Maskne – what is it, and what can I do to help?

clean beauty collective blog maskne

This year, for many of us the term “face mask” has come to mean a lot more than just a little self-care on a Sunday afternoon. It’s become a reality when we leave the house, and a way to save lives in my countries hard hit by the global pandemic. Wearing a mask out in public doesn’t pose any real problems for most people, aside from mild annoyance and getting a little overheated once the temperature rises. But for those with sensitive skin, masks have bought about an irritating condition: “Maskne,” or acne caused by wearing a mask.

Maskne isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon say medical professionals, who have worn masks for years. And they have done the hard work for all of us, working out what causes it, how to deal with it and how to (hopefully) prevent it in the first place.

So what exactly is “maskne”?

Maskne is medically called acne mechanics, which is acne that is caused by heat, friction, and occlusion. By wearing a mask, a warm and moist environment is created from breathing, talking, laughing, etc., which then leads to an overgrowth of a natural bacteria called P.acnes. P.acnes, however, when it overgrows, can lead to acne breakouts. On top of all that, the occlusion and friction from the mask combined with our skin’s oil and sweat can cause irritation, which can lead to irritant-contact dermatitis or dry, itchy, and even raw skin. Additionally, stress–both physically on the skin barrier, and internal stress during these more challenging times—can contribute to maskne.

Sounds awful, what can I do?

Preventing maskne starts with opting for a mask made from tightly woven, soft cotton fabric and ensuring it’s regularly washed with mild detergent or unscented soap and thoroughly rinsed.

Treating maskne starts with avoiding thick, occlusive skincare creams and swapping them out for more lightweight water-based products like Hynt Beauty’s SkinPrep Serum. A lightweight moisturiser can also act as an additional protective barrier and prevent chafing. Ideally, you should also be using a mild and gentle exfoliator like Tailor Skincare Polish beforehand to support the absorption of your moisturiser.

If your problems persist, using products that are formulated to help tackle blemishes is a great idea because the moist, hot environment and constant rubbing of the mask can more easily lead to acne mechanica.  But the key here is to not go from zero to ten all at once. Incorporate gentle, blemish-banishing formulas and be sure not to dry out your skin or agitate it, which can actually lead to more vulnerable skin and more breakouts.

Can I still wear makeup?

This is important, as well as love a great face! If you can though, skip out on using a heavily pigmented foundation or any heavy makeup when wearing a mask, and check out the growing number of vloggers who are making mask-friendly makeup tutorial videos.

Heavy contoured looks are out, and bold eyes are in, so make friends with a beautiful multi-use palette like the ones from Aether that enhance and soothe the skin. This trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future too. As long as we are still living in the pandemic, face masks will become part of our every day and our makeup looks with evolve along with that.