Before Covid: MACne (acne caused by MAC makeup). After Covid: MASKne (acne caused by masks).
Wearing a mask helps keep you and others healthy when it comes to covid-19. But it can have a harmful effect on your face, leading to acne and skin irritations. Breakouts caused by masks have become so prominent that the word “MASKne” has even been added to the Urban Dictionary.
Maskne: (noun) Acne across the lower half of the face from long hours of mask wearing during Covid-19. “My face is covered in maskne blemishes.”
Why masks cause irritation
Many people will see irritation from the physical friction or pressure of the material on their skin, while others will see acne pop up.
Because masks tend to move while we’re talking, we’re continually touching our faces to adjust them, leaving behind dirt or other irritants on our skin. Even the simple act of breathing with a mask causes acne, because when we breathe or talk into the masks, we increase moisture. This can result in an overgrowth of bacteria, which can create acne, inflamed hair follicles and a flare-up of rosacea.
To avoid blemishes, you need to alter your skin care routine and consider what kind of mask you are wearing.
Change your skin care and makeup routine
Keeping clean is the most important thing you can do to prevent breakouts.
To treat acne and blemishes caused by the masks, try skin care products containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or sulfur.
So, before you pop that mask onto your face, wash with a gentle cleanser such as Hydrating Wash, which contains the anti-inflammatory ingredient niacinamide. Niacinamide is a B vitamin that supports the skin barrier by helping with ceramide production — proteins that retain water inside the skin. It also helps regulate the amount of oil produced by the acne-forming unit within the skin. Niacinamide is also found in Mandelic Serum and EltaMD UV Clear untinted.
Next, apply a toner with Salicylic acid like Purifying Toner, which contains a beta-hydroxy acid that keep your pores clean.
Lastly, tackle the breakouts that the mask may be causing by flipping your AM/PM routine and applying Clearing Gel/benzoyl peroxide every morning before putting your mask on. Benzoyl peroxide is a topical bactericidal that decreases levels of the bacteria that worsen inflammation on your skin. Combined with sulfur as spot treatment, it reduces redness and inflammation. The combination is slightly more effective than benzoyl peroxide alone for the treatment of acne lesions; however, it can be very drying, so we recommend using Overnight Treatment/benzoyl peroxide + sulfur as a spot treatment only.
Masks trap moisture, sweat, oil and dirt close to our skin. Avoid wearing makeup to the area under your mask, which causes acne when mixed with sweat by forcing dirt and bacteria in the pores. Think of all the money you will save on powder, concealer and lipstick by skipping makeup on this area! If you absolutely can’t skip makeup under your mask, remove it as soon as possible after your get home by following a second application of the cleanse/tone/benzoyl peroxide routine in order to deep clean your pores.
Consider the fabric of your mask
The fabric of face mask you choose is also important, especially if you’re prone to acne.
N95 masks, which can filter out more than 95 percent of small particles that could contain viruses, are considered essential protection for health-care workers. When fitted correctly, they create a tight seal around the nose and mouth, so healthcare workers who wear these masks for long hours often experience pressure ulcers and irritant rashes in addition to breakouts. Surgical masks don’t form the same kind of tight-fitting seal, so they don’t do as much damage to your face, but they still trap acne-causing sweat and oils.
When it comes to acne-prone skin, try to find a mask in a breathable material such as cotton, which is less irritating than heavier, more airtight fabrics that can increase facial sweating. The effectiveness of cloth masks depends on the material, the fit and the number and kind of layers. Look at these cute cloth options from Old Navy!
Silk is another great option, because it has antimicrobial properties and has been shown to be better for people with sensitive skin. However, silk masks aren’t as effective at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus because they tend to gap and the fabric is porous, so smaller droplets may be able to get through. If you do go for a silk mask, the best silk option is a mask with a cotton-lined layer.
Washing your mask
Regardless of the material, the mask needs to be cleaned regularly, both to protect yourself from the virus and from exacerbating acne breakouts. Just like with pillowcase and hats/caps, the buildup of bacteria, sweating, makeup, lip balm and natural oils can worsen acne and skin irritation when pressed against your skin. For this reason, you should start every day with a clean mask, so go ahead and buy one of those 10-packs from Old Navy to make sure you have enough masks to get through to your next load of laundry. Keep a fresh one in your purse and your car stored in a clean ziplock bag so you are always prepared.
When washing your cotton mask, choose a gentle detergent free from acne-causing additives like fragrances and dyes, and use the hottest water possible. Adding a capful of bleach alternative to the hot water will offer an extra boost of clean. Use the highest heat setting to dry, and leave it in the dryer until the mask is completely dry.