This month, Dr Lisa Chan advises on ways to keep the infamous “maskne” under control during the pandemic
Unless you’re one of the rare few who are genetically blessed with clear skin, chances are you’ve experienced acne at some point. It’s estimated to be present in up to 90 percent of the population, so most of us know all too well that sinking feeling as we wake up to an unsightly red bump on the face.
With increased mask-wearing, I’ve been seeing more cases of facial acne at the clinic. Also known as acne mechanica or “maskne”, these lesions are not only disfiguring and damaging to our self-esteem, but they can also be extremely painful and require a lengthy period of recovery.
Acne tends to form over areas of the body that have increased sebaceous gland activity, such as the face, chest and back. When hair follicles get clogged by excess sebum and dead skin cells, bacteria can proliferate and cause Infection and inflammation. Triggers include drugs such as corticosteroids, hormonal changes during midlife and puberty, carbohydrate-rich foods and stress. Friction against the skin and heavy make-up can also lead to a build-up of sebum and bacteria.
The Best practices to avoid maskne
• Using gentle cleansers and water-based, non-occlusive creams;
• Avoiding abrasive soaps and irritating peels;
• Wearing minimal and non-comedogenic make-up;
• Using a cotton pad with toner or micellar water as a facial wipe after strenuous activity;
• Keeping hands away from the face;
• Changing masks daily;
• Applying topical benzoyl peroxide to easily affected areas (forehead, nose, chin) as a preventive measure.
If you’re suffering from a breakout, don’t panic and definitely don’t try to pop that pimple on your own! Picking at the lesions can deepen the infection and worsen hyperpigmentation and scarring.
Acne treatment involves oil control and elimination of bacteria. If the breakout is mild (whiteheads, blackheads, papules or pustules), it can be treated with topical creams such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, azaelic acid, salicylic acid and dapsone.
In more severe cases involving nodular or cystic (deep, painful and pus-filled) acne, a combination of topical, oral and light-based treatments such as lasers and intense pulsed light will be needed. Oral medications such as isotretinoin, antibiotics, hormonal contraceptives and spironolactone may have a variety of side effects, so it’s best to be followed up regularly by a physician. Steroid injections or incision and drainage of a cyst can also be performed to quickly reduce inflammation and the chances of scarring.
All types of acne take time to treat, so patience is your best virtue. Given the current pandemic, mask-wearing doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon. It may be challenging, but with self-love and a good skincare regimen, healthy and blemish-free skin can still be a reality.
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