August 17, 2020
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people have been wearing masks and frequently washing their hands to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. If you’ve been dealing with problems like acne and dry or irritated skin on your hands, you are not alone.
Dermatologist Atieh Jibbe, MD, says many people are experiencing acne mechanica, or what is commonly known as “maskne.” Acne mechanica is a type of skin irritation that is caused by excess heat, pressure and rubbing against the skin. Masks can cause debris, sweat and saliva to be trapped on the skin, which can result in a breakout.
Here are Dr. Jibbe's tips for treating acne mechanica:
- Always use a gentle cleanser and moisturizer before putting on your mask. Ideally, you should cleanse and moisturize your face every morning and evening. Many affordable skincare options are available at the drugstore.
- To treat acne spots, use a salicylic acid or benzyl peroxide topical treatment. There are also over-the-counter retinoids available at the drugstore, including a retinoid product called adapalene. Retinoids increase cell turnover and prevent dead skin cells from clogging the pores.
- Avoid wearing makeup underneath your mask. The combination of makeup and sweat under the mask can cause irritated skin and clogged pores.
- If possible, wash your mask after every use with a fragrance-free and dye-free laundry detergent.
- If over-the-counter acne treatments do not work for you, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. They can prescribe topical or oral treatments to help treat acne. Our health system offers telehealth appointments for people with acne.
Many people are also dealing with extremely dry skin, skin irritation and even eczema on their hands as a result of increased hand washing and frequent use of hand sanitizer. Dr. Jibbe recommends the following:
- Use a fragrance-free, gentle soap to wash your hands. Always choose this option over hand sanitizer when you can.
- Moisturize your hands after you wash them. For severely dry hands, an ointment, such as Vaseline, is best. A 1% hydrocortisone cream can also help relieve symptoms. This can be purchased over the counter.
- See a dermatologist if symptoms persist. A dermatologist can prescribe stronger creams or steroids. Light therapy and injectable treatments are also available for people with eczema.