There’s acne, bacne, and buttne. Now thanks to COVID-19, we have “maskne.” Millions of people spend most of each day wearing a mask. If you’re in this group, you may have more zits popping up on your cheeks, nose, and chin.
In most instances, going maskless isn’t an option. So what are you to do? How can you deal with the pimples your cloth, reusable, or KN95 mask produces? Fear not — you can fight back to reclaim your clearer skin! Give these strategies a try so you don’t have to worry about unwanted blemishes when your mask comes off.
Wash Your Face
This is an easy step, but it’s more important now than ever. When you wear a mask, you can trap oil and dirt against your skin. Breathing inside the mask also creates a contained, warm, moist environment. It’s like giving acne-causing bacteria a stew pot to grow in (gross, we know!).
To keep breakouts under control, wash your face well both before and after your mask-wearing hours. Use warm water and a mild cleanser. Massage your face — don’t scrub. Carry facial wipes during the day so you can wipe your face off when you remove the mask to eat. Additionally, get prescription acne treatment, such as antibiotics, retinoids, or birth control pills, to help zap the zits that do appear.
Pro tip! If you’re prone to having dry, inflamed, or flaky skin, a mask can make it much worse. Every few days, gently wash your face with a small dab of dandruff shampoo. The ketoconazole or selenium sulfide will help calm your skin and sluff away excess yeast that can cause more problems.
Practice Good Mask Maintenance
Choosing the right mask and taking care of it can help you potentially sidestep a lot of acne issues. Masks with patterns on them can be fun, but be sure they’re right for you. Look for natural, breathable materials rather than synthetic fabrics. The latter can irritate your skin and cause more blemishes.
Your mask should fit snugly over your noise, cheeks, and chin with few-to-no gaps. Loose ones will scrape against most of your skin. Overly tight ones can also rub and aggravate some spots. That’s an invitation for more acne.
Wash reusable masks frequently in a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic soap or laundry detergent. Let them air dry. This process removes the dirt, oil, and bacteria that can build up both inside and outside your mask.
Go Makeup-Free Under the Mask
Back to your skin. When you’re wearing a mask all day at school or work, do you really need your makeup? Maybe not. Sure, you’ll take your mask off to eat, but that’s just for a few minutes. If you’re comfortable with it, ditch the makeup.
Foundation and powder build up inside your mask and can, over time, block the air circulation. Clogging the pores of your mask increases the risk that you’ll clog your own. That lack of air flow can irritate your skin. Consider letting your skin breathe.
Get Some (More) Air
Double down on giving your skin some air. Of course, be sure you can do this in a safe, socially distanced way during the day. Periodically taking your mask off releases some of the acne-causing bacteria buildup. It’s also an opportunity to use those facial wipes we talked about earlier.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), try to remove your mask for 15 minutes every 4 hours. This can be particularly helpful if you’re in a situation where you must be masked most of the day. Just be sure you wash your hands before taking your mask off.
Limit Skin Care Products
This one might sound counterproductive, but hear us out. Under ordinary circumstances, scrubby cleansers, anti-aging products (like retinol creams), and fruit acids can work well. They remove dead skin cells, revealing a fresher, healthier face. Doing so also makes your skin more sensitive, however, and sensitivity can mean more irritability.
Putting sensitive skin inside a mask that rubs and holds in dirt and bacteria sets the stage for a breakout. If your acne is getting worse, consider backing off on using these products a bit. Reducing the amount may help you keep your skin clearer for now.
Dry skin can be a big problem with masks, and moisturizing can help. You must do it correctly, though. Always apply the moisturizer you choose immediately after washing your face. Be sure the product contains either ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or dimethicone.
To minimize skin and acne problems, select a moisturizer based on your skin type. If you have oily skin (or if you’re in a hot, humid environment), use a gel. For normal-to-combo skin, opt for a lotion. With dry-to-very dry skin, apply a cream. If you break out with either a cream or lotion, the AAD says you can still use a gel moisturizer.
Masks are here to stay for a while. That doesn’t mean your “maskne” has to stick around, too. Give these strategies a try to reduce the whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules that hide behind the face covering. If you still have trouble, give your dermatologist a call and be sure to stick with the treatment they recommend.