Wearing a mask is a sign of the times in 2020, and for a good reason: Studies have shown that face masks protect not only others, which was known from the beginning, but also the wearer from COVID-19. However, nothing is perfect, and many people find that they have developed blackheads, pimples, and other acne lesions on their chins, cheeks, and noses – the places covered by their masks. Dubbed “maskne,” this condition is not severe enough to warrant not wearing a mask, but it is annoying, and it can be uncomfortable. How to deal? Keep reading.
How and Why Maskne Develops
In teens and young adults, acne is common, and it might not come as a surprise to see it crop up at various times. If you are in your 30s and beyond, though, you might be concerned when you see new pimples showing up, particularly if you haven’t had to deal with acne in a decade or more. What is going on?
When you cover your face with a mask, all the air you breathe out is filtered through the mask material. This increases the humidity around your skin, which prompts your skin to sweat and create more sebum or skin oil. These extra oils have a hard time evaporating since the mask covers them, so they can sit in your pores and clog them, creating acne lesions.
As time goes on, your mask will also accumulate these extra oils and spread them to nearby areas. To add insult to injury, an oily mask can also chafe your skin, irritating. All these factors add up to an excellent environment for acne to develop.
The good news is that you can follow some pre- and post-steps to prevent maskne altogether. Granted, you probably cannot prevent every blackhead, whitehead, or pimple, but you can make a difference. First, start with a clean mask and clean hands.
Washing your hands and making sure you have a clean mask from the beginning will stop any transfer of already-present bacteria to your face. So, get a fresh, clean mask (not the one you wore yesterday or the one that has been hanging out in your car for a week) and only handle it with fresh, clean hands.
You’ll also want to be sure your face is clean. If you are wearing your mask all day at work or while out shopping, you do not need makeup on the lower half of your face. Yes, it might feel weird to skip the concealer, foundation, and powder below your nose, but the cosmetics can contribute to your clogged pores.
After washing your face, apply moisturizer all over (including to the areas covered by the mask) and only use makeup on the top half of your face. It is best to choose a moisturizer that contains sunscreen–after all, you do not want mask tan lines! Choose a breathable mask and that fits well.
Cotton is the right choice; currently, three layers of fabric are recommended. You might need to experiment with different shapes and styles because what is comfortable for one person might not fit well. Once you find a mask style that works well for you, stock up! Carry an extra mask or two with you.
Wearing one mask for eight hours or more is a possibility, but if you get sweaty or are merely making the mask a bit damp with your breath, you are just going to be irritating your skin. It is best to keep extras in your bag or desk so you can switch out your mask as needed throughout the day. If your mask feels moist or gets it wet or dirty, put on a new one.
Wash your mask in the regular laundry, but only when you wash a load with a laundry detergent free of dyes and fragrances. Remember that your face typically isn’t exposed to your laundry detergent much at all. The detergent you use on your shirts and pants might be too harsh for your masks. Also, you will want to skip the fabric softener.
And finally, be sure to wash your face with a gentle cleanser after wearing your mask all day. Remove all of your makeup and apply moisturizer. On your days off or when you will not need to wear a mask for an extended period, consider letting your face bear with just moisturizer so it can breathe.
Treating Maskne When It Occurs
When you do get some maskne, you can treat it even while you continue wearing your mask to keep yourself and others safe. You can use a cleanser containing salicylic acid to help treat the acne you have and prevent additional acne from forming.
If you already have dry skin, this might be more drying, so you may want to use it only every other day rather than daily – spot-treat acne lesions with an over-the-counter topical treatment that you can buy at any pharmacy. You can also ask your dermatologist for a suggestion.
Aside from the salicylic acid, you might find relief by using a product with glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, lactic acid, or retinol. In some cases, you might need a prescription for oral medications, such as an antibiotic. If your acne is not clearing up after using over-the-counter treatments, contact your family doctor or a dermatologist for further help.
In addition to the suggestions above, it is essential to look after your overall health. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, and try to keep your stress levels down. Wearing a mask might be a short- or long-term situation, so it is essential to learn ways to take care of your skin while taking care of your health and the health of those around you.