Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people were introduced to a new habit of wearing a face mask every time they leave their home or interact with others to slow the spread of the virus transmitted through respiratory droplets. While wearing a mask helps protect us from getting the disease, many of us are experiencing a skin concern called maskne. Let's find out more about maskne and how to get rid of it.
What is maskne?
Maskne, also known as mask acne, is a popular term used to describe acne breakouts caused by wearing a face mask. Maskne is the most common kind of acne mechanica, a type of acne that occurs in areas of friction, pressure, heat, or rubbing of the skin. People probably just started using the term "maskne" recently; however, this skin issue has been around for a long time among people who regularly wear a mask. Maskne usually presents as spots, redness or inflammation around the mouth, nose, chin, jawline and cheeks.
What causes face mask acne?
The reason why masks effectively prevent the spread of the virus is that it traps the air and droplets released from the nose and mouth when we breathe or talk. Unfortunately, it creates an ideal setting for Propionibacterium acne (aka acne-causing bacteria) to grow and flourish. Moreover, the trapped air and moisture lead to excessive sebum and sweat production. Along with dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria, they cause occlusion (clogging) of the pores, leading to increased acne breakouts. Another possible cause of maskne is friction. When we talk, the face mask rubs against our skin, causing irritation or even damage to our skin barrier—all these factors caused by wearing the face mask increase the likelihood of maskne.
How to prevent maskne?
Even though wearing a face mask doesn't create the best condition for our skin, it doesn't give us an excuse to neglect our social responsibility by ditching our masks. Think of it this way, if you get maskne, a trip to the drug store or dermatologist can help you fix the problem. However, if you end up with coronavirus, maskne will be the least of your worries. That being said, here are some tips that can help you to tackle maskne:
Start each day with a clean face mask
Whether you're wearing a freshly laundered fabric mask or an out-of-the-box disposable one, it is important to wear a clean mask.
To prevent maskne, make sure your skin is thoroughly clean before putting on your mask, and also cleanse again as soon as you remove it. However, remember not to overdo it as it can compromise your skin barrier
Hydrate your skin
Keep your skin moisturised as it tends to get irritated and dry under the mask. Although it can seem counterintuitive to apply moisturiser for those with oily, acne-prone skin, it doesn't mean you can skip this step altogether. By not wearing one, your skin gets dehydrated, and as a consequence, it overproduces sebum that triggers maskne. So, applying a lightweight, oil-free and non-comedogenic moisturiser will keep excess oil at bay.
Skip the makeup
As we all know, makeup may contribute to causing clogged pores even when we're not wearing a mask. Now, add a mask to the equation, and it can get out of hand. A tinted moisturiser may be a good solution for those with maskne who need to wear makeup. It's like killing two birds with one stone as it boosts hydration while covers blemishes and imperfections as well.
Deep cleanse twice a week to clear blocked pores
Add a clay mask to your skincare regime twice a week can be great for clearing out the pores of all debris and preventing acne.
Find the right face mask.
An ideal mask covers your nose, mouth down to the bottom of your chin. It is important to wear a mask that fits your face snuggly but not too tightly. A few masks that offer protection against COVID-19 are surgical masks and 3 layers fabric masks (light, thin fabric doesn't do a good job of filtering the virus). When choosing a fabric mask, search for a soft and breathable material so it is more comfortable to wear, such as 100% cotton. Unlike surgical masks that need to be disposed of after every use, fabric masks are reusable. Keep in mind to treat fabric mask-like underwear. You need to wash it frequently with water and hypoallergenic, fragrance-free detergent to reduce skin irritation that could aggravate acne breakouts.
Skincare ingredients suggestions for preventing and treating maskne.
A few ingredients you should look out for to combat maskne are salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, niacinamide and ceramides. Salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid allow you to gently exfoliate and keep your pores clean. Whilst niacinamide regulates sebum secretion, which can help prevent maskne. Its anti-inflammatory properties also help to soothe redness. As for ceramides, it aids in repairing the skin barrier, protecting our skin from exposure to environmental stressors. When you're about to wear a mask, opt for lightweight, oil-free and non-comedogenic products to prevent pores from getting clogged. Also, don't overuse ingredients that may cause skin dryness as it can damage our skin barrier and further irritate the skin. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong when it comes to skincare ingredients. It's all about experimentation to find out what works best for you and then adjust as needed based on your skin's changing needs.
Morning and night routine
In the morning, a simple skincare routine is recommended to prevent maskne. It includes a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser, an oil-free and non-comedogenic moisturiser followed by sunscreen. Please note that you should never skip sunscreen. You can wear any sunscreen that is compatible with your skin type. However, if you have sensitive skin, mineral-based or physical sunscreens are preferred to wear under the mask as they are less irritating.
Librarian Tip: When you have a breakout that is about to pop or looks intimidatingly inflamed, it is highly recommended to put on a pimple patch to protect your acne from the friction of your mask that can further irritate the acne and prevent the acne from getting another infection. Apply it to the troubled area before layering skincare on your face.
As soon as you get home, right after you remove your mask, double-cleanse your face to get rid of unwanted build-ups of dirt and grime that clog your pores. Then, you can add retinol or whatever your skin needs before you lock them all in with your moisturiser.
Thanks to its oil-dissolving ability, salicylic acid is an excellent pick to deep cleanse your pores after spending the day wearing a mask. It also has tea tree and sage extract to help with your maskne problem.
This cleanser feels very gentle on your skin. And it won't leave your skin feeling tight after washing your face in the morning. Even better, it has a pH that is close to our skin's natural pH.
This soothing toner contains hyaluronic acid that provides hydration for your skin. Moreover, it has bamboo extract and Japanese honeysuckle flower with anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
A lightweight Niacinamide-based serum that controls sebum production and improves skin barrier. The ingredients in this product, such as papaya, sea buckthorn and Oryza sativa rice bran, are great to brighten the skin. With the help of squalane which provides moisture, this product will keep your skin glowing and healthy.
Keeping your skin hydrated is especially important when you're about to wear a mask. Beplain Hyaluronic Aqua Gel is a fast-absorbing gel moisturiser that will keep your skin hydrated and plump all day long. It also contains madecassoside, one of the active components of Centella Asiatica, and allantoin, which have healing properties.
Blithe Patting Splash Mask Soothing & Healing Green Tea is the latest innovation in using masks, where the mask is applied to the face by a splashing technique. Easy and practical, right? It contains lactic acid to gently exfoliate the skin, also tea tree oil and green tea to soothe irritated skin.
Centella Asiatica and hyaluronic acid. Two ingredients that you should be looking for if you need a product that can calm down redness and hydrate the skin. Be Plain Cicaful Ampoule is a lightweight product that will make your skin feels soft and plump.
Searching for something to deep cleanse your skin? Well, look no further! AXIS-Y Mugwort Pore Clarifying Wash-Off Pack is what you need. It contains adzuki bean seed powder that gently exfoliates the skin and clear pores. But unlike other exfoliating products, it won't make your skin feel tight afterwards due to the soothing properties of mugwort and heartleaf extracts.
- The Acne Pimple Master Patch from COSRX is a thin clear hydrocolloid patch that will adhere to your skin strongly. It’s able to absorb gunk and heal acne faster. There are 3 different sized patches in a pack, so you can choose the one you need.
- Keep Cool and Soothe Water is packed with micelles that is highly effective at drawing out impurities that tend to clog pores. Also, it can serve as cleanser, makeup remover and moisturiser as well. You can use it in your AM skincare routine as a cleanser before applying moisturiser and SPF. As for in the PM, you can use it as a first step before you double cleanse.
- Dr. Oracle’s Pimple Peeling Stick is quite convenient to use as it can treat targeted maskne with its cotton stick. And it contains tea tree extract that works wonder to heal and soothe acne.
Takeaway: With the constant mask-wearing, you may be experiencing more breakouts than usual. Now armed with these tips and product recommendations, you can reduce the onset of breakouts. If you have any tips of your own in the fight against maskne, please share them with us in the comments.
- By Claudia Christin (@funskincare)
MBBS, Ph.D. (Dermatology)