Of all the things 2020 has thrown at us, there’s one that probably took you by complete surprise: acne breakouts caused by face masks. Aptly coined “maskne” by Internet skincare gurus, this unforeseen complication has emerged for many, even those who have never had to deal with acne before.
Because wearing a face mask traps your breath in a damp, dark environment, it makes your face the perfect breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria (yeah, we know, it’s pretty gross). That being said, most states mandate mask-wearing, and it’s proven effective against the spread of COVID-19. Staying healthy and keeping others safe from exposure is absolute priority — but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your skin from staying healthy as well.
There are multiple factors to consider when dealing with maskne. The first is the type of mask you’re wearing to begin with.
Not All Masks Are Created Equal
If you’ve been struggling with maskne lately, investigate what kind of masks you wear. The general public is advised to wear cloth masks versus surgical or N-95 masks (which should be reserved for healthcare workers), but your skin may react differently depending on the fabric your mask is made of.
A good rule of thumb: the gentler the fabric, the less likely you are to deal with mask-related breakouts. If possible, opt for a mask that’s 100% cotton. Cotton, a natural fiber, is a more effective filter than synthetic materials like polyester. It’s also far gentler on the skin.
Keep It Clean
Think of your mask as an extension of your face. You want to keep it clean every day, right? That’s what we thought! Washing your mask daily prevents that buildup of germs and other pollutants that cause maskne.
It also helps not to wear makeup underneath your mask. Makeup can clog your pores and lead to breakouts even when you’re not wearing a mask, so it’s best to skip it altogether if you know you’ll be wearing one.
Skincare Is Your Best Friend
A proper skincare regimen can both treat and prevent maskne. We’ve talked before about building the perfect skincare routine for your skin; everyone’s needs vary, depending on your age, skin type, and other factors.
Preventing and treating maskne begins with keeping your skin clean. Wash your face every day (again, how and with what you wash your face will vary), but chances are your skin will appreciate a healthy dose of gentle antiseptic ingredients for that extra bacteria-fighting oomph. This can include green tea, tea tree oil, and witch hazel, to name a few.
After washing your face, exfoliation is a great extra step to slough off dead skin cells that block your pores and cause breakouts. You can up the ante by exfoliating with products that contain acne-fighting ingredients, like charcoal and coffee. Exfoliate once or twice a week, but no more than that; otherwise, you’ll run the risk of irritating your skin and making the maskne worse.
Once you’ve washed and exfoliated your face, apply a light, oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin’s protective barrier in mint condition. The barrier between your skin and the outside world is a critical component to keeping maskne at bay. And if the bottle says non-comedogenic, even better. That means the moisturizer is specifically formulated to not clog pores.
Something to keep in mind when battling maskne: if your regular skincare routine isn’t quite making the cut, evaluate the ingredients you’re putting on your face. Harsh ingredients like retinols and acids usually work for treating regular acne, but maskne is an entirely different beast. Skip the heavy chemical ingredients and go for the soothing, natural ones; your skin is irritated enough as it is wearing a mask all day!
Don’t Give Up Hope
Maskne is still relatively uncharted territory as far as skin concerns go, so don’t be discouraged if your efforts don’t yield immediate results. However, if your breakouts become painful or begin to seriously damage your skin, talk to a dermatologist.Wearing a mask every day and grinding out the hours in quarantine can be tough. Be sure to check out our other resources for surviving this strange period of human history with lightness, warmth, and a little grit!