Doctor: Wash your mask 'once a day' to avoid 'maskne'

We talk a lot about wearing masks, but what about washing them? Health experts say the simple task should be part of our daily routine. 

Medical masks should be thrown away after each use, but experts say if you wear a cloth reusable mask, you need to wash it to effectively protect yourself and others. Plus, they say your skin will thank you. 

We've grown accustomed to wearing masks, but have we gotten used to what's happening under them? For some, it's a phenomenon called maskne.  

Tatiana Rocio

Tatiana Rocio works in the beauty industry but knows firsthand about the ugly drawback.

"I notice a lot of acne or itching of the face and a lot of dryness," said Rocio.

The owner of Les Fashionistas works out of "Have a Good Hair Day!" salon and spa in Milwaukee and has noticed heat and moisture getting trapped in her mask.

"Depending on how many hours, they even recommend we change them more than once a day," she said.

But she said the benefits of wearing one outweigh the temporary discomfort.

"If we follow the right procedures with wearing clean masks, it's definitely going to help," said Rocio.

Those procedures include washing your mask regularly. 

"I would think of your cloth mask as kind of like any article of clothing. It should be washed once a day with soap and water," said Dr. Tracy Donahue, Madison Medical Affiliates dermatologist.

Dr. Donahue with Madison Medical Affiliates, which is part of Ascension Wisconsin, said she's seen an uptick in skin conditions amid the pandemic, including maskne.

"That is partly because stress, in general, is well known to make all skin diseases worse," Donahue said.

She recommends keeping your mask clean. Masks can be washed with laundry or by hand with soap and water -- or a bleach solution. They should be dried on high heat, or can be air-dried by laying them flat, and in direct sunlight.

"The good news is that most of the skin changes that can sometimes be seen with mask use are easily preventable and treatable," said Donahue.

Donahue also suggests that if you use a spot treatment for maskne -- to prioritize that routine at bedtime, when your skin has a break from the mask.