What is maskne?

Maskne is a real condition that is affecting many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maskne, technically known as acne mechanica, is acne and irritation that results from wearing a mask on your face, or any object that constantly rubs against your skin, like helmets, straps, and chin guards for athletes.

Why are we getting it?

Your mask traps and seals in hot air from breathing and talking, and creates a warm environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive. Yuck. When you wear your mask, oil, sweat, and dirt get on it and your skin. All of these factors can all clog your pores, resulting in acne. Additionally, wearing your mask creates friction and pressure because it rubs and presses on your skin, causing lots of irritation. This damages your skin’s natural barrier and causes acne and sensitivity.

What does maskne looks like?

Zion health ditching acne

Maskne looks like small red pimples and whiteheads on the surface of your skin (not deep under the skin, which is another type of acne). It appears on any of the areas that your mask touches or covers your skin, most commonly around your mouth, on your cheeks, chin, and nose, and on your jawline.

Who is at risk for maskne?

Healthcare workers and other essential workers are particularly at risk, since they need to wear tight masks for long periods of time. But anyone wearing masks can get maskne. It especially affects people who are prone to acne, have dry or oily skin, or have other skin conditions like rosacea, because wearing a mask can easily exacerbate skin issues you already have. Luckily, there are ways to treat existing maskne or keep it at bay, promoting your skin’s health.

11 tips and tricks for dealing with maskne:

  1. Cotton masks
  2. Have a stash of masks
  3. Do a skincare diet
  4. Minimize makeup
  5. Double cleanse your face
  6. Use chemical exfoliants once or twice a week
  7. Use physical exfoliants once or twice a week if you are sensitive to chemical exfoliants
  8. Hydrate and moisturize your skin
  9. Use sunscreen every day
  10. Consider your stress and diet
  11. Keep your hands clean with soap and sanitizer

1. Cotton masks.

If you can, opt for 100% cotton masks—this is a breathable fabric that allows your skin to breathe. Think of your reusable cotton mask like underwear or an undershirt—wash it often! Ideally, you should wash a mask every time you use it. When you wash your mask, use a fragrance-free detergent to avoid allergens and irritants. You can also use one-time disposable masks, though these are a less sustainable option.

2. Have a stash of masks.

Change your mask every three hours, if possible. This means you should have a mask stash! Keep your clean masks in a bag to avoid getting them dirty before using them.

3. Do a skincare diet.

This means streamlining your skincare routine and minimizing the number of products you use. Choose a few products that clean and soothe your skin, have uncomplicated, gentle ingredients, and are fragrance-free. Basically, you want your skincare to do four things: clean, treat problems, and hydrate and moisturize. When your skin is not happy, it’s not the best time to try intense products like retinols, retinoids, or strong chemical peels, because these can irritate your skin and break down its barrier even more, especially when it is in a sensitive state because of maskne. Use a gentle makeup remover to avoid irritation.

4. Minimize makeup.

Try to go without makeup or take apply it lightly. Keep your face clean and moisturized and your pores clear whenever you can, and give your skin time to breathe.

5. Double cleanse your face.

This means doing a first cleanse with a cleansing oil, micellar water, or cleansing balm—all of which break down makeup, oil, and dirt—followed by a second cleanse to wash it all away, like a gentle gel, foam, or cream cleanser. Cleanse your skin twice a day, morning and night, using lukewarm water.

6. Use chemical exfoliants once or twice a week.

Exfoliation is your friend. Chemical exfoliants—aka acids like salicylic acid and glycolic acid that resurface and brighten your skin—in products like cleansers, toners, and face masks can help treat blemishes. Tips for using exfoliants: go easy with them, use them only once or twice a week (preferably at night), and wear sunscreen during the daytime, because acids make your skin sensitive to the sun. You can also treat pimples by using spot treatments that have salicylic acid, sulfur, zinc, or benzoyl peroxide.

7. Use physical exfoliants once or twice a week if you are sensitive to chemical exfoliants.

Physical exfoliants, also known as manual exfoliants, are scrubs that have a gritty, sandy texture to them. Not all physical exfoliants are created equal—the cult-but-actually-terrible-for-your-skin St. Ives apricot scrub is a hard scrub that can create micro-tears in the skin and are not recommended for maskne; they can cause additional irritation. But scrubs that contain very fine granules will not harm your skin. When using a scrub, apply it once a week on wet skin with gentle circular motions; do not rub too hard.

8. Hydrate and moisturize your skin.

Look for lightweight water-based toners and moisturizers with beneficial ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe, and ceramides. These will soothe and balance your skin, protect and restore its natural moisture barrier, and clear your face.

9. Use sunscreen every day!

If you are working from home, the sun still comes through windows, and sunscreen also protects against blue light from devices. If you are out and about, your mask won’t keep the sun out. Sunscreen protects us from sunburn and skin damage, but it is also crucial for anti-aging and anti-acne concerns.

10. Consider your stress and diet.

Take care of your stress and diet as much as you can. Acne is also caused by these factors. Although it’s hard to imagine avoiding stress during a global pandemic, do activities that help lessen your stress. Consider cutting down on dairy and sugary products, try drinking herbal teas such as chamomile tea or mint tea, and drink lots of water!

11. Keep your hands clean with soap and sanitizer.

Keep your hands clean by washing them with soap and using hand sanitizer, and avoid touching your face. Finally, although maskne is frustrating and uncomfortable, please keep wearing masks when you are out of your home to protect yourself and others!

Recommended products for maskne from Zion Health: