Wearing a face mask is one of the best and simplest ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, this social responsibility comes with an unfortunate personal cost. A spike in skin issues such as pimples and rashes has been connected to the use of masks. Bacteria thrives in moist, warm environments—exactly like inside a piece of fabric that traps your breath and sweat directly against your skin.
Maskne, a portmanteau of ‘mask’ and ‘acne’, is acne and irritation from wearing a mask. This isn’t anything new, though. Acne mechanica, a form of acne triggered by excessive heat, pressure, or rubbing of the skin, is common among those who frequently wear head or face gear in sweaty conditions (think athletes and soldiers). Friction against the skin causes inflammation, which leads to clogged pores and, if left ignored, can cause deep acne cysts. Pair this with the summer heat and humidity, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a breakout.
While wearing masks can be an inconvenience, please don’t use mask-induced acne as an excuse to leave them at home. Combined with the frequent use of hand sanitizer (which, let’s be honest, should have been normalized way before the coronavirus era—we skincare junkies have avoided touching our faces with unsanitized hands before it was cool!), it’s the least we can do to fulfill our duties as socially responsible citizens. Getting zits is not the end of the world, but a highly infectious and deadly virus ending mankind definitely is. Keep reading to learn more about maskne prevention, and how to cure it if you already have it.
- Opt for 100% cotton and practice good mask hygiene
Dermatologists recommend 100% cotton fabric masks due to their lightness and excellent breathability. Conventional nonwoven fabric face masks, while light in weight, have poor breathability, much like how polyester and nylon fabrics have been pinpointed as the culprits responsible for backne (back acne—yes, acne is such a complex topic that there’s more than one of these) in athletes.
Due to the reusable nature of cotton fabric masks, you’ll need to keep them clean by washing them frequently with a mild soap—you don’t want all of that oil and bacteria to linger and get reapplied to your skin. Invest in multiple masks so that you can wash them daily and use them on rotation.
- Simplify your skincare routine
In critical times like these, less is more. Masks will intensify product delivery to your skin, much like how wearing socks to bed after applying a heavy moisturiser has proven to be a highly effective treatment for dry, cracked feet. While we do want to reap the maximum benefits of our skincare, intensifying the delivery of active ingredients like acids or retinol can be highly irritating. Instead, leave the active ingredients for your PM routine.
In the AM, a gentle cleanser, a simple moisturizer, and sunscreen is more than enough. Moisturizer is particularly important because it reduces mask friction (which is essentially how chafing cream works). Opt for soothing, non-comedogenic products with hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Do avoid oils, which carry the risk of clogging pores.
Last but not least, do not over-wash your face! You might be washing it three to four times a day in an attempt to prevent breakouts, but this is counterintuitive because over-washing dries the skin, causing it to produce more oil, which leads to … you guessed it, more breakouts. We know, we know! It’s a horrifying cycle. If you’re looking for something that deep cleans without drying out the skin, we recommend trying our new Hydrating Cleansing Gel.
- Wear less makeup
Eliminating anything that increases the risk of irritation and clogged pores is the key to keeping your skin clear and healthy. Plus, no one’s going to see your artwork under that mask! Thankfully, there are plenty of eye-catching, patterned cotton masks on the market for you to choose from, which offers you the chance to express yourself in fun, different ways.
- Use the right treatments
Classic spot treatments like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are still great options, but remember that masks will intensify their effects too. Therefore, we recommend using these only at night. In the daytime, opt for hydrocolloid pimple patches instead. Apart from being super effective at drying out pimples, these also reduce the friction between mask and blemish.
To get rid of acne scarring, we recommend using products containing copper peptide, such as our Copper Peptide Anti-Aging Mask, which fades scars, reduces pigmentation, and repairs damaged skin.
- Opt for retinol
Dermatologists have sworn by retinol as a key acne-fighting ingredient for years despite its irritation potential. To minimise inflammation, try the sandwich method: layer moisturizer, then retinol, then moisturizer to dilute it. If you’re new to retinol, ease it into your routine by starting with a low concentration and use it on alternate nights to see how your skin reacts.
Since retinol increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, only use it at night and always wear sunscreen during daytime. If you’re using a classic spot treatment like the ones mentioned previously, use them on alternate nights. Remember not to get overzealous when fighting maskne. Be patient and be consistent—you’ll get through this!
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