Just putting it out there in case you hadn't clocked it - Maskne is a combination of the words ‘mask’ and ‘acne’. You might think it's a term I've just invented, but check out this observational study published last month. Maskne is a thing.
Coined during 2020, as the covid pandemic swept the world, the definition of 'maskne' covers skin problems that many of us have been struggling with as a result of wearing face masks every day.
The term is non specific when it comes to exactly which skin conditions are included. From something as simple as a few extra spots, to the specific development of severe acne in the area of your face where the mask sits. It also refers to other facial skin irritations such as rashes or reddening like rosacea.
Maskne can be an entirely new skin complaint for you, or it might be that your pre-existing skin conditions are made worse by having to wear a mask. Whatever your situation, I'm keen to help you understand why it's happening and share some insights into how you can reduce the problem.
Most Common Forms of Maskne
- Acne: Acne flares up when our pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, debris and dirt. It can manifest as blackheads, raised pimples or whiteheads close to the skin's surface
- Contact dermatitis: This form of dermatitis typically occurs when we’re allergic or sensitive to the fabric our mask is made out of. You may notice irritation in the form of a red rash or blisters
- Chapped Lips: Face masks trap the warm moisture as we exhale, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Breathing through our mouths whilst wearing a face mask can lead to chapped lips and other dry ailments
- Folliculitis: If the hair follicles beneath our mask become infected, we might notice bumps that look like a breakout of acne breakout. This can be accompanied by painful blocked pores or localised itching
- Rosacea: For anybody already suffering from the skin condition rosacea, wearing a mask can cause flare-ups. This may lead to execessive redness and irritation, particularly around your cheeks and nose
What Causes Maskne?
Wearing a mask for an extended period of time inevitably creates heat and friction, particularly for the sensitive skin around our mouths, nose and chin. The moisture we generate by breathing, can't help but become trapped beneath the mask, and it's this humidity that further irritates our skin.
You might notice your chin and cheeks becoming red, dry, raw or itchy. Because we're just not getting a break from it, maskne can further lead to pores becoming blocked with sweat, oil and cell debris. These clogged pores have a tendency to develop into pimples, and in serious cases cysts, acne or folliculitis.
Where Does Maskne Appear?
You might have heard something called the 'T Zone' referenced when it comes to adult acne. Our T Zone runs across the forehead and down our nose. Scientists are now talking about the O Zone in reference to maskne - this is an area directly around the mouth if you were to draw a circle. Early studies show that the onset of acne typically begins within six weeks of regularly wearing a face mask.
Ten Tips to Combat Maskne
Whilst it seems as though we'll be consigned to wearing face masks for a good few months, or perhaps even years into the future, there are steps we can take to minimise maskne and to protect our skin against its damaging impact. Here are my Top Ten Favourites to treat and reduce the risk of maskne.
1. Choose the Correct Mask
When it comes to choosing a mask to wear, it might be tempting just to pick up the closest possible, or cheapest option. If you find your skin affected by maskne, choosing the fabric of your mask is really important. Avoid masks made out of synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or rayon, as these materials can irritate the skin. Instead pick a soft, natural fabric such as cotton. You'll want your mask to fit snugly, but not excessively tightly.
2. Wash Face with a Hydrating Cleanser
It's important to remove the dirt and bacteria on your face, that may have built up throughout the day whilst wearing your mask. Rather than use drying soaps and face washes, opt for a Hydrating Cleanser like this one. With a natural blend of hemp and coconut oil, my Cleanser will leave your skin feeling soft and nourished, as opposed to that irritating, tight feeling you sometimes get from regular soaps or face washes. Cleansing your face is especially important if you've felt skin sweating whilst wearing your mask.
3. Avoid Wearing Makeup
The one positive we can all enjoy whilst working from home, is taking a break from our daily makeup ritual. If you're still in the habit of applying your regular foundation and bronzer, make it your mission to reduce usage. Foundation, concealers and powders can clog pores and prolong healing. I would also recommend avoiding lipsticks and lip balms whilst wearing your mask. You might be tempted to opt for matte, long-lasting, liquid lip products to prevent transferring lipstick all over the inside of your mask, but the lack of oils in these cosmetics is only going to exacerbate chapped lips.
As well as clogging pores, foundations have a habit of transferring onto your mask - no matter how stay-proof they're supposed to be! This can lead to a buildup of dirt and bacteria on your mask, which in turn comes into contact with your face each time you put your mask back on.
4. Wash Your Mask Regularly
I feel as though we all began 2020 diligently following coronavirus advice. Washing hands religiously, disposing of face masks after minimal usage, washing our reusable masks regularly. A year in to the pandemic and if you're anything like me, some of these habits might have slipped. I know I certainly don't wash my mask anywhere near as often as I used to. In fact, most of the time, it lives in my car glove box and only ever gets used in supermarkets and petrol stations! Note to self: wash mask more often!!
Regardless of how often you wear your mask, you should still get into the habit of washing it or replacing it regularly. Never reuse a cloth mask without washing it first. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends this should be done each time it gets dirty, or minimum every day. I'd recommend using a gentle, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent, and letting your mask dry out completely before using it again.
5. Protect Skin with Non Greasy Products Beneath Your Mask
If your skin is naturally oily, you might already avoid using thick moisturisers. If however, like me, your skin is on the dry side, applying a hydrating cream can relieve that irritated, dry feeling, so you might be more tempted to opt for something intensive.
When it comes to a summer skincare routine, choose lighter textures like matte serums and gels, rather than heavy creams, which can further clog pores. Regardless of seasons, it's still vital to protect the delicate skin beneath our masks and nourish our cells. Choosing a product like my Mattifying Day Serum, can create that protection whilst offering a light and gentle barrier between our mask and skin. I'd recommend this for use throughout the day, followed by an Intensive Serum overnight to replenish and nourish only if skin is on the dry side.
For days when you're outdoors and don't have to wear a mask, choose a natural vitamin boosting cream like this one, so that your skin can take advantage of absorbing and metabolising that all important Vitamin D.
6. Remove Your Mask Every Four Hours
If you're working in an environment that calls for wearing your mask all day, it's important to remove it throughout the day to give your skin chance to breathe. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends taking off your mask for 15 minutes every 4 hours. This will help give your skin a break. It goes without saying that mask removal should only be done in a safe environment, well away from other people. This might be on your lunch hour or whilst you're getting a short break for fresh air. If you're used to working throughout the day and don't usually make a conscious effort to break for lunch, giving your skin chance to breathe is another very good reason to pause halfway through the day.
7. Protect Dry Noses and Chapped Lips
Oil and grease aren't the only problems when it comes to maskne. Our delicate nose and lips sit right in the centre of that scientifically identified O Zone. It might be tempting to invest in a flavoured balm when you're searching for something to treat chapped skin, but although tasty, these can add to the problem. Not only do they automatically encourage you to lick your lips more often, which in turn leads to further dryness, flavourings such as cinnamon, citrus, mint, and peppermint can be especially irritating to the sensitive area around our mouths.
My Skin Saviour Balm is a fantastic, natural alternative, and suitable for use on dry psoriasis patches, elbows, knees and ears too! With botanicals including Grape Seed and Indian Frankincense, it's designed to replenish dry skin, leaving it feeling instantly soothed, nourished and revitalised
8. Avoid Touching Your Mask
This is a really difficult habit to avoid, especially if you're not used to wearing a mask all day. Our hands naturally reach towards our mask to constantly adjust it. Unfortunately this has the effect of transferring oil, dirt and other irritants to the skin on our face. Try to avoid fiddling with your mask altogether - easier said than done, I know! If you do need to adjust it, do so by the ear loops and ensure hands are clean when touching it.
9. Avoid Harsh Chemical Skin Products
I think it's fair to say our skin has had enough to deal with this year! Being kind and gentle to our cells is especially important right now. As beauty salons and spas reopen, it can be tempting to try and treat maskne with an intensive treatment such as a chemical peel or harsh exfoliant. Rather than help combat the issue of acne, treatments such as these can actually have the opposite effect and further irritate or redden skin. Avoid throwing further chemicals into the mix and instead focus on gently nourishing your skin naturally.
10. Switch Your Skincare Routine
Since so much has changed about our daily lives over the past twelve months, it's important to adapt your skincare routine accordingly. Products that perhaps suited you before, might not be ideal now. When you cover your face with a mask, certain topicals that previously felt okay, might begin to irritate your skin. If this happens cut back on skin products that contains the following:
- Salicylic acid
- Retinoids or Retinol
- Scented aftershaves
Have You Suffered From Maskne?
Since maskne is such a new condition, scientists are still conducting studies to find out more about its triggers and long term implications. I'm always keen to learn more and readers can benefit from your experience. So please do take the time to post in the comments below.
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