How to Deal with Maskne (aka Mask Acne)

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All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.

In today’s new normal, maskne is a breakout type that came out of nowhere. I collected a bunch of maskne advice given by derms + estheticians in articles and tested it out over the last month. This updated post reflects what’s helped me make makne no big deal.

Sensitive skin can’t handle what tougher (more resilient) skin can. Advice out there often forgets that, which is why I’ve written this post. But I’m sure non-sensitive skin could benefit too!

If you found some other ways, let me know!

Acne caused by face masks

How Would Maskne Show Itself?

  • Little white bumps – found on chinstrap line, bridge of the nose, along cheeks. (Rub zones)
  • Acne somewhere along mask zone.
Acne from wearing face mask

How to Prevent + Deal with Maskne

1. Wash Your Mask Frequently. If You Can’t, Spray It with Alcohol Before Reusing.

This one change reduced my maskne by a lot. Your mask can leave oils, makeup residue, or bacteria on the material. Rewearing will rub that across your skin. A lot of articles are saying to wash your mask daily. I’ve gotten away with every other use, but after each day’s use does help more!

2. Gently Exfoliate 1ce a Week

I’ve found a very gentle exfoliator has helped a lot to calm maskne. To be honest, I only do it when I start seeing the maskne form + it has calmed them right back down. I haven’t done it, but a weekly exfoliation would probably be a good preventative. (I just don’t like exfoliating more than I have to. haha)

My go-to is the Naturopathica Pumpkin Purifying Enzyme Peel ($58). It has a super gentle exfoliation through lactic acid + Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Fruit Ferment. Pumpkin is said to be a very mild retinoic acid sub while also providing antioxidants. My skin loves it! It sounds expensive, but a jar lasts me 4-6mos with targeted use across breakout zones; meaning it costs me $10-15 a month.

3. Wash Your Face After Wearing a Mask

Naturally, after washing your hands.

I’ve tested washing after mask use + it does feel nice, to be honest. Especially if I was out in the heat. But on days I put on + off the mask a couple of times, I’ll make a judgment call for the sake of not washing my face too often.

Face breaking out from mask

The mask rubbing against your skin can remove oils + cause your skin to produce more to replace the loss. With warm weather, it may trap sweat. Washing off sweat + excess oil is a plus.

The gentler the cleanser better since this is increasing washing frequency. My favorite is the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for its ceramides that help repair our skin barrier from mask rub + washing.

If your cleanser has actives, be mindful of that. You could demote it to alternating day use or less, if you really want to keep using it. Let your skin tell you what it can handle. Definitely demote it if it has any exfoliating qualities. Keep that exfoliating frequency low.

4. Moisturize Before + After Using a Mask

Are COVID masks causing pimples? Maskne exists, but it's not a big deal.

The friction of the mask against our skin can cause irritation. Moisturizing can help add a little protection.

Ones with anti-inflammatory or calming ingredients are a good pick. Additionally, moisturizers that strengthen or repair our skin barrier are a plus. Skin barrier strengthening is already something great for sensitive skin. You should have that anyway!

Some ingredients you’ll want to lean to are: ceramides + squalane. I would suggest meadowfoam seed oil, safflower seed oil, sunflower seed oil may also help. I like using One Love Organics Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum ($39) for its skin barrier assisting oils + very calming scent. I’ve had it calm my skin, too.

5. Switch to a Softer Reusable Mask

I switched to all reusable masks with a slip in filter + found the softer material does help! They’re so easy to clean + are so much greener than the throwaways. Plus, I kinda like the excuse of matching my mask with my outfit.

This was the most useful mask fabric advice I found:

“The best cloth option for your skin is a mask made from silk or silk-lined materials…[But, this] fabric is porous, so smaller droplets may be able to get through. [Dr.] Mamelak suggests looking for silk masks that include multiple layers with filters in between.

…If you can’t snag a silk mask, try to find one with layers of breathable material such as cotton, which would be less irritating than heavier, more airtight fabrics that can increase facial sweating”

Wearing a mask can irritate your face or make it break out. Here’s what to do about ‘maskne.’ with contributions from dermatologist Dr. Dana Marshall and physicians assistant LeighAnne McGill from Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill, The Washington Post.
Skin breakouts from wearing masks

6. Use Pimple Patches Under Your Mask to Protect a Breakout

Bumped into this advice! It doesn’t hurt to protect a pimple from mask rub while treating it during the day.

Maskne treatment is the same as typical acne, while emphasizing moisturizing (which is true for sensitive skin anyway).

7. FYI – Consider Pausing Retinol Where Your Mask Sits

If you’re using retinol, the sensitizing aspect of it might amplify mask rub irritation. Consider pausing retinol, if that’s true for you.

8. FYI – Makeup + Mask May Clog Pores

The advice out there is to either skip make-up under your mask, since no one will see, or be sure to cleanse after.

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