Adult acne sucks. And covering it with a mask is like installing a tent over a volcano.
The recent uptick in face acne during the pandemic has been popularly coined “maskne.” For many individuals, wearing the required face mask for long periods of time results in blemishes in the covered areas. For me, wearing a mask for a matter of minutes gives me a breakout, leading me to never want to leave my house. The problem only multiplies when going for a walk or run; the sweat mixed with warm breath under a cloth mask makes everything worse. “Masks impose heat, friction and occlusion on the skin and when combined with a moist environment from breathing, talking or sweating, this is a recipe for breakouts,” says Harry Dao, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist for Loma Linda University (as quoted on their site). And this isn’t just about vanity: Acne is uncomfortable, even painful.
Here are some ways to treat maskne and prevent it so we can wear our masks without discomfort or worry.
Wash your masks frequently
Many of us have fallen victim to an overused and slightly grubby mask. If you are using a cloth reusable mask rather than the disposable medical kind, regularly wash it with soap and water. In a recent New York Times article, assistant professor of dermatology at Temple University Dr. Candrice Heath advises, “You need to treat it like underwear and wash it frequently.” If you have sensitive skin, particularly on your face, use a gentle soap or baby shampoo.
Don’t touch your face
This is a hard habit to break, but it’s the most important. Definitely don’t touch your face when you’re outside, but even when you’re safely at home, keep those hands away. It’s especially hard when blemishes are itching, or your anxiety is peaking. Touching your skin can aggravate a breakout and continue a cycle of irritation and infection. If the urge to touch or scratch is unbearable, use a clean cloth to wipe the area. Or do something else to keep your hands busy. Play-Doh, anyone?
Clean your face
It’s important to rid your face of any bacteria and oil buildup that occurs when wearing a mask. Although finding the right cleanser is really only a journey you can take, I’ve found results using a rose water cleanser. Rose water has been known to soothe skin irritation and reduce redness. Micellar water is also a gentle and effective way to clean your face without soap and water. It is more commonly used to remove makeup, but is a great way to remove dirt and build up without needing to wash your entire face. Give your face a quick wipe down with micellar and/or rose water after mask use to stop any bumps from forming. Try not to completely wash your face each time you wear your mask. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that you “limit washing to twice a day and after sweating.” Especially if you are constantly putting a mask on and off, this can start to strip your face of its natural oils which will present a whole other issue.
Don’t skip your skincare routine
While we’re all sitting at home, routine is the one thing we can work on these days. If you pamper your face each evening with a special ritual, keep doing it. And in this case, up the routine to twice a day, or consider adding a mini routine throughout the day to keep the maskne at bay.