1 Feb 2021

Is my face mask causing acne?

More and more clients are asking this question during their consultation with Dr Zamani at her Cadogan Clinic and so it seems safe to say that maskne, has become an unexpected consequence of the pandemic.

How does a mask cause acne?

“Masks create a warm and humid micro-environment which traps moisture and sebum,” explains Dr Zamani.

“This can aggravate pre-existing acne or cause new breakouts by clogging the pores. These pores become inflamed leading to red, tender acne lesions. Maskne typically occurs around the mouth and nose area but can also affect the jawline.”

The cause of maskne is no different to the cause of any other acne, which is caused by excess oil on the skin combined with a blockage in the pores.

“Excess oil production combined with blockage of hair follicles/sebaceous glands, or oil glands, and overgrowth of the bacterium Propionibacterium! says Dr Zamani.

What are other environmental causes of acne?

Environmental air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOC), particulate matter (PM), Ozone, cigarette smoke and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) have a major effect on human skin, the body’s outer barrier and has been associated with a myriad of conditions including acne such as skin ageing, inflammation, allergic/atopic skin conditions (eczema, atopic dermatitis) and have been implicated in the development of skin cancers.

The protective ability of the skin is compromised when exposed to excess environmental stressors that the skin cannot cope with.  We know that these pollutants can cause disturbances in normal skin lipid, DNA and protein functions. This can contribute to free radical damage, and increased collagen degradation seen with premature skin ageing, wrinkles as well as pigmentary issues.

Steps to reduce such exposure is to:

-Increase home ventilator systems

-Eat a healthy, antioxidant rich diet to fight free radicals

-Drink plenty of water

-Wear a high SPF each day

-Skincare regime

Can stress exacerbate acne? 

Another symptom of this continued lockdown is stress. When stressed, the adrenal glands are stimulated, and the body responds by pumping out various hormones.  The overproduction of androgens also known as male hormones can stimulate the oil glands. When these glands produce too much oil, this excess substance can combine with dead skin cells, debris, and bacteria, clogging up the pore and resulting in acne breakouts.

In addition, cortisol, the stress hormone has been linked to increased rate of collagen degradation and inhibits the body’s reparative functions.

What skincare should I use to help clear my acne?

It is recommended to keep a skin care routine targeting acne, basic.  Use gentle cleansers and use products for sensitive skin.  Avoid pore-clogging ingredients such as mineral oils and silicone, or cocoa butter and wheatgerm oil which are often added to natural sun protection. Added fragrance can also aggravate an already inflamed skin.

A routine to effectively keep breakouts to a minimum should include an AHA cleanser such as MZ Skin’s Cleanse & Clarify, followed by an antioxidant rich serum. MZ Skin’s Brighten & Perfect 10% Vitamin C Corrective Serum is formulated to activate collagen production, protects against premature ageing, and reduce the effects of UVA, and UVB. This peptide-rich formula helps control melanin production to guard against hyperpigmentation and age spots and minimise acne scarring.

Follow with a light oil-free moisturiser during the daytime and a Retinol based product such as our Retinol Skin Booster is a great inclusion as part of an evening regime. Retinol works at both the surface and middle layers of the skin to unclog pores, smooth scars, and improve tone and texture.

To further enhance these results, using an AHA containing mask every week such as MZ Skin Radiance & Renewal will provide a deeper exfoliation to the skin. This mask will also encourage faster repair of damaged cells and increase cell turnover for a plumper and more luminous complexion.

Furthermore, blue light helps target specific bacteria that lives on the skin and influences acne and is featured in the MZ Skin Golden Light Therapy device. It works to balances and clarify the skin, treating acne. Blue light activates chemicals inside the bacteria, and their ability to form acne and blemishes. Rosacea, psoriasis, wrinkles, and sun damage are also all ideal candidates for this light.

I have heard probiotics are good for treating acne, is that correct?

Within skin care, probiotics can be included to soothe inflammation, strengthen the skin’s barrier, and improve acne. This would be ideal if you have compromised skin, are exposed to pollution, or suffer from breakouts or maskne. These sorts of skin care products will need to be stored in the fridge, as the probiotic have a short shelf life.

I once read stretching skin to do extractions is better than squeezing… is this true?

Dr Zamani is clear with her advice here; “do NOT mess with acne pimples as you can potentially spread bacteria, cause scarring and may make acne appear more obvious.  Never squeeze acne, no matter how tempted you are!”

Stretching skin can also cause damage, the pore is already stretched if it is blocked.  Instead, ensure that you exfoliate skin regularly and visit an aesthetician if you want a steam and extraction.  Topical skincare is the first line of defence but if with persistent problems, topical prescription treatments may be necessary (retinoids, antibiotics, hormone therapy, Roaccutane, for example). In office procedures like peels, microdermabrasion, extraction, and CO2 lasers are also good at treating acne.

Using a sterile device, white heads and black heads can be extracted by a trained medical professional as in properly done treatments can cause scarring, infection or worse.  The reason steam is often used is because it can loosen the debris within the pore, making it easier to extract.  Squeezing is actually a way to stretch the pores, so it is best to leave this to professionals.

Treatments to Consider:

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As a leading Oculoplastic Surgeon with special interest in Facial Aesthetics, Dr. Maryam Zamani has garnered a global reputation - both in the US and UK - for her meticulous attention to detail and sought-after techniques for eyes and facial aesthetics.

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