What is ‘maskne’ and how can you treat it?

‘Maskne’ has been a buzzword during the pandemic. Find out what it is and how you can best treat it with these five simple tips.

As South Australia is plunged into lockdown, we will all be wearing our face masks to protect ourselves and others for when we have to make trips outside for essential purposes, such as going to the doctors or to get groceries.

While masks are crucial for keeping yourself and the community safe, they can also have some not so great side effects for your skin. Last year, in the height of the first wave of the pandemic, many people found themselves to be breaking out on their chin and jawline as a result of mask use, which lead experts to coin the term ‘maskne’, the apt combination of the words ‘mask’ and ‘acne’.

What causes maskne?

Maskne is a very real thing, especially for our essential and healthcare workers, whom we are beyond grateful for. It can happen whether you’re required to wear a mask a lot or a little. It all depends on your type of skin, but particularly if you are acne prone or have sensitive skin, you’re probably dealing with mask irritation a lot more others.

Essentially, by wearing a mask, we are trapping most of the air we’re breathing behind it, causing a lot of warmth and moisture to develop under the mask. This can increase oil production and also allow dirt to sit on the skin’s surface and be trapped underneath the mask.

Another reason people can develop maskne is the friction caused by the material of the mask. This is particularly for people with already sensitive skin or have conditions such as rosacea or dermatitis. Any sort of constant friction or rubbing on the skin can make breakouts worse by causing dirt and oil that may be sitting on the skin’s surface to be pushed further into the pores, resulting in not just breakouts, but itchy, red and inflamed skin.

How do you treat maskne?

Always double cleanse

If you are unfamiliar with the double cleanse method, it is essentially when you cleanse your skin twice to remove all traces of makeup, dirt, grime and bacteria. First, use an oil based cleanser or a micellar water on dry skin, and then follow this up with a traditional water based cleanser. This ensures that your skin is getting a deep clean and is rid of any acne causing bacteria.

For particularly irritated skin, try and find cleansers that are nice and simple. Fragrance, sulfates and alcohol can all be harmful, especially when your skin condition is already compromised, so look for a cleanser that does not contain those kinds of ingredients and is also soap-free.

Treat your breakouts the right way

As maskne is caused by skin irritation, it is crucial to make sure you are being gentle in your approach to treating breakouts. Now is not the time to test out that hardcore exfoliating clay mask that went viral online. Instead, opt for more gentle chemical exfoliants in the form of a cleanser or toner to delicately do the job, rather than a scrub or a face mask.

While it can be tempting to turn to your strong AHA/BHA products to try to combat the rough texture that can come with dry skin and breakouts, just keep in mind that they also have the potential to cause even more inflammation.

Just keep in mind that the more you exfoliate, the more your skin will be weakened, so less is always more!

Look out for these superstar ingredients

If you skin is experiencing irritation under the mask, then hydration is key. Look out for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Hyaluronic acid acts as a magnet for water, as it draws hydration from the air into the skin. What’s really great about hyaluronic acid is that it plays well with all skin types.

Ceramides are great because they are fats that are naturally found in the epidermis that act as the cement that hold skin cells together. They are super important for the way our skin looks and functions, so when your skin is freaking out, adding them to your routine will help rebuild it.

Have a quick browse of your skincare products and see if any of them feature these ingredients. If you are in the market for some products, brands like Cerave and La Roche Posay have fantastic options and can be found at pharmacies and supermarkets and are also budget friendly.

Avoid wearing makeup

This tip might be a no-brainer for some, but wearing makeup underneath your mask can actually irritate your skin further. All that makeup is getting pressed and rubbed into your pores, leading to more congestion. Furthermore, it it can also lead to further discomfort, making your face feel hot and sticky under your mask.

This is a great time to go makeup-free and embrace the skin you’re in. If you do not want to go makeup free, simply consider leaving your nose, chin and jawline makeup free to help prevent maskne.

Practice proper mask care

While many people opt for disposable masks, there are also so many reusable masks now on the market, which have the benefit of being more eco-friendly. Cotton masks are typically more breathable, but many people have been finding that silk masks cause less friction on the skin.

No matter what material your mask is, it is crucial to make sure you are washing your mask between uses. Just like a pillowcase, masks carry bacteria, dead skin cells, dirt and oil. To be kinder to your skin, wash your mask every day to ensure you aren’t allowing these things to linger on your skin. If you use disposable masks, the same principle applies. Just make sure you are swapping the mask out every day.

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