Masks & Acne

By: Lily Gravitz

“Maskne”: What to Know and How to Stay Safe

Wearing a mask is vital for slowing and preventing the spread of COVID. With that being said, a new phenomenon called “Maskne” has been adding to the complexity of issues surrounding COVID (2020 am I right?). According to New York Dermatologist Dendy Engleman, some acne appearing along your chin, nose, and cheeks results from wearing a mask. “Maskne,” is caused by clogged pores, causing the skin around the mask to become inflamed because of the way it rubs up against your face (Cleveland Clinic, 2020). Additionally, as you breathe, the decreased air circulation under your mask can cause moisture buildup (which is not so great for your skin)(Campos, 2019). So how do you negotiate keeping yourself, and everyone else, safe without breaking out? After hours of wearing a mask, my mom and I had a long talk about how we had begun to break out. We shared our worries about balancing how to stay safe with the way that our skin feels. As we prepare to return to school and work this upcoming semester amidst the continuing pandemic, how do we navigate the “mask” concerns where personal safety and self-esteem intersect? The key is balancing the harmful effects to your skin from wearing a mask by keeping your skin healthy using some essential face products. 

What causes acne?

Acne can be caused by many things including genetics, stress, hormones, and sweating. Human skin has pores that are connected to oil glands in the skin. Acne, an inflammation under the skin is caused by blockages in the pores. When the pores are blocked, a semisolid mass forms, producing a blackhead (Ayer and Burrows, 2006). Below are some key steps in order to fight the appearance of acne, especially while wearing a mask. 

Key Steps: 

  • Wash your mask!
  • As you wear a mask, dirt and other bacteria get caught in it, especially if you wear the same mask again (Campos, 2019). Especially when using cloth masks, you should wash the mask with each use.

Try a new face mask fabric

  • Cloth and cotton materials trap much more sweat, oil, and bacteria than other available materials. Why not try silk? The gentle material creates the least amount of friction on your skin, picking up fewer dirt and acne-causing particles.
  •  Removable filters increase the effectiveness in filtering out harmful particles (Munce, 2020). 

Experiment with a new skin routine

  • Before putting on and after removing it, make sure you wash your face with a gentile cleanser. Avoid products that strip your skin of moisture or  harsh exfoliants. (just make sure you don’t wash your face more than two or three times a day). 
  • After cleansing your face, use a moisturizer that is fragrance-free and won’t irritate your skin.
  • Don’t wear makeup under your mask. (Munce, 2020)

The biggest takeaway is to experiment with different mask materials, in combination with a skin care routine until you find  what works for you.  Everyone’s skin is different- so do your research and see what products work best for you. Do you have dry, sensitive, oily or combination skin? These are all factors that should be considered when testing products. In a more general sense, make sure you wash the masks in-between every use, as that is the most important factor in keeping your skin clear. The pandemic has affected everyone’s mental and physical health and it is so important to make sure you practice consistent self care. Every person is going through the same thing right now and our bodies are all adjusting to the physiology of the new normal. Something as small as a few spots on your face can really make me nervous and with all of these steps, you can hopefully keep your skin clear and stay safe at the same time. 

Resource List:

Acne: what you need to know. (2019, January 3). Harvard Medical School

Ayer J, Burrows N. Acne: more than skin deep. Postgrad Med J. 2006;82(970):500-506. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2006.045377

Maske is the new acne, and here’s what is causing it. (2020, June 17). New York Times.

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