2020 has drastically changed our day-to-day lives, and wearing face masks has become an integral part of our “new normal.
Face masks can help prevent us from getting sick, and also allow us to be responsible so that we protect the people around us.
But the thing about face masks is that they can be harsh on your skin when wearing all day every day, often resulting in acne breakouts, rashes, and itchiness.
Let’s take a look at 2020’s new buzzword, “maskne” (mask acne), why we get it, other skincare problems from wearing a mask, and how we can prevent or treat them to keep your skin happy and healthy.
What is "maskne"?
Maskne or mask acne is a skin condition that's been rising in popularity throughout 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic began.
Maskne is the effect of mask-wearing for extended periods of time.
Scientifically, the condition is called acne mechanica, which is usually caused by friction in the face, leading to clogged pores, pimples and sometimes even deep acne cysts.
Maskne shouldn't be an excuse to not wear a face mask, and there are plenty of ways to reduce future breakouts and look after existing ones.
What causes maskne breakouts?
Since wearing a face mask has become a normal part of our lives, we have to accept that one way or another we could have maskne on our faces.
There are two fundamental causes of maskne breakouts:
Friction between your face and the face mask
If you spend a lot of time outside your home, chances are that you're wearing your mask for the majority of the day.
Wearing your mask for too long tends to disrupt the surface of your skin, which can cause your pores to be clogged.
The friction from the mask can also have an abrasive effect, especially on sensitive skin - over time, this can cause rashes and skin inflammation.
Humidity and occlusion
When using face masks that aren't as breathable, the tendency is an increased temperature on the lower half of your face resulting in sweat and humidity underneath the mask.
The overproduction of oils from facial sweat can attract dirt and trap it in the pores of the skin resulting in pimples or acne.
Likewise, our own breathing under the mask contributes to the warmth that may be a breeding ground for bacteria.
How do I reduce maskne occurrence?
Exercise proper mask hygiene
Since we really can't get away without wearing masks or other forms of face coverings, we have to ensure that we practice proper hygiene with our masks as well.
Just as we don't wear the same set of clothes or underwear every day, we should be treating masks the same way. Even if you’ve only worn it for an hour or two, it’s best not to rewear the next day.
You may opt to wear over-the-counter disposable masks, so you could have a fresh new mask every day, or having a set of washable, reusable masks.
For reusable masks, it's ideal that they are washed after every day of use, and an alternate mask is worn on the next day.
Wash your face every day
With dirt and oils being trapped under your masks, not being able to wash your face would clog your pores and cause breakouts.
Incorporate the use of a gentle cleanser as a part of your skincare routine to cleanse off the excess oil buildup on your skin.
While excess moisture from oils and sweat isn't very ideal for proper facial skincare, moisturising properly can reap many benefits to prevent maskne.
Applying a non-comedogenic (non-pore blocking) moisturiser keeps your skin hydrated and also serves to protect your skin's surface from face mask friction.
Ensure that the moisturiser being used is oil-free and fragrance-free to avoid unwanted oils chemicals that can be harsh to sensitive skin.
Some ingredients to look for are hyaluronic acid and ceramide; these are both protective ingredients that help lessen skin irritation, and both have hydrating properties which are especially suitable for sensitive skin.
Some dermatologists recommend the use of moisturiser before wearing a mask and after removing them at the end of the day.
Avoid using makeup
We get that some people just can't leave the house without putting some makeup on, but being under a face mask, makeup would have the tendency to clog pores.
If really inevitable, ensure that the products you apply to your face are labelled as non-comedogenic to avoid blemishes and breakouts especially if you have acne-prone skin. Or, just apply makeup to the upper part of the face which isn’t covered by a mask.
Take a mask break
One of the downsides of wearing a mask the whole day is that it's difficult for your skin to breathe properly, which we have discussed to cause skin issues and problems.
When wearing face masks for extended periods of time, try to find a few minutes every few hours where you can remove your mask for a bit.
When you remove your masks, be responsible enough to only do it when it's safe and you are alone; such as in your bedroom, outdoors when no people are near you, or inside your car if you're driving alone.
Be wary of your skincare products
Some skincare products on its own can cause more harm than good to your face, which usually is more sensitive than the skin on other parts of your body.
Applying skin care products that have harsh chemical ingredients can compromise the skin barrier of your face, which can be further aggravated by the friction of using face masks.
Examples of the most common ingredients to watch out for are retinol, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide.
The ingredients mentioned are helpful as a spot treatment, but in higher concentrations may increase the sensitivity of your skin, leading to some adverse skin conditions. Be mindful when using these ingredients, especially if treating the acne or pimples.
Sleep with skincare in mind
Having a proper skincare routine right before sleeping would have significant benefits to your skin's health regardless of skin type.
But, skincare during sleep doesn't end in just cleansing your face or applying products, it also extends to your bedroom setup.
Using a high-quality silk pillowcase with your pillows, such as the Ecosa Silk Pillowcase, is also a great way to prevent breakouts as it's a natural fibre that's known to be non-comedogenic.
Cotton pillowcases tend to absorb your skincare, so it’s spending less time on your face. Silk is a great alternative as it will not absorb anything from your face, and feels soothing and silky soft on irritated skin.
Some companies are even turning to making face masks out of silk because the material is so good for your skin. If you find cloth masks too irritating or thick and uncomfortable to breathe, try a silk face mask instead.
Getting flare ups, breakouts, and maskne is all a part of wearing masks, and all we can do is to take proactive steps in how we look after our skin so they don't occur.
While our skin may be affected, there are many treatment routes and remedies that we can take to solve our skin conditions. If you have major concerns, please see a dermatologist.
Face masks are an important part of our lives now, and allow us to protect both ourselves and the people around us, so it’s vital to keep wearing them despite the effects of maskne.