Maskne Tips: Preventing and Treating Mask Acne

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

It's 2020 and the hits keep coming. Enter: maskne.

Maskne is the irritation and breakouts associated with wearing a mask. Whether you're wearing a mask at work all day or just to run errands or work out, maskne is a real issue.

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Preventing Maskne

Maskne is technically a form of 'acne mechanica' and is caused by the heat, friction, and physical barrier created by the mask. In addition, masks trap in moisture from breathing, talking, and sweating, making for a swampy breeding ground of bacteria. Ew.

How to prevent maskne.

1. Always wear a clean mask. And use gentle laundry detergent.

You'd figure this goes without saying, but I've definitely been guilty of wearing a dirty mask from time to time! Wearing a clean mask is critical. Cloth masks especially can harbor bacteria, making them a breeding ground for acne. Use a gentle, fragrance-free detergent to minimize the potential for irritation.

2. Wash your face at least twice a day.

Use a gentle cleanser with tepid water twice daily - once in the morning and at night - to minimize dirt, oil, and bacteria. This helps make sure there is less potential for breakouts.

3. Use a light, oil-free moisturizer.

Not only will this help hydrate the skin, but it will provide a light barrier of protection between your skin and the mask/swamp. Avoid fragranced products and heavy, oily formulations. My favorite ingredients to support skin under a mask include ceramides, which support the skin's barrier, and silicones (especially dimethicone), which create a non-comedogenic barrier on the skin.

While this isn't a moisturizer, I really like the Super Antioxidant Serum ingredient list for providing a physical barrier and antioxidant protection to the skin

4. Keep it simple.

Keep the skin as clean and free of potential irritants as possible. Wearing a mask over a ton of skincare or makeup products can actually result in those products getting pushed into the skin, creating congestion and clogged pores. So keep it simple. Avoid excessive skin care steps and makeup.

How to treat maskne.

1. Use mandelic acid

Mandelic acid is an amazing ingredient that boosts exfoliation without overdrying the skin. It also has gentle antiseptic and antibacterial qualities to further reduce breakouts.

2. Don't pick!

Having an open wound under your mask is the worst thing you can possibly do! It'll give bacteria an opening that could lead to further problems. So resist the urge! Instead, spot treat blemishes with a sulfur or benzoyl peroxide treatment to reduce bacteria and speed healing.

These zit stickers are a great option for spot treating a blemish while keeping the skin protected from further bacterial contamination

What to Avoid

1. Harsh ingredients and exfoliants.

Keeping the skin's barrier intact is critical! So avoid harsh chemical exfoliants such as acids or retinols. This is also a good time to skip the aggressive scrubs (looking at you, St. Ives Apricot Scrub). Scrubs with aggressive granules can create microscopic tears in the skin that leave you more vulnerable to bacterial and pathogens. Instead, opt for a gentle overnight solution with a low percentage of BHA or Mandelic Acid to gently exfoliate and reduce bacteria, like Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

2. Humectants, like glycerine and hyaluronic acid.

I'm normally all about humectants, as they help reduce trans epidermal water loss and keep the skin plump and hydrated. Humectants work by grabbing onto moisture and binding it to the skin. But when that moisture is coming from your own breath or sweat, humectants will just trap that under the mask and create a damp, swampy mess under your mask. Again, yuck! So leave the rich, hydrating serums out of your routine when wearing a mask.

3. Wearing makeup.

Think of it as a vacation for half of your face. Cut down on your getting ready time! But really, as I said above, there's no need to wear makeup under the mask. It'll just create more of a risk for breakouts and irritation.

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