How to Prevent and Fix “Maskne”
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When 2020 got off to it’s start, who would have thought that the hottest (and in some cases mandatory) new accessory would be face coverings?
Well, here we are and with our “new normal” comes new issues, especially with prolonged mask use. If your skin has felt more irritated, clogged, or just generally lost its glow, there’s good reason for that. It’s called “maskne” and there’s real science behind why skin reacts the way it does when covered by fabric for long periods of time.
What Is Maskne?
Simply put, mask breakouts and mask induced acne, or maskne – the new shorthand for acne resulting from wearing a face mask (mask acne) – is the result of skin irritation when the hair follicles on your face get clogged by oil, dead skin cells, makeup, dirt, and bacteria. It used to be a problem primarily dealt with by athletes who wore helmets, pads, and straps, but now has transferred to those who get similar friction from a face mask.
“I’ve seen a large surge in mask-related skin complaints recently, including itching, irritation, rashes, and facial acne,” says Dr. Y. Claire Chang, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.
Heat, sweat, and moisture build up under the mask, which further aggravates those clogged pores and creates ideal conditions for bacteria growth. The pores become inflamed and you get a classic case of acne mechanica – a pimple, whiteheads, blackheads, and general inflammation in the nose, cheeks, and perioral areas.
How to Prevent Maskne
The first place to start in the battle against maskne and its resulting skin problem is with the fabric of your reusable mask or disposable mask. Advanced facial aesthetician Dr. Tara Francis suggests a fabric mask such as a linen cloth mask, 100% cotton mask ,or even a silk mask for those with acne-prone and sensitive skin. Synthetics such as polyester and nylon are less breathable, therefore harboring greater potential for facial irritation.
Also, if you’re going the reusable mask route, wash your every mask regularly.
“Wash once per day using a hypoallergenic detergent at 140-degree F heat or higher,” Francis says. “Storing your clean mask hygienically and safely is just as important.”
“I always say prevention is the best treatment,” Chang adds.
Using a gentle cleanser or a simple salicylic acid cleanser to wash away excess sweat, dirt, and bacteria is crucial to limiting potential for the irritation that leads to acne breakouts. Chang notes to stay away from harsh scrubs or physical exfoliation which can strip your otherwise healthy skin of its natural protective oils and cause further irritation.
When you do choose to exfoliate, opting for a gentle exfoliation provided by salicylic acid or glycolic acid will help rid skin of dead skin cells without stripping, leaving behind healthy skin. Following up with a moisturizer helps repair the skin barrier, while providing a protective barrier to reduce friction.
If you’re in a safe place to do so, removing your mask for 10 to 15 minutes every few hours can help let your skin breathe and slow down some of the aggravation as well.
How to Treat Maskne
The best maskne treatment is prevention, but if you’ve tried these steps and have particularly oily skin or you are still finding pesky acne, it’s time to consider stronger options.
Chang says that a benzoyl peroxide cleanser once or twice a day can treat acne by reducing inflammation and fighting acne-causing bacteria. Something like Differin Daily Deep Cleanser is an over-the-counter acne treatment that delivers 5% benzoyl peroxide, which is just as effective as 10% maximum-strength benzoyl peroxide, but with less irritation and dryness.
If you’re finding just one or two breakouts, a spot treatment might be your best bet. ZitSticka’s Killa and Hyperfade patches are small patches that adhere directly to the specific acne spot and have been shown to reduce the actual breakout and the subsequent scarring within 12 to 24 hours. These little spot treatment patches are perfect to wear under a mask for hours, since you know they’ll be hidden away.
Of course, maskne treatment follows many of the same rules as general acne treatment. What works for one person may not work for another and everyone’s face has a different tolerance to both natural and synthetic products. It’s always best to have a chat with your dermatologist when addressing new skin problems or changing up your skincare routine. (Don’t have a dermatologist? This is a great resource to help you find one.)
Products to Help Control Maskne
Incorporating a few specific products into a limited daily regimen can help keep maskne’s progression at bay and help control the issues that come with regular mask wear.
Herbivore Blue Tansy Invisible Pores Mask
Herbivore pore perfecting natural face mask is made for oily skin and acne prone skin. By using fruit enzymes, blue tansy essential oil, and aloe, it is specifically formulated to unclog pores, reduce excess oil, and soothe skin.
Differin Daily Deep Cleanser with Benzoyl Peroxide
You may have heard of Differin as the unofficial acne experts known for the prescription retinoid that really shows acne who’s boss (and can leave behind some really dry skin) but now, not only is the cream available over-the-counter in retinol form, there are complementary products to pair with it as well. (Kind of like Proactiv, but with prescription strength retinol.) This is a more traditional approach to daily skin care using benzoyl peroxide to bust up a blemish – or a few.
ACURE Incredibly Clear Mattifying Moisturizer
A readily-available, natural option that’s free from a variety of harsh chemicals and focused on general moisturizing day and night, ACURE is a vegan and cruelty-free solution ideal for oily skin or for those dealing with an inflammation or skin condition resulting from face masks.
$15 at Amazon.com
So if maskne is your major skin issue, or you found yourself dealing with acne before masks were a part of our culture, these tips and products will get your skin acclimated to this new normal we are all trying to figure out as we go. It’s just takes patience, practice, and of course, wearing your mask.
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