Face Mask Maskne 101: Prevention for Children, Toddlers, and Teenagers. In the wake of COVID-19, wearing a face mask or cloth face covering is one of the best ways to keep yourself and your family safe. When worn correctly and consistently, masks can dramatically reduce the spread of viral participles and slow the spread of virus in our communities. For the first time, many young children and teenagers are consistently wearing masks and suffering from the new dilemma of “maskne” or mask-created acne. As a parent, there are steps you can take to prevent, treat, and calm maskne for your child or teenager while keeping them safe.
What is Maskne?
Maskne is acne that arises from or is exacerbated by wearing a face mask. Maskne is caused by three main factors: skin irritation due to friction and increased humidity, pore blockage, and oil build-up. Like all forms of troublesome acne, maskne occurs when the hair follicles on the face become clogged and inflamed. With saliva, sweat, and oil trapped close to the skin without open access to air, the irritation can cause small cracks on the protective skin barrier which allows bacteria to enter, leading to breakouts. While all ages can get and do get regular acne, maskne is especially prevalent in younger children, due to the excess saliva and face touching to adjust the mask, and in teenagers because of typical hormone changes, oil, and sweat.
Maskne prevention tips for toddlers, children, and teenagers:
- Daily Cleansing: The best way to prevent maskne for all, but especially in young children and toddlers, is through regular face washing. It’s easy to forget to wash your child’s face before they go to sleep or before they begin the day, but cleansing the face with a mild non-soap cleanser can help remove excess oil, dirt, and bacteria that the mask might trap against the skin. When choosing a cleanser, steer clear of products with fragrances, alcohols, or dyes—in general, anything marketed towards adults might be too harsh for a child’s sensitive skin.
- Moisturization: Moisturization is a crucial step in protecting the sensitive skin barrier and preventing irritation that could lead to breakouts. Moisturize the skin after cleansing with a non-comedogenic moisturizer after patting the skin dry, not rubbing it, which can cause more tiny cracks. The thicker, blander creams are more effective than lotions that often contain irritating ingredients and are less effective at sealing in moisturize. Don’t forget the lip area —plain petroleum jelly or an unscented lip balm can help prevent painful lip cracking and peeling.
- Choose the right fit and fabric: Not all face masks and face coverings are created equal. Many types of synthetic fabric can be irritating when rubbing directly on the skin of the face, so try cotton or other natural materials to see what works best for your child. Additionally, the fit of the face mask is crucial. A mask that is too large will slide around the face and can lead to the chaffing as well as excess touching and readjusting, which can put your child at risk. A mask that is too small is likely to rub against the skin unfavorably and similarly cause irritation. Help your child position their face mask to have a snug, comfortable fit over the mouth and nose.
- Keep the masks clean: Many parents underestimate the necessity of washing face coverings often in respect to both your skin health and the mask’s effectiveness. It is recommended to wash your face covering as often as possible, ideally after every use, both to remove any outside viral particles and cleanse sweat, oil, and saliva build up that could harbor harmful bacteria. Consider having multiple different face masks on hand for each necessary outing in case your child sweats or otherwise soils the mask.
- For teens — combat acne and skip the products: Teenagers should consider adding an acne-fighting cleanser or spot-treatment to their daily routine. While many cleansers on the market can be too harsh for children, teenagers who have oily or acne-prone skin can consider a cleanser with low strength benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or other acne-fighting ingredients to combat maskne. However, it’s best to consult a dermatologist before beginning an acne regimen if you or your teenager experience excessive dryness, redness, or sensitivity—many products on the market such as harsh toners and face masks may do more harm than good. Additionally, for teenagers and adults, it’s best to refrain from heavy, pore-clogging makeup that may exacerbate maskne breakouts. Instead, opt for non-comedogenic products or skip the makeup altogether. If breakouts do occur, be sure not to pick them–this will only invite more bacteria and lead to potential scarring.
For children and teenagers, and their parents, maskne can be a difficult burden to handle in an already difficult time. The implementation of a consistent, simple skincare regimen can help the skin stay healthy and the proper fit and washing schedule can keep the mask clean and safe. Best practice is to eat right, drink lots of water, and try to take a mask break in a safe space every few hours to destress and let the skin breathe. If skin irritation and maskne persist, contact your local pediatrician or pediatric dermatologist to find appropriate treatment and prevention options specific for your child or teen. While mask wearing can naturally be difficult at times, it remains one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. So, please, mask up!