If you’re serious about protecting yourself — and others — from the very real dangers of Covid-19, you’re wearing a mask when you go out around others.

For many people that is leading to an embarrassing and unpleasant side effect: blemishes, pimples, zits — or what dermatologists call acne.
“I have patients calling in despair saying ‘What is going on? I’ve never had a breakout before and now my face looks like a teenager’s!'” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
“We’re seeing lots of flares of acne, especially a type called perioral dermatitis, which tends to happen typically around the mouth and in the areas around the nose,” said board-certified Dr. Seemal Desai, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Whitney Bowe on how to prevent mask-induced acne

Call it a sign of the times: The Korean skin-care brands Dr. Jart+ and Peach & Lily offer collections of “maskne essentials” on their websites. The patch purveyor Hero Cosmetics recently posted an entry about maskne on its blog. But don’t dismiss maskne — acne and irritation from wearing a mask — as just another portmanteau to market skin-care products.

The term “acid mantle” was coined in 1928 by German physicians researching the effects of bacteria on skin, but it hasn’t entered mainstream conversations about skin health until recently. In fact, this might be the first time you’ve heard about it—but this unsung dermatological attribute could very well be the culprit behind many of your complexion woes. Dry skinRosacea? Pimples? They could be appearing because your acid mantle is compromised. But what exactly is the acid mantle, and what are the best ways to keep it robust? Read on for everything you need to know.

What is the skin’s acid mantle and what does it do?

The acid mantle is a thin film on the skin’s surface composed of lipids from the oil glands mixed with amino acids from sweat. Along with the microbiome, it’s part of the delicate matrix that creates a healthy skin barrier. The acid mantle’s main job is to keep the good stuff (like moisture) in, and the bad stuff (like bacteria and pollution) out. Think of it as an essential shield—the invisible face mask you didn’t know you were wearing.

Is it related to skin pH?

Yes. The acid mantle derives its name from the fact that the skin’s ideal pH is slightly acidic, about 5.5, and anything that can skew it too alkaline can disrupt its ability to function optimally. ““When our skin has this slightly acidic pH, the barrier is healthy and intact,” says Whitney Bowe, renowned New York dermatologist and author of Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin. “This acidic pH of the skin protects against overgrowth of pathogens—bad bugs, essentially—that thrive at a higher, more alkaline pH. The acidic pH also protects against aging.”

Dr. Whitney Bowe also shares tips on how to combat “maskne” — breakouts caused by wearing masks and other face coverings.

‘Maskne’ is the new acne, but fear not, Dr. Whitney Bowe has got you covered on how to prevent breakouts from wearing your face mask.

Wearing a mask can get under your skin.

Ever since face coverings became a mandatory part of life, a nasty side effect has broken out in its wake: “Maskne.” The new phrase — which combines the words “mask” and “acne” — has recently sprung up all over social media as people suffering from the new kind of blemish are venting their woes about the skin care snafu.

“Shout-out to my fellow nurses as well as other health-care workers who are back in their teenage years covered with mask acne. I feel you,” writes Kayla Pyrah in a May 6 Instagram post.

Another user laments that “my mask is causing me to break out” and that maskne has become a “problem that I never thought I would have,” in an Instagram post from April 30.

But the problem isn’t just affecting hormonal teens, acne-prone adults or health-care workers wearing heavy duty N95 medical masks for hours at a time. Skin experts are noticing a major zit spike in clients who have never battled pimples in the past.

“The fact that we’re keeping something on such a sensitive area of the face . . . even people who haven’t suffered with a skin situation before are now dealing with the implications of that,” says New York City aesthetician Sofie Pavitt, who has been conducting dozens of remote acne consultations for clients while her Canal Street studio is closed due to the stay-at-home order.

Maskne — which is referred to as acne mechanica by derms — is caused by the combination of rubbing from the mask, which irritates the skin barrier, as well as the hot moisture trapped inside, which dilates the pores and allows bacteria and oil to clog them up. Once the follicles are trapped with gunk, they become inflamed, leading to nasty breakouts.

“We’ve seen it a lot with athletes . . . [like] people wearing a helmet, a baseball cap or even with certain instruments that rest against the chin area,” says Upper East Side dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe. If left untreated, the mask, “which is a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria . . . could lead to infections that then require a prescription medication to clear it up.”

But before you even worry about tackling the bacterial buildup beneath the mask, make sure yours is clean.

“If you’re wearing a cloth mask, you want to wash it frequently . . . especially if you’re exercising,” says Bowe. If you’re using a disposable surgical mask, she suggests letting it dry out for 24 hours before wearing it again.

A diligent skin care regimen will help the skin bounce back from mask-inflicted congestion. Bowe advises you wash your face before and after wearing a mask, and choose a gentle skin cleanser that is free of harsh sulfates which can strip the skin of its protective oils.

“Massage it in with fingertips only — no loofah or abrasive scrubs right now,” says Bowe. “Then you want to pat dry with a clean towel.

Raise your hand if you have aimlessly scrolled through your social media feed just to fall down a rabbit hole that’s left you online for longer than you anticipated? Guilty.

As many of us are practicing social distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, it’s no secret that screen time on mobile devices, laptops and iPads has increased.

While this has quickly become the new normal, have you ever stopped to think about how all of the constant exposure to blue light could be affecting your skin?

What’s blue light?

Blue light, also known as high-energy visible light (HEV), is light emitted from all of our screens, and there is still ongoing research about its effects.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe told “GMA” that natural light from the sun is one of the strongest sources of blue light. “The sun emits UV rays, infrared rays, visible rays or visible light, and blue light is part of physical light,” she said.

Acne stickers, also known as pimple patches, are used to spot treat acne breakouts.

They are typically placed on top of clean skin to help shrink or prevent pimples.

But do they actually work and what type is right for you?

New York City-based dermatologist and author of Dirty Looks Dr. Whitney Bowe says, “stickers act as a physical barrier between your fingers and your zit.”

She says they are great for people who tend to pick or scratch at their breakouts.

Considering the many benefits of taking probiotics, it makes sense that you’d want to track down the best probiotics for acne, too. After all, probiotics help keep your gut healthy and balanced, and the health of your gut can have a major impact on your skin.

Whitney Bowe, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Looking and Feeling Radiant from the Inside Out, is one of many experts who believes that healing our skin starts by healing our gut. As Dr. Bowe tells Bustle, “When our intestinal lining is working properly, it forms a tight barrier which controls what is absorbed into our bloodstream. However, a compromised gut lining allows toxins, undigested food particles, and bad bacteria to ‘leak’ out of your intestines and to then travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these foreign substances as threats and therefore attacks them. This, in turn, gives rise to many substantial health issues. But, you can also have leaky skin. When your skin microbiome is off balance, meaning that the healthy balance of good bacteria on your skin is not intact, this can compromise your skin’s natural barrier. This leads to inflammation which in turn results in chronic skin conditions including acne and rosacea.”

@DrWhitneyBowe

RT @GMA: #Maskne is the new acne! But fear not, @DrWhitneyBowe has got you covered on how to prevent breakouts from wearing your face mask.…

@DrWhitneyBowe

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