As a global pandemic perseveres, we have had to incorporate a myriad of changes into our daily lives: from social distancing and not being able to visit friends and family to attending university lectures through Zoom. However, perhaps the biggest change we have needed to implement into our daily routines is to remember to wear a mask if we head outside. Unfortunately, whilst necessary, the persistent wearing of these tight-fitting masks has led to a new skin condition: mask-induced acne, dubbed ‘maskne’.
What is ‘maskne’?
In an interview with the Mixed Makeup Youtube channel, dermatologist Dr. Nina Desai explains that maskne can be not only “acne under the mask, but it also can be an irritation or itching or a rash”. The tight-fitting nature of masks can lead to friction between the material of the mask and the surface of your skin, causing such breakouts and irritation. Furthermore, this can increase humidity whilst you are wearing the mask as moisture from breathing can become trapped on the skin, which can also be the cause of maskne.
So what can you do to combat maskne?
It seems that mask-wearing will remain a staple in our daily lives for the foreseeable future, and this means we need to learn how to live with wearing a mask, including the various issues they can create for us. Here are some tips for preventing and managing maskne.
Dr. Desai emphasises the importance of keeping your skin clean, both before and after wearing a mask. This is vital to ensure you aren’t allowing bacteria, dirt, and oils to build up and clog pores. She also emphasises that it may be best to keep your makeup under the mask as minimal as possible as this can cause further blockages of pores. If you do wear makeup, it is highly recommended to double-cleanse at night in order to effectively cleanse your skin and remove all the makeup. Double-cleansing can involve using either a balm or oil-based cleanser before your regular water-based cleanser.
As the last step of your skincare routine, it is important to use a good moisturiser to replenish and take care of your skin. For those struggling with acne, Dr. Desai recommends looking for a light oil-free or non-comedogenic moisturiser. Other useful ingredients to look for in your moisturiser can be ceramides and glycerin, which can help to hydrate and repair the skin barrier. Another key ingredient is niacinamide that is effective in calming down irritation and redness. However, Dr. Desai also recommends leaving active ingredients such as AHAs and BHAs for the night as these products can form an irritating combination with the occlusive nature of skin under the mask.
3. Wash your mask
If using a re-useable cloth mask, it is essential to wash and change the mask often. Dirt and bacteria can build up over time, and wearing a dirty mask will only add to the irritation and clogging of pores which lead to maskne. “You want to treat your mask like it’s your underwear,” Dr. Desai notes, emphasising the importance of frequent washing of masks. She also recommends using very breathable and light masks, such as 100% cotton masks, especially if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin.