Mask-wearing helps keep us and everyone else safe and healthy, but we can all agree that mask-wearing-induced skin irritation and acne (otherwise known as “maskne”) is not ideal.
The two types of maskne that people get when wearing face masks are: contact friction and breakouts. While they aren’t mutually exclusive (meaning that, unfortunately, the same person can suffer from both types simultaneously), they do have specific triggers and require different treatments.
What to do about mask-induced breakouts
Breakouts could happen for a multitude of reasons, including stress and diet, however, “the occlusive nature of a protective mask creates a humid and warm environment under the mask, which can lead to increased sebum and sweat,” explains Hadley King, M.D., “and this can lead to irritation, inflammation, and breakouts.”
The nose, mouth, and chin areas tend to be most prone to breakouts already, so if you know you have particularly sensitive skin already, it’s even more important to take extra precautions.
“I recommend washing the face before and after wearing a mask. A gentle cleanser is adequate, or if your skin is particularly oily or acne-prone, consider a cleanser with salicylic acid, which can penetrate into pores and gently exfoliate and remove sebum,” King says. “And use a light moisturizer that’s non-comedogenic, to support and bolster the skin barrier without clogging pores. Avoid heavy and potentially comedogenic products under the mask area.”
Another tip is to include spot-treating in your nightly skincare routine on areas that need it. Focus on the areas that are affected by masks by applying exfoliating and oil-balancing ingredients such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, green tea, niacinamide, and retinol. You can be selective with topical treatments, which makes regular spot-treating particularly helpful for people who have dry skin elsewhere.
What to do about mask-induced skin irritation
According to King, “any areas that are tight or rubbing can irritate the skin. Minimize this as much as possible by making sure the areas that contact your skin are smooth and not abrasive and not tighter than necessary to achieve a good seal.” If you notice that your skin is irritated once you take off your mask, “wash the area with water and a gentle cleanser, and apply an ointment,” she adds.
Unfortunately, irritation may occur no matter how many precautions are taken, so the best thing to do is to soothe it as much as you can. Some ingredients that have great soothing properties are aloe vera, colloidal oat, oat oil, and ceramides and fatty acids.