What is Maskne? How to treat acne caused by face masks?

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find that masks are becoming an integral part of our daily lives. In these testing times, it is extremely important to wear a mask every time you venture out of your house! 

Wearing masks, however, presents a new challenge that a lot of us are facing - maskne! Let us break down what maskne is and how you can avoid it!

What is maskne?

Maskne is a form of acne resulting from the continuous wearing of masks. Maskne appears in the form of pimples, redness or any irritation occurring around the mouth, cheeks or jawline. 

If not maskne, chafing on your ears as a result of friction from the bands of the mask rubbing against your ears is also something you should take care of. Be sure to use a soothing moisturiser or lotion to protect your ears!

Why does maskne occur and How is it different from regular acne?

When you wear a mask for long durations of time, sweat, sebum and bacteria are trapped inside the mask. When masks rub against your skin, they cause irritation and damage the acid mantle (aka the skin barrier). This disruption of the skin barrier and trapping of moisture is what results in acne. This type of acne, resulting from friction, rubbing, squeezing and stretching amongst others, is called acne mechanica. It differs from other types of acne because it occurs only in the areas where the mask sits on your skin. 

How does the weather affect maskne?

If you live in a hot and humid climate, maskne is not going to be very pleasant for you. The humidity in the air adds to that being trapped by your mask. Chafing and rubbing of the mask against moist skin can also damage the skin barrier and that’s a problem. But does that mean cooler climates are better off? Not necessarily! In the colder months, our skin tends to become dry too. Now imagine something rubbing against a dry surface - equally bad! In fact, your skin might just get more irritated. Maskne in the summertime would be the result of oil, sweat and bacteria being trapped inside and maskne in the winter would be the result of friction and chafing on your dry skin.

This is an image showing the factors causing Maskne or face masks acne.

How to avoid Maskne?

So, is there something you can do to avoid maskne? Yes! Whether you are struggling with maskne or haven’t come across it yet, you probably want to follow these steps:-

1) Wash your face regularly

The primary reason maskne occurs is because of excess oil, sweat and bacteria staying on for long periods of time. So start washing your face regularly - twice a day - before and after wearing your mask. Be sure to opt for mild cleansers and stay away from harsh ingredients! You don’t want to strip away the natural oils from your skin. That won’t help either!

The Sukin Foaming Facial Cleanser is a great gentle cleanser for everyday use. Ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Chamomile, Green Tea and Witch Hazel help soothe the skin while Evening Primrose and Rosehip oils nourish and hydrate the skin. A great choice for normal to oily skin! If you have dry skin, Sukin’s Cream Cleanser is a great hydrating and nourishing option.

2) Skip makeup

Wearing too many products beneath your mask can clog your pores faster. So it’s a good idea to stick to non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) and lightweight products. The key is to let your skin breathe.

3) Apply moisturiser

Rubbing motion of any kind is damaging to your skin barrier. Moisturisers are a great way to strengthen the skin barrier and prevent dryness. If you have oily skin, you should still moisturise in order to prevent your skin from overcompensating and producing excess oil. 

Conscious Chemist’s Indulge Facial Cream with Matcha, Green Tea & Hemp Seed Oil is a great moisturiser for all skin types. It is nourishing, moisturising and rich in antioxidants.

4) Choose a Cotton mask

Cotton masks are great because they allow your skin to breathe and reduce rubbing and chafing. They are also reusable and better for the environment!  

5) Wash your mask

Treat your mask as you would your underwear - wash it frequently! The last thing you want to do is put on a dirty mask again. Also, be sure to wash your face mask with fragrance-free detergent. It is also important to bear in mind that surgical masks are not meant to be reused, cloth masks are. 

6) Get a solid skincare routine and stick to it

Taking care of your skin is very important - with or without maskne. If you’re strapped for time, keep it simple - cleanser, toner/mist and a moisturiser. Choose a mild cleanser (try to opt for a fragrance-free one, especially if you have sensitive skin), a toner to balance your skin and boost hydration, and a simple moisturiser to seal in the goodness of your toner and strengthen your skin barrier! Be sure to exfoliate twice a week too. Now more than ever, it is imperative you clear out all the dead cells and grime from your face! You can add more steps depending on how comfortable you are.

This is an image showing the different ways to prevent Maskne or Face masks acne.

How to treat maskne?  

If you already have Maskne, here are some things you can do

1) Exfoliating and Cleansing

You do not need to buy an exfoliating toner if you do not want to. Instead swap your gentle cleanser for an exfoliating one, twice to thrice a week. You can also opt for an acne-treating cleanser and ingredients such as tea tree are great at fighting pimples. 

The Ilana Organics Clarifying toner is a great option for normal to oily skin. It is suitable for sensitive skin as well and helps tackle pimples. For dry skin, their Refreshing Face Mist is a great choice. It contains nourishing and hydrating ingredients such as Camellia, Rose Water and Raspberry that help heal the skin barrier as well. 

This is an image of clarifying toner from the brand Illana Organics to treat Maskne

2) Spot Treatments

If you’re already struggling with pimples, you can make use of spot treatments containing Salicylic Acid, Sulphur or Zinc. Apply spot treatments at night, before your night cream or moisturiser.

Organic Riot’s Zap is a great spot treatment that is suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin. 

This is an image of Anti-zap or acne spot treatment serum from the brand Organic Riot to treat Maskne

3) Strengthen Your Skin Barrier

Maskne may very well be the result of a compromised skin barrier so strengthening the barrier is very important to treat maskne and to prevent it too! Here are a few ingredients that will help heal and strengthen the skin barrier -

  1. Antioxidants: antioxidants help fight free radicals in your body. Products containing niacinamide are great for strengthening the skin barrier.
  2. Hydrating Ingredients: A damaged skin barrier needs moisture so using hydrating moisturisers, lotions and creams are very important. Hydrating ingredients such as Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid help lock-in moisture and improve the elasticity of your skin too. 
  3. Soothing Ingredients: acne and redness mean your skin is irritated and needs something soothing and calming. Ingredients such as Chamomile and Calendula are gentle and soothing on the skin.

Summary

Maskne, like all acne, can be a bit difficult to deal with but the key is to understand the cause and keep a proper skincare routine. Remember, skincare is a form of self-love too! Take some time out in the day, and night, to pamper your skin! Opt for the right ingredients and clean products that you know will help your skin heal.

- By Gauri Sindhu

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