How To Prevent & Treat ‘Maskne’ — Acne Caused By Wearing A Face Mask

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woman wearing a mask outside in city
Health And Wellness

"Maskne," or acne and irritation from wearing a mask, is a thing.

In fact, it is enough of a thing that the COVID-19 task force at the American Academy of Dermatology has taken the time to describe it and make recommendations for dealing with it.

Yes, getting acne from your mask is a real problem, especially for those already prone to outbreaks and skin irritation.

The only thing we have to compare it to from the past is people who have worn helmets for long periods, like football players and motorcyclists.

RELATED: A Step-By-Step Guide To Wearing, Sanitizing & Reusing Your Face Mask

Maskne is new — but similar forms of mask acne have been around for a while. 

The name for such acne then was acne mechanica, as it was caused by the helmet rubbing the wearer. This is different.

COVID-prevention masks don’t rub as much as they hold in moisture and germs.

The most common maskne today is what dermatologists call perioral dermatitis, which means it mainly shows up around the mouth and nose. However, maskne breakouts can also occur on the cheeks, too.

Acne is not only a medical condition, but can be a psychological issue, as well.

There is a strong association between having acne and one’s self-esteem.

Many people are more or less “scarred” for life from adolescent acne. It can have profound effects on job performance, relationships, how you socialize, and your levels of depression and anxiety.

Essential workers are at the greatest risk for developing mask acne.

Many people — specifically nurses, doctors, dentists, and essential frontline workers — are wearing their masks all day long, so they can get quite a build-up of acne-causing bacteria. 

They also tend to be better masked than the rest of us: i.e., their masks are tighter fitting, which unfortunately seems to make maskne worse.

Some of them have to wear more than one mask at a time, like a KN95 topped with a surgical mask to keep it clean, plus a face shield for doing procedures.

Here are 10 ways to help avoid "maskne," or acne from your face mask.

1. Wash your hands before touching your face.

Always. Every time. In general, do not touch your face.

And for heaven’s sake, don't pick your pimples!

2. Wash your face in the morning and when you get home.

This should be done with an organic face cleanser, such as Juice Beauty or Honey Girl.

Do a mask to rejuvenate your skin, too. Bonus: This also counts as self-care!

3. Moisturize.

Use a gentle, lightweight organic face moisturizer or lotion — yes, even you, men — in the morning and at night. This will combat dry skin, as that can also cause breakouts.

Make sure your face is completely dry before putting on your mask after you moisturize.

4. Try using a hyaluronic-acid serum, not a cream.

La Rouche-Posay, a company that prides itself on making effective, affordable products for sensitive skin is my pick. But you should go with what works for you.

Make sure to search out hyaluronic-acid serums, because they'll be completely dry after application (as compared to an oily lotion), which is ideal for something worn under a mask.

RELATED: Which Filters You Should (& Should Not) Use In Your Protective Face Mask

5. Take collagen powder and supplements.

Hyaluronic acid also comes in a powder that you can throw into your collagen smoothie every day to give your face a little extra protection.

Along the same lines as above, supplement with Resveratrol, which acts like anti-oxidants for your skin and can help further protect against damage or rubbing from your face mask.

6. Resist the temptation to wear makeup under your mask.

Go all-out on your eyes and forehead, but give your face under the mask a break.

There's a reason mask acne isn't affecting men the same way it's affecting women. Even if you have an organic makeup base, it's still going to clog your irritated pores.

Try taking the makeup with you and only applying it when you're going to have the mask off for a while.

7. Use facial wipes regularly.

Keep organic face-cleansing wipes in your bag and every few hours, take the mask off, use the wipes, and reapply the hyaluronic serum before putting your mask back on.

8. Wash your hands before removing your mask.

Once you remove the mask, put it in a sealable bag. When you get home, throw it into the washing machine or hand-wash it.

Do not re-use it. Wash it after each use.

9. Buy organic cotton masks if possible.

Cotton is the most breathable fabric and wicks away moisture.

There are currently masks for sale that say they prevent microbes and bacteria, so look for these when choosing a face mask to prevent and mask-related acne.

10. Avoid skin-irritating chemicals.

There are a few things out there that you should not try. Specifically, this includes any face wash, soaps, and lotions that contain sodium lauryl sulfate or colloidal silver, as they may irritate the skin and lead to worse acne mask problems.

Try this acne mask if you're already battling mask-related acne.

If you already have acne, doing a nightly mask can help stop irritation and get rid of any bumps.

Here's a recipe for a fantastic mask that uses Manuka honey in a base of grass-fed ghee and essential oils:

Mix together in a jar with a lid:

  • 2 tablespoons Manuka honey
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed ghee
  • 4 drops organic food-grade tea-tree oil or oregano oil

Run the jar under hot water or pop in the microwave for 45 seconds (if your container is microwave-safe). Stir, and you're done. It doesn't need to be refrigerated.

At night after you wash your face — but before you moisturize — apply the mask liberally to your face. Let it sit for as long as possible.

Rinse with warm water and apply your nightly moisturizer.

Acne is a common skin problem that affects people of all ages.

There are plenty of treatments on the market which promise to banish zits. However, some of these can have harsh or drying effects on the skin.

So even if your pimples disappear, your skin may feel dry and irritated. Others have allergens which can make a skin condition worse.

Maskne is new, but these treatments are tried and true. Practice these steps to avoid acne mask complications and keep your skin healthy and clear!

RELATED: 6 Ways To Make Your Face Mask More Comfortable

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Renae Norton is a psychologist and offers an alternative to inpatient treatment for severe cases of anorexia, bulimia, or a combination of the two. For more information, visit her website, Eating Disorder Pro.