ST. JOSEPH — Wearing a mask day in and day out during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a side effect for many: acne.

“One of the main reasons it forms around the chin and mouth area is because there’s an increase in oil production, the skin cells become more cohesive and acne tends to form,” said Dr. Riddhi Shah of Stonegate Dermatology in St. Joseph.

She said there are a few things people can do to prevent mask acne, as well as treat it.

“One of the first things is making sure you’re changing your mask every day,” Shah said.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recommends washing face coverings once a day or having several to rotate for washing.

Shah said another thing that would be helpful is either decreasing the amount of facial makeup and products you’re putting on underneath the mask, or making sure your products are non-comedogenic.

“Usually it’s found in small letters on your moisturizer and makeup,” she said. “Non-comedogenic basically means it won’t clog your pores and isn’t acne-producing.”

To treat acne that forms, Shah recommends an over-the-counter product that has benzoyl peroxide in it.

“It has anti-inflammatory properties to treat acne. It also decreases the bacteria count of the bacteria that causes acne,” she said.

Benzoyl peroxide products range from 4-10 percent.

Shah said people with more oily skin can get a stronger percent, as long as they can tolerate it, but someone with dryer skin should start at 4 or 5 percent.

“I usually tell patients to use that once a day when you’re in the shower, or maybe at the end of the day after they’ve had a long day at work wearing the mask,” she said.

Medicated wipes can also be helpful, according to Shah.

“We give them out pretty often,” she said. “They’re called clindamycin pledgets or swabs, and you can actually carry them with you in your purse or gym bag and in the middle of the day, take one out and wipe your face, chest and back if necessary, to sort of halt the acne mid-day.”

If over-the-counter products aren’t enough and the acne gets worse, Shah recommends seeing a dermatologist to get a prescription for a different type of medication to treat more severe acne.

Michigan has required face coverings in any enclosed, public spaces and in crowded outdoor spaces. The MDHHS and the Centers for Disease Control recommend that people should wear masks anytime they are outside of their home and within six feet of others.

The Van Buren Cass District Health Department has a website, fabric-face-covering, listing where people can find a face covering in Cass or Van Buren counties.

The United Way of Southwest Michigan continues to distribute masks to area agencies, including the health department, to distribute to the public, a spokesperson said this week.

For more information about Michigan’s mask order, visit More information on masking and other hygiene practices to stop COVID-19 can be found at prevention.html.

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