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Doctors see rise in 'maskne,' urge people to clean their masks

It’s seen most in those who wear a mask for most of the day, but there are things that can help.

HOUSTON — Masks seem to be the biggest topic of discussion lately, but whatever side you’re on, Governor Greg Abbott is now mandating you to wear a mask in public.

And before you wear that mask more than once, there are some things you should know.

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Let’s all agree they’re not something any of us want to wear, but doctors say masks are important.

“Masking is one of our top tools to avoid COVID-19," said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, infectious disease expert at Memorial Hermann and UT Health.

But you should know:

“It’s very easy to cross-contaminate your mask and actually make it a bit more dangerous than it should be," Dr. Ostrosky said.

Dr. Ostrosky said you should never bend or fold your mask where one side can touch the other.

“On the inside, your own sort of respiratory droplets are going to be carrying bacteria yeast, other micro-organisms. And on the outside, they’re going to do their job, and they’re going to catch those droplets from other people," Dr. Ostrosky said.

Some bacteria can stay on the mask so he says you should wash it or throw it away daily.

If not:

“It’s just going to be sort of an unpleasant thing. You could get acne around your mouth," Dr. Ostrosky said.

And that's something dermatologists say they’re seeing.

“Three to five patients a day with it, it’s significant. It’s happening quite a bit," said Dr. Jennifer Deaver Peterson, dermatologist with The Pearl Dermatology.

Dr. Peterson said it’s called acne mechanica or "maskne."

“It’s a combination of heat, friction, oil and sebum, bacteria and also some skincare products such as makeup and so everything in combination," Dr. Peterson said. 

It’s seen most in those who wear a mask for most of the day, but there are things that can help.

“Before you put your mask on, make sure you start with a nice clean face," Dr. Peterson said.

She said, first and foremost, wash your face, avoid makeup and use a non-acne causing lotion.

Once the mask is off, wash your face again, and then go wash your mask.

To do so, the CDC said you should use hot water and regular detergent. Once in the dryer, use the highest heat setting and leave it in there until the mask is completely dry.