If your face mask is giving you maskne, you're not alone. Here's how to handle it

If your face mask is giving you maskne, you're not alone. Here's how to handle it

Don't ditch the mask because it breaks out your skin, that's just a rash decision.
Updated 22 Oct, 2020

The rapid speed with which places have started opening up again, you'd think the pandemic is over.

Bee Tee Dubs, it's not.

Having a fair share of health issues, an immunocompromised mom and a germaphobe dad, the lockdown was strict at my place; all of us worked from home, stayed to ourselves and tried to remind ourselves that time will fly by - it didn't.

When the lockdown eased, with offices opening up and requiring employees to return, we still held up to many of the rules attached to staying safe. Social distancing, no useless contact and of course, masking up. Just gonna throw it out there, wear your masks people, it's good for you and it's good for people around you.

From no masks to wearing masks daily, I noticed that my skin would start feeling irritated the moment I'd wear my mask. Previously I had noticed the same but wearing it for only an hour or two while getting groceries, I never bothered to delve into the matter. But now, the issue became alarming, because my skin started breaking out. Intensely. And being someone with generally good skin, this struck a nerve.

Speaking to those around me and doing a hefty amount of research, I discovered maskne is a thing and while it definitely broke my heart (and broke me out!), it can be fixed!

Why does it happen?

It's simple, really. Mask on skin, mask cover skin, mask clog skin. Especially during the day when it's hot and humid, with your skin already sweating up a storm (because for some reason, it's still not getting chilly in the day!), it's a breeding ground for bacteria.

Dermatologist Harry Dao from Loma Linda University Health, confirms this statement, saying, "Masks impose heat, friction and occlusion on the skin and when combined with a moist environment from breathing, talking or sweating, this is a recipe for breakouts.”

“Pores get clogged and can become pimples or acne cysts. On top of that, the prolonged occlusion, heat and sweat can cause the skin to become dry, itchy and raw.”

Several doctors and dermatologists will let you know about the skin damage health care workers and essential workers have gone through due to wearing masks for so long. Shout out to all those amazing front liners working the hardest to thwart this pandemic!

But don't worry, it is possible to reduce how much maskne you get and also it can be treated and removed from your life! So in case you had the audacity of using it as an excuse to not wear a mask, especially when you see all those health care and essential workers doing whatever it takes to make your lives easy, think again!

Cleanse your face

The basic rule to washing your face is once in the morning, once at night and in the middle whenever it's too sweaty - when you're working out or out in the heat for long.

So before you put your mask on or whenever you return from a long day with said mask, make sure you cleanse!

Bye bye makeup

Your pores are already at the risk of clogging up in the mask, why add to that?

This is the time to let your skin breathe as much as possible and while I wish I could tell you mineral based products could work, I'd much rather you skip it all. Don't worry! No one can see your face behind the mask anyway! They also can't see the amazing lipstick I got... I mean the amazing lipstick you got...

A lightweight moisturiser is your friend

No matter where the world takes me, I will never stop saying hydrate yo'self! And a mild moisturiser with SPF is all you need under your mask to make sure you're taken care of.

A lightweight moisturiser (preferably fragrance free) will make sure there's a protective barrier on your skin to help control clogging and also reduce any friction between you and the mask (especially if your skin is dry) - preventing irritation.

Look out for the following ingredients to get the best benefits:

  • Any products with hyaluronic acid are your BFF
  • Niacinamide (with zinc is a major plus)
  • Aloe
  • Ceramides
  • Azelaic acid
  • Peptides (especially copper peptides)

Avoid harsh ingredients

You may have some king ingredients that have done wonders for your skin but in these times, it's best to shelf (or refrigerate) most of them and they may end up doing more harm than good.

An example is retinol, one of the best products for plumping up your skin, boosting collagen and - in the regular world - being a great warrior against acne. But when it comes to maskne, this is way too strong a product and could result in further irritation of the skin and intense amounts of dryness/flakiness.

Similarly, here are some ingredients that, with a heavy heart, I need you to turn away from:

  • Retinoids
  • More than 2% leave-on salicylic acid (it's fine in cleansers)
  • Over 10% Vit C concentrates (this one hurts me most but just take supplements for now please)
  • Glycolic acid (unless at night)
  • Lactic acid
  • Basically all Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • Hydroquinone

Double down the night routine

Night time is the best time for skincare; your body is resting up and your skin is repairing itself, so let's give it all the help we can get. Where we've downsized our day routine to a moisturiser with SPF, we can take it up a notch with the night regime. As long as you make sure the products are geared up towards calming down the skin and repairing damage done throughout the day.

Do that double cleanse, pack on a serum, slather on that restorative night cream and don't shy away from some acne friendly treatments. Oh, and sheet masks will do wonders. That's right, it's all about masks now.

Keep yourself healthy overall

Trust me, I get it. We have no idea what's in store for this world. Covid cases are on the rise again and at this point, it's very easy to just emulate the fairy godmother from Shrek and demand something deep fried and smothered in chocolate. But you know as well as I do what processed foods and sugars can do for your skin and health, despite what they do for your emotions.

While it's okay to treat yourself a little every now and then... and I repeat every now and then... it's important you're taking all those good nutrients to keep you healthy.

Eat your greens, take good supplements, get plenty rest and squeeze some exercise in. Healthy you results healthy skin!

And again, maskne is no excuse to ditch the mask

As you may have heard over the last few months - and if shockingly enough you didn't, hear it now - a mask is your first line of defence against Covid-19. If the choice is between acne breakouts (that will be hidden behind your mask) and keeping your loved ones alive and safe, I hope you make the right decision.


Ubaid Oct 22, 2020 01:20pm
Buy masks, having hydrophilic treated inner layer to avoid itching or maskne, easily available on e-marketplaces or try medbarrier face masks.
M. Saeed Oct 22, 2020 03:18pm
Some skins are allergic to mask material. Experiments with home made masks of safe materials can give the safe answers.
MB Oct 22, 2020 04:02pm
if you wear a pure cotton mask and wash it frequently you can avoid all these products
sarang Oct 23, 2020 12:32pm
Very good article