Maskne: 5 Ways to Keep Your Face Mask from Causing Breakouts

Maskne – the latest in COVID colloquialisms – refers to breakouts, pimples and skin irritation from your face mask. Since face masks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, what better time for a quick 101 on your skin type and the care you need? Here are 5 ways you can keep yours from causing breakouts so long as we need to wear ’em (spoiler – it’s going to be a while).

These 5 simple steps (along with sanitizer) will be your best friend in staying clear and confident during COVID.

1. Materials Matter – Cop Cotton, Seek Silk

Formally known as acne mechanica, Maskne results from contact friction against the skin, after which sweat and sebaceous oils form to cause blemishes. It’s not always related to actual acne, though, and the best part is that it’s always treatable.

Wearing a mask for extended periods of time means our skin has to agree with it. Most of the blue disposable cloth masks you see come treated with formaldehyde as a sanitization precaution and is the culprit behind many maskne-related issues. A lot of people are allergic to formaldehyde, though may not realize it: formaldehyde can worsen pre-existing skin conditions also, like rosacea, eczema, or sensitivity to cold/dry air or humidity.

Vida’s Protective Mask ($10, shown in Pink)

Dermatologists agree that cotton or light silk masks are the best options available in terms of effectiveness, hygiene, and skin health. Masks from Vida, FaceLife, and Slip (the pillowcase brand – cozy!) are all fantastic investments on the market that your face will thank you in dividends for.

2. Keep It Clean

Another reason for cotton masks is for washing them. Our face is continuously exuding oils, dirt, and other grime that our masks will absorb like a Bounty towel. Having that hang on your face all day is not conducive to keeping you feeling and looking your freshest, so wash your mask regularly with a gentle detergent, regardless of what option you end up sticking with.

All Comes Out In The Wash: keeping fresh fabrics on your face will wick away whatever your skin doesn’t need in/on it.

Disposable masks are great for short periods or ensuring you have a clean mask any time you need one, but make sure you’re getting one that is easy on your skin (i.e. free of formaldehyde) like this pack of 50 from Svafereak.

3. Clear Up with Daily Cleanser

Switching up your skincare routine to accommodate the different elements a mask imposes (i.e. increased oils, sweat, etc.) is an important step. The right cleanser will eliminate stubborn blackheads and pimples you may have found popping up after wearing your mask (as you should be doing!) and set the tone for day-to-day moisturization.

Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Acne Wash ($10)

Shaving, for those of us that do, can be an extra nightmare with a mask as ingrown hairs and irritation may be more pronounced or susceptible with a mask. I’ve had amazing results with natural products like Salt Spring Soapworks’ Aloe Seaweed Shave Balm in combination with my skincare routine.

For daily cleansers, avoid any containing SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and look for those with light salicylic acid, like the Pink Grapefruit Acne Cleanser from Neutrogena, CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, or Saltspring Soapworks’ Mandarin Rosehip Face Cleanser. All of these are great options for daily use that will leave your face smooth and supple.

The Mandarin Rosehip Face Cleanser from Saltspring Soapworks ($24.50) is an all-natural locally-made daily cleanser that is super soothing for irritated, dried-out skin.

Spot treatments work amazing for small, focused areas that insist on persisting. Over-the-counter drugstore products work wonders for acne mechanica, like La-Roche Pousay’s Effaclar Adapalene creme, Differin Gel Acne Treatment, or Proactiv’s Emergency Blemish Relief.

4. Moisturize for the Mask

Locking in hydration is key to keep your pores happy. Since a mask is a closed environment on top of your face, breathability is a must so you’ll want to skip oil-based moisturizers altogether, as this can further clog pores and persist problems. A moisturizer matched to your skin type is magical.

PCA Skin’s Clearskin Moisturizer ($49) is a hyaluronic-based moisturizer durable enough to protect against prolonged skin contact while revitalizing irritated skin.

Look for something with hyaluronic acid after washing to assist your skin’s natural moisture barrier while it’s covered under a mask. Products like Neutrogena’s Gel-Boost Cream, CeraVe Moisturizer, or PCA Skin Clearskin are fantastic fixes for all-day nourishment to have your dermal deities dancing.

5. Fresh Air, like Future said

“I’mma need, Fresh Air”

So long as you’re in the right environment of course – make sure you’re getting enough out-of-mask time also. Fresh air and exercise are two timeless bits of bodily wisdom that certainly apply to quarantine, as well as to your skin. Getting blood flow through what is your body’s largest organ keeps your blood oxygenated, enabling your body to shed toxins regularly. As always, inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit.

Find your mask-free time safely, and savor that simple luxury!

Have you had a problem with skin irritation from masks? What’s your quarantine skincare routine like? Have you tried any of the products we listed? Let us know in the comments!