As the world faces a protracted fight with the Covid-19 pandemic, various new health and lifestyle issues have surfaced. 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”.
What is “maskne” or acne?
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, which becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, thus causing acne usually around the nose, lips and chin.
Some 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 mask-wearing. Certain lifestyle and habit changes due to the new “WFH (Work From Home)” culture have also exacerbated some skin problems such as consumption of excess sugar, carbohydrates or even milk – all known to worsen acne, eating take-out food or overexposure to the sun when working close to the window the whole day.
➡️ Related Read: Healthy Eating and Its Importance
Another skin problem that has surfaced more during the pandemic seems to be pigmentation.
While most people would agree that wearing sunscreen when going outdoors is important, not many realise 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.
➡️ Related Read: Sunscreens for Kids
Did you know that our windows protect against UV-B mostly, but not UV-A rays? UV-A rays 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, it’s time to start using it.
Dry, tired, wrinkly skin
We have seen an increase in clients returning for botox and filler treatments. Treatments such as skin injectables, botox, and fillers – while they help skin looking youthful, they are not permanent and need to be maintained.
Good daily habits such as a healthy diet, quality nutrition, a sensible skincare regime and sufficient sleep are much more important in keeping our skin as healthy 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 facing tropical heat and humidity and the use of air-conditioners and fans can all be contributing factors to worsening eczema, rosacea and skin sensitivity.
What are the possible solutions to cope with skin issues?
A few effective ways of dealing with “pandemic skin” are:
– Wear masks made of breathable material
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
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 can worsen acne.
➡️ Related Read: Proper Way of Washing Your Anti-Bacterial Reusable Face Mask
– 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 amount 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 moisturisers
Unless you have very dry skin, avoid heavy or oil-based moisturisers. 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 moisturisers if you live in a warm climate.
– Clean your face and remove make-up
Always remove your make-up properly so that dust, makeup and bacteria that had built up over the day get washed off.
– Exfoliate twice a week
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 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 early treatment to avoid delays or permanent scarring.
This article is contributed by Dr Kwan Yuan Dong, DTAP Clinic. Dr Kwan 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.
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