Is your face mask stressing your skin out? Donning face masks is now the new norm, but so is “maskne” – the newest form of acne.
What is Maskne?
Also known as mascne, mask acne or acne mechanica, maskne refers to breakouts that appear wherever your skin comes into contact with your face mask. The main areas that tend to flare up are the cheeks, chin, sides of the nose, and jawline. As if having regular hormonal acne isn’t stressful enough!
What Causes It?
First of all, wearing your face mask for extended periods of time can lead to skin irritations and acne flareups, because the mask tends to trap heat, sweat, dust, sebum and moisture. This creates an ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria to grow and flourish. Secondly, living in a hot and humid climate like ours only exacerbates the situation by trapping even more moisture and causing us to sweat profusely under our masks.
Healthcare and front-line workers are more prone to getting mask acne flareups, since they are wearing tighter-fitting masks for longer hours at a time. Those with existing inflammatory skin conditions like cystic acne, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis are also more likely to report flareups or even newer forms of skin irritation.
Treatment And Prevention
Here are 6 ways to treat mask acne and nip it in the bud once and for all:
1. Double Cleanse
Double cleansing first with an oil-based cleanser, followed by a gentle liquid or cream-based cleanser helps to break down both oil-soluble layers (like makeup and sunscreen) and water-soluble debris (like sweat and dust particles). By double cleansing regularly, you will be able to prevent clogged pores and acne typically caused by a cumulative buildup of sebum and grime over time.
For a thorough oil cleanse and facial massage, we love Shu Uemura’s trusty Anti/Oxi+ Pollutant & Dullness Clarifying Cleansing Oil (450ml, RM327) because it’s gentle, effective and is able to remove all traces of waterproof makeup!
And if you need a little help looking for a gentle and effective water-based cleanser, check out our top 10 picks for organic facial cleansers here.
2. Don’t Skip The Moisturizer!
Moisturizing consistently is key when it comes to protecting your skin and keeping dryness and irritation at bay. At the same time, it’s important to stick to ingredients that work best for you, and to avoid those that will irritate your skin (like artificial fragrances and dyes). Take a look at some of our favourite lightweight and non-greasy moisturizers here.
3. Exfoliate Regularly
Exfoliating at least two times a week can help to slough away dead skin cells, and eliminate the buildup of sebum, dust and impurities that can ultimately lead to clogged pores and the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria. When it comes to exfoliation, you have two choices. You can either opt for a physical exfoliation or a chemical one using low level alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs).
For the former, keep it gentle and avoid harsh scrubs that contain microbeads. Scrubs that are too harsh can actually do more harm than good by damaging the delicate pH balance and moisture barrier of your skin. Instead, opt for a soft 100% cotton muslin cloth and gently buff away onto damp skin using small circular motions.
For chemical exfoliants, we recommend incorporating it gradually in small doses into your skincare routine. That way, you can test to see if it works for your skin, and increase the dosage and frequency from there. You can either apply it in the form of a toner, or incorporate it into your double cleansing routine in the form of an AHA/BHA-based cleanser. Hada Labo and COSRX both offer effective and affordable options for this.
4. Less Is More To Prevent Maskne
For the time being, go easy on the cosmetics. Dermatologists recommend using less to no makeup on the lower regions of the face, and instead opt for skincare products that can protect and moisturize the skin. Wearing a thick layer of foundation under your mask can increase the likelihood of clogged pores and acne breakouts. Can’t live home without makeup? Try focusing on the eyes and experimenting with different eye makeup looks instead!
5. SOS Treatment For Maskne
Prevention is better than cure, but what happens when you get the odd breakout here and there? Here are our favourite SOS spot treatments for skincare emergencies! Aside from the ones in this list, we love the efficacy of tea tree oil in staving off acne infections. Our favourite is this gel-based one from Thursday Plantation.
6. It’s All In The Mask
At the root of it all, maskne can be avoided by opting for materials that are soft, comfortable and breathable. Dermatologists recommend choosing masks made of 100% cotton as it offers both protection and some ventilation for your skin. Another tip is to wash your masks frequently, and to not use disposable masks more than once. It’s also important to use only gentle fragrance-free detergents to wash your masks to avoid potential skin irritations.
Check out these pretty Kelantanese batik face masks by this zero-waste homegrown brand – The Little Clothing Shop.