What is Acne Mechanica?
Acne Mechanica is a subtype of Acne Vulgaris that occurs due to friction and pressure on the skin, causing the hair follicle to be clogged. Maskne is an informal term of Acne Mechanica that is attributed to wearing of masks, which causes friction and pressure over the area of the face covered by mask. In this article, we will cover different treatments for acne mechanica and share tips on how to prevent them!
Symptoms of acne mechanica
Acne mechanica presents similarly like acne vulgaris. They appear as inflamed bumps such as papules, pustules or nodules on the face or other parts of the body. You might feel itchy, painful or notice pus in some of them.
Does acne mechanica only appear on my face?
No, Acne mechanica can appear in any part of the body covered with skin. Acne mechanica appears due to friction and pressure on the skin. It commonly appears on the face in recent months from the time of writing due to mandatory use of face masks in several countries including Singapore. The use of masks of varying materials irritates the covered skin via abrasion, squeezing and stretching, leading to formation of acne mechanica.
Causes of ‘maskne’
Acne Vulgaris is caused by several factors and not simply due to not having your face washed or use of inappropriate skin care regimen. Therefore it is important to have a good basic skincare routine to reduce acne formation.
Four main factors cause acne:
- Excess oil production
- Hair follicles clogged by oil, dead skin cells, dirt, skincare products
- Bacteria (Propionibacteria acnes)
- Excess androgen hormone activity. Androgens are hormones that increase in boys and girls during puberty and cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. Therefore good skincare regime which helps to remove dirt, dead skin and makeup etc can help reduce clogged pores. However it does not address other causes of acne such as hyperproduction of sebum and bacteria in the hair follicle.
Difference between acne mechanica and the common acne
Acne Mechanica and the common Acne Vulgaris present similarly. However it is important to understand the underlying cause of the acne, in order to address them and treat both acne. Acne Mechanica is caused by friction and pressure leading to hair follicles clogged and acne to form while common acne can be due to hair follicles congestion due to oil, direct or skincare products and a combination of other factors mentioned above such as excess oil production, bacteria infection and excess androgen hormone activity.
Treatments of acne mechanica
It is important to use an appropriate cleanser for the face to decongest the clogged pores.
First step of treatment will involve topical treatments such as clindoxyl gel targeted at the acne papules/ pustules. Clindoxyl contains a combination of benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin. Benzoyl peroxide helps in reduction of inflammation of the acne and clinamycin is an antibiotic which helps to kill the bacteria residing in the acne - Propionibacterium acnes.
Other topical treatments include retinoid derivatives e.g. differin gel. These are to be applied to the acne prone areas to prevent comedones formation and hence prevent acne formation.
Chemical peel is applied to the face and it helps to treat acne and comedones. There are different types of chemical peels e.g. the glycolic acid ( alpha hydroxy acids AHA), the more potent, trichloroacetic acid, and the Jessners solution (containing lactic and salicylic acid). The chemicals help the skin to exfoliate and new layer to regrow, hence smoother and more radiant skin.
Non- ablative lasers such as ND-YAG lasers help in treating acne. It helps to remove impurities occluding the pores and reduce sebum production from the sebaceous glands.
Oral antibiotics such as doxycyline is commonly used in the treatment of moderate acne vulgaris if topical treatment failed in controlling the acne.
Oral Isotretinoin commonly known as Accutane is a medication used to treat severe acne. However it is a strong medication that is harmful to the fetus if one is pregnant. It is important to do a blood test and monitor the cholesterol level and liver function prior to starting oral isotretinion.
When to see a doctor
You are advised to consult a doctor if your acne is not improving with your over-the-counter skincare products. It is important for the doctor to assess your skin and prescribe you the most suitable treatment modalities. It is important to seek help early as moderate and severe acne can lead to acne scars, which are permanent in nature and require more intense treatments.
How can I prevent developing Acne Mechanica?
Good skincare regime which helps to remove dirt, dead skin and makeup. This helps to reduce clogged pores. However it does not address other causes of acne such as hyperproduction of sebum and bacteria in the hair follicle.
So apart of twice-daily cleansing as step one in your acne treatment routine. Step two should be the regular use of an acne treatment product.
Here are more tips on the prevention of acne mechanica.
*The author of this article is the Medical Director of Scinn Medical at Somerset triple 1. He focuses on dermatological care and provides various modalities of treatments for Acne Mechanica at his clinic.