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Acne and skin irritation from face masks: the causes and how to prevent them.

Updated: Mar 14

face masks that can cause acne

Experiencing dryness and roughness around the mask area... Many people seem to be troubled by skin irritation caused by wearing masks. It has been discovered that bacteria are also related to such "mask irritation."

Let's explore the causes and countermeasures for skin irritation and acne caused by masks!


Causes of Skin Irritation and Acne Due to Masks:

Originally, wearing masks for such long hours every day, both in summer and winter, was not common. Due to this new lifestyle, the skin is burdened with unimaginable stress.

Let's first understand the causes and then consider the appropriate solutions.

#1 Humidity:

Considered particularly common as a cause of mask irritation is the "humidity" in the area covered by the mask. The purpose of wearing a mask is to prevent the invasion of viruses, so overly breathable masks do not serve the purpose.

In conditions of high temperature and humidity, with excess sweat and sebum, harmful bacteria can multiply easily, making skin problems more likely to occur.

#2 Friction and skin irritation:

Regardless of how soft the mask material is, the friction-induced irritation may do more damage than expected.

Especially those who already have dry and sensitive skin or a weakened skin barrier need to be cautious. Continuous friction can be irritative, leading to skin problems such as redness and inflammation.

#3 Dryness:

Depending on the material of the mask, it may have high moisture absorption, potentially drying out the skin. Masks with excellent moisture absorption may provide comfort when sweating, but high moisture absorption also means easy absorption of sebum, leading to the possibility of skin dryness.

If you feel roughness in the mask area or experience unprecedented dryness, the necessary sebum for the skin may have been stripped away by the mask.

Simple Methods to Prevent Skin Irritation and Acne from Masks:

While being concerned about skin irritation from masks, it may be difficult to not wear them depending on the occasion. Here are some simple tips for preventing mask irritation and continue our daily lives comfortably.

#1 Applying Vaseline:

For those with dry skin, items like Vaseline, can act as a "sebum film," to protect the skin. While moisturizing creams can provide moisture, they often contain emulsifiers (surfactants). These surfactants are ingredients that should be avoided as much as possible, as they can potentially affect the balance of normal skin bacteria.

Vaseline does not contain surfactants and forms a protective moisturizing veil on the skin. Since it does not contain unnecessary ingredients, it is easy to use on sensitive skin as well. If you are concerned about roughness or dryness in specific areas, incorporating Vaseline might be beneficial.

#2 Placing cotton fabric to alleviate irritation:

From the perspective of protecting against viruses, masks made of non-woven fabric are considered more effective than fabric masks. However, due to their nature as chemical fibers, some people may experience irritation or discomfort with non-woven fabric masks, especially those with sensitive skin.

If changing to fabric or polyurethane masks is a difficult, inserting cotton gauze or similar material into non-woven fabric masks can soften the feel against the skin. Cotton has high moisture absorption, making it suitable for those who are concerned about stickiness and humidity.

#3 Regularly adjusting humidity:

In addition to causing dryness, mask irritation can also lead to acne, affecting many individuals. Some people are troubled by persistent chin acne due to mask irritation.

This is related to the fact that the skin tends to become more alkaline due to humidity, causing fluctuations in skin conditions. In fact, the pH of the skin tends to become more alkaline due to prolonged use of gloves, leading to excessive moisture and an increase in pH, as indicated by a study. (※1)

Since an increase in pH implies becoming more alkaline, the skin becomes conducive to the growth of acne bacteria and Malassezia. Behind the increase in acne due to mask humidity, these "skin bacteria" seem to play a significant role.

Tips for Preventing Mask-Related Skin Irritation with "Mild Acidity":

skin care lotion for acne care

If the skin becomes alkaline, it can lead to the proliferation of bacteria that cause trouble on the skin and a decrease in the skin's barrier function.

Therefore, preventing the skin from becoming alkaline and maintaining it in a slightly acidic state can help with preventing mask irritation. In fact, maintaining a slightly acidic pH is a key point even in basic acne care.

Acne bacteria and Malassezia generally cause problems when the skin's pH shifts from slightly acidic to around pH 6.0 or more alkaline. Healthy skin is naturally maintained in a slightly acidic state, but factors like humidity can make it more prone to becoming alkaline.

However, it's not feasible to go out without a mask. Therefore, efforts to keep the skin close to a slightly acidic pH in other areas might be necessary.

For this purpose, consider using mildly acidic toners or cleansers. Fermented moisturizing ingredients, like lactic acid bacteria metabolites, and soy milk ferment have the characteristic of being slightly acidic, making them recommended from that perspective.▼


model with clear skin, no acne

Acne and skin irritation from wearing masks are mainly caused by friction and humidity.

Moreover, it has been discovered that the occurrence of skin problems due to humidity is closely related to the "microorganisms" on the skin.

During periods of sensitive skin fluctuations and concerns about skin issues, skincare that focuses on "microbial balance" is recommended. Utilizing the power of microorganisms such as the "beautiful skin bacteria (Epidermal Staphylococcus)," which protects the skin's barrier function and moisture, let's aim for beautiful and healthy skin.

This blog post was medically reviewed by Yutaka Shimokawa.


Pages: i, 1029-1147, e238-e267, September 2018


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