Many folks are just now learning about “maskne”, which is gaining increased attention due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, mask acne is not new; it most recently cropped up during the latest SARS pandemic a few years ago. Then and now, maskne was and is characterized by acne breakouts that occur due to wearing a mask for many hours during the day.
That’s the good news – it’s not a mysterious condition or something that’s even hard to treat. There are lots of ways to tackle maskne if you’ve been unfortunate enough to get it while you practice proper safety and good hygiene.
Let’s dive deeper into what exactly maskne is and how you can treat it effectively.
“Maskne” – What Is It?
So-called “maskne” because of its origin, this specific skin issue is just acne you get because you wear a mask. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, wearing a mask has been one of the best ways to limit the spread of the virus and to protect yourself from those who may be unknowingly infected.
But, while wearing a mask is an important responsibility (for both your own health and the health of others), it also comes with some side effects. Namely: acne galore!
Technically, maskne also encompasses any general irritation or contact dermatitis you might get from wearing a mask all day. If you have to wear a mask for multiple hours in a row for work or school, your mask constantly rubs against the pores on your face. Not only does this cause irritation in and of itself because even cloth masks aren't particularly comfortable, but it also rubs a lot of dirt, debris, and oil into your skin.
Why Is Maskne So Pervasive?
Maskne is such a problem because almost everyone is wearing a mask these days. Since folks with all skin types are wearing masks, dermatologists are seeing an uptick in this issue.
When you use a mask, you naturally breathe out bacteria that settle on the mask's surface. This wouldn't be a big deal if you only wore a mask for a short stretch of time. But, since we’re all wearing masks all the time, that bacteria stays on the mask and is able to return to your skin.
Furthermore, wearing a mask means that your pores don’t have any space to breathe. Natural face oil is smeared around instead of evaporating passively. To make matters even worse, if you wear your mask tightly enough (as is recommended by the CDC to slow the spread of COVID-19), you’re more likely to experience severe maskne than if you wore it more loosely, resulting in acne mechanica (acne that comes from excessive rubbing and chafing) and/or comedogenic effects (i.e., blackheads being caused by blocked pores).
Maskne is particularly problematic among those who already have sensitive or oily skin. Their skin is already preconditioned to have an acne outbreak, so mask-wearing has made these issues even worse.
Ways to Treat Maskne
Although maskne is a real concern for millions of people, there are plenty of ways to alleviate this issue without having to give up the potentially life-saving measure of wearing a mask. Let’s break down all these treatments one by one.
Dial Down Your Skincare Routine
First and foremost is dialing down your skincare routine as much as you can.
Let’s face it: a full-blown skincare routine is one of the best ways to take care of dry skin or blemishes, and it ensures that you look radiant every day. But, at the same time, if you’re wearing a mask that covers at least half your face… is that skincare routine really all that important?
The fact is that a full-on skincare routine does a number on your facial pores. A full routine will have a face wash, gentle cleanser, exfoliating scrub, toner, and perhaps some serum and moisturizer. This makes it all too easy for you to strip away the healthy and protective layer of light sebum, or face oil, on your skin.
When your skin is already vulnerable, it’s even easier for your mask to disrupt your skin's balance, allowing dirt or bacteria into your pores, which can cause acne and general irritation.
If you suffer from maskne, consider lowering the number of steps in your skincare routine down to just washing and hydrating. Sunscreen should still be included if you'll be going outside, but try to find an oil-free, fragrance-free option specifically designed for the face if you can. You can use toner and exfoliate from time to time as well, but use less of both products to help your skin firm up and stave off new bacterial threats.
Look Into Gentler Skincare Products
Similarly, you can look into gentler skincare products, particularly if you already have sensitive skin. This goes double for harsh products like toner or exfoliators. Both of these products are designed to dig deep into your pores and get rid of dead skin cells or debris that are already packed in.
Try to find products that substitute normally harsh components for gentler ingredients.
Alternatively, avoid using a toner for the time being until the mask mandates have been lifted.
Related to the above, don’t be afraid to use a face serum or other soothing products that could make your face feel a little firmer and healthier, and even hydrate it in the process. Anything that makes it more difficult for your pores to open up and become irritated is a win in the fight against maskne zits.
Suki Skincare’s Purifying Face Serum is a great choice for reducing the appearance of blemishing while keeping your skin well-nourished.
Use Less (or No) Makeup… at Least for Now
It should come as no surprise that one of the best ways to limit the incidence of maskne is to wear less makeup, or no makeup at all. We know, we know – this is a big ask when many of us use makeup every day. It’s a crucial part of our appearance, and a lot of us feel incomplete without going through our regular makeup routines.
Makeup always packs itself into your pores. This isn’t as big of a deal during normal times – your pores still have enough room to breathe and you can wash the makeup off at the end of the day without too much issue.
But, when you’re wearing a mask, you’re creating a closed space where most of the bacteria you expel from your breath stays around your face or mouth. This bacteria can then cake onto your makeup and spread, penetrating down into your pores and beginning the chain reaction that results in pimples or acne.
Even worse, your makeup may become terribly uncomfortable from being heated and packed up behind the mask all day.
Take it from us – although it’s definitely not ideal, going easy on the makeup (for instance, cutting out foundation and opting for just mascara) is a smart move, particularly if you wear a mask all the time. The mask mandates won’t last forever, and you’ll be able to resume your regular makeup routines soon enough. In the meantime, give your face a break and do what you can to stay comfortable.
Clean Your Mask!
Obviously, your mask matters a great deal when it comes to how clean your face is and how likely you are to get maskne. We’d strongly recommend cleaning your mask all the time – at least once per day with soap and hot water. Or, you can switch out different masks and wash the bunch with the rest of your laundry every week.
Similarly, you might look into wearing a softer mask that's more conducive to air transfer or comfort. Different masks provide different comfort – lightweight fabrics like cotton, silk, or satin are usually great for personal comfort and still provide good protection against COVID-19 and general bacterial transfer.
Ultimately, having multiple masks for both cleanliness and for user comfort is key for literally and figuratively surviving during this pandemic.
What If the Maskne Doesn’t Go Away?
If all the above efforts don’t clear up your maskne or prevent you from getting it in the first place, there are some treatments you can fall back on.
Regular acne treatments, like over-the-counter lotions and creams that have benzoyl peroxide are good choices, as usual. Such lotions are generally topical spot treatments that can help treat acne that’s already progressed. You should also look at the treatments that use salicylic acid or similar pore-clearing agents.
You can also look into cleansing or clarity product collections. For instance, Suki Skincare’s Hardcore Clarity Set contains three separate skin cleansing products: a purifying mask to be used after a day under the COVID-19 mask, a purifying acne serum, and a resurfacing enzyme peel.
All in all, maskne is essentially treatable the same way regular acne is, but the best way to fight it in the long-term is to minimize the conditions that make it so prevalent in today’s society.
Maskne really is doing a number on all of our complexions. But, while it’s quite annoying, it’s not a permanent issue, and the number of maskne cases is likely to go down when the coronavirus cases go down, too.
Until that glorious day, we have to all do what we can to combat maskne by using good skincare hygiene strategies to minimize the number of ways we stress out our pores. Don’t hesitate to contact us about more tips and tricks if you have any questions!