabric or skin rubbing up against it and further aggravating my pimple. It’s pretty much an adhesive disk applied to the skin. One drawback of using these is it’s been challenging to get them to stay on my skin when I’ve been sweating.
I get acne due to hormones – stress or menstrual. During nursing school, I drank mostly caffeinated beverages, ate quick-to-eat not-so-nutritious food, and periodically got less than 6 hours of sleep. Poor diet, lack of sleep, and project and exam stress would undoubtedly affect my skin and cause me to break out.
I never drank so much coffee until I started nursing school. Now that I’ve graduated, I try not to drink coffee daily. The pandemic and not wanting to go out frequently have also forced me to better plan my meals. Since I’ve graduated, I get more sleep and have been trying to relax more by catching up on tv shows and doing things I enjoy while I quarantine at home. However, I continue to feel a little anxious because I still need to take the NCLEX and find a job amidst this pandemic.
I don’t think that I will ever eliminate stress or anxiety, but I don’t want to either. I believe stress can sometimes be a good thing, giving the motivation to move forward, improve oneself, or providing an impetus for change. On the other hand, too much stress or high stress for too long can lead to health problems; I recognize this and try to lead a more balanced life.
Even with efforts in reducing stress, I still periodically get acne due to hormones associated with my menstrual cycle. There’s not much I can do about it, according to my doctors. This week, I tried washing with Panoxyl (thanks to recommendations by YouTube bloggers Cassandra Bankson and Dr. Dray) and targeting specific areas prone to breakouts. I have yet to determine if this acne wash truly helps since I just started using it, but it feels good that I’m at least trying to care for myself and try something new.
Since many variables can lead to “maskne”, it’s hard to say that there is one sole cause or solution. So far, doing all of the above has improved my skin. One pimple has disappeared altogether while the other is shrinking and less painful. I’m not the only one suffering from #maskne; I want others to realize their mask may not necessarily cause their breakouts. Instead of reducing mask-wearing, try switching masks or washing masks more frequently. Change toothpaste, soap, or detergents. Treat breakouts when they occur, and practice self-care by reducing stress and anxiety. I encourage others to follow public health recommendations and WEAR A MASK around others. We are still in a pandemic – with acne or without, I’m wearing my mask!