Meet Your New Skin Problem: Maskne

June 10, 2020

Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres

2020 has so far been a year filled with new experiences (or lack thereof) and mounds of new vocabulary: social distancing, coronavirus, R-number and… maskne. While our own government wavered a bit regarding masks (should we wear them, should we not, do they help, do they not), the general consensus (based on advice by the WHO) is that nowadays, you probably SHOULD wear a face-covering of any kind, especially when you are in enclosed spaces such as public transport, shops, restaurants or offices.

Medical-grade masks are few and far between, and should still be reserved only for professions that need them, so people are mainly going with fabric face-coverings they can find online, or whatever they have at home from their last DIY session, or a stray bandana they found in an old box.

Whatever you wear though, you are likely to discover that maskne is a real thing. Especially if you have acne-prone skin to start with, like I do (thank you, genetic lottery). Thankfully, there’s a few things you can do that will help with dealing with maskne as it appears.

First things first, a little basic mask etiquette. Whatever you choose to wear, once it’s on, you should avoid touching the outside at all costs once you’ve been out with it. Check out this video for instructions on how to safely put a mask on and then take it off. Make sure single-use masks are disposed of properly, in a bag, then in the bin. Reusable masks should be placed in a bag (Ziploc or other) which you can then take home. There, you can wash your masks, and the bag so they can be reused. If you are just taking off your mask to eat, you can bring a paper bag or Tupperware container to keep your mask in. And always remember to wash your hands or use hand-sanitiser!

Obviously, while you wear a mask, moisture from your breath will be trapped inside, and this hot and wet environment (a bit like Singapore in your face) will make your skin break out. Your pores will widen and release all the gunk they neatly stored, and TA-DA, there goes a whitehead. Also, depending on what kind of mask you wear, there might be friction from where it’s tight on your face, which you might have seen in videos and photos of healthcare professionals who wear masks all day.

Whatever you do, STEP AWAY from the make-up! I’m sorry Ladies, but make-up and masks just don’t get on. It’ll just melt off your face and then you’d have to be doing it again anyway, which will clog your pores even more. It’s probably best, if you decide you can’t live without make up, to settle on powder or a tinted moisturiser, and to apply it at your destination. So if you go to work, and you don’t have to wear a mask there, or you have a shield instead, apply the powder or moisturiser once you’re good to go.

I also recommend getting your hands on blackhead removing vacuum like this baby. I use this on my nose and chin after each shower, when my pores are open because of the steam. You could also put a hot towel on your face for 5min beforehand. This will suck gunk out of your skin like there’s no tomorrow and will drastically reduce the number of spots you’ll get. It works wonders on what I call my “strawberry nose” and it’s also oddly satisfying to watch all that stuff come out. It’s like those pimple popper videos you find on YouTube. Make sure you clean the attachment after each use (I wipe it with a Q-Tip) and change the little filter out regularly (it does come with a few spares).

When it comes to spots that have already emerged, you have two weapons at your disposal depending on what kind they are. If it’s not yet emerged, but you can feel it lurking beneath the surface, apply a “pimple patch” overnight. For smaller spots this should do the trick, and when you remove it in the morning, you’ll see the gunk on it. Bigger or deeper one might take a couple of nights. If you already have a nice whitehead, dermatologists say it’s ok to pop it and drain it. Take a needle and disinfect it with 70% alcohol or another sanitising agent. Then pierce once and gently push the contents out. If you have clean hands, go ahead, but some doctors recommend using a clean tissue to avoid getting dirt in the wound.

Once you’ve done any of these steps, it’s important to clean your face (as you all know). If you have a skin routine that works for you, by all means stick with it. Changing things too often can lead to irritation and your skin will get worse instead of better. If this is your first time dealing with acne of any kind, I recommend the Clinique anti-blemish solutions line. The soap is light and easy to wash off, and if you get the bar it’ll last for ever. Follow this up with the clarifying lotion which and the moisturiser and you’re all good. At night I switch to a different moisturiser though to save the good stuff. For problem skin, Epaderm is a good option, especially if you get the large bottle.

And mask or no mask, please don’t forget to apply SPF to your face! If you live in a sunny place, you probably remember more, but even in rainy England the sun can harm your skin. I like Simple moisturiser, which comes in SPF 15 or 30. If I’m travelling somewhere sunnier, I’ll use Supergoop’s Glow Stick SPF 50 under a moisturiser.

And if you want to be a little more eco-friendly during your skin routine, switch out cotton pads for reusable bamboo pads like these, then just wash them with your laundry once a week.

What kind of mask you wear also affects how your skin will react. Paper masks aren’t very soft and often get quite scratchy. Cotton is better but avoid something thicker like Jersey or you will struggle to breathe well. Light and airy cotton, potentially with a filter inside, is best. I hear bamboo fabric comes highly recommended, especially if you plan to exercise with your mask on.

Remember to change your mask often (every 3-4 hours if worn continuously), so buying a few (or making your own!) is probably the best approach. If you have all the necessary tools and materials, here’s a great tutorial on how to sew your own masks from scratch. If you’re not into DIY, the fashion industry has jumped on this opportunity and released masks that match their other outfits. You could also just go classic and get white or black basic masks from Amazon or eBay. For more personalised and often cooler/nerdier designs, head to Etsy and browse.

I hope this will help you keep your maskne in check in the coming months, especially as lockdown is lifted and people return to public transport, where face-coverings are now mandatory. And if you feel like helping out a sister, feel free to check out my own Etsy shop for made-to-order face masks in different fabrics and sizes.