· By Jason Choi
Skincare In The Era Of Masks
Maskne is here to stay
Although we’ve been wearing masks regularly for over a year, many are still struggling with dreaded “maskne,” or mask-induced acne. Maskne involves acne breakouts on the bottom half of your face from wearing a face mask, and can appear as dry, rough skin, uneven texture, stubborn breakouts, rashes, and redness.
Wearing a mask for long periods of time can compromise the skin barrier, opening the floodgates for bacteria, dryness, or continued irritation to run rampant. Seasonal shifts and temperature changes can negatively affect the balance of one’s moisture barrier due to excessive sweating and sebum, which is exacerbated when wearing a mask during the hot summer months.
If you don’t plan on retiring your mask anytime soon, you have our full support. But if you still find yourself suffering from maskne, we’re here to help. Below, we’ll dive into a few steps to strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier for optimal recovery while also lowering your skin sensitivity, making it less prone to breakouts. Stronger, more resilient skin means those pesky breakouts don’t stand a chance.
How to strengthen your skin and prevent maskne
Anyone that works out regularly knows that real results don’t come from a single supplement or one great hour in the gym – it’s about consistency. Similarly, if you want stronger skin, a daily strengthening regime will be more beneficial than a single “miracle” treatment or product.
These basic daily practices help keep your skin in shape over the long term instead of a quick fix that might make you believe it is solving all your skin concerns, but in reality is slightly improving symptoms temporarily.
Here are six steps you can take to strengthen and save your skin.
1. No touching.
The CDC had it right when they advised to avoid touching your face, not only to prevent the spread of disease, but also acne-causing bacteria. Skin that’s been in contact with a mask all day and isn’t well ventilated is a breeding ground for bacteria and irritation. It’s incredibly important to minimize hand contact on the face, such as rubbing your eyes or fidgeting around the face. Even a simple act such as adjusting your mask can transfer bacteria to your face through your mask, which can lead to breakouts. Avoid touching your face at all to prevent spreading these pathogens to where they don’t belong.
2. Cleanse gently every day.
Wearing a mask all day can feel like you’re sitting in a lukewarm hot tub for hours on end. When you get home, you might feel the urge to excessively cleanse your skin and exfoliate in an effort to bring your skin back to a state of homeostasis. However, this can often destroy the skin's oil and moisture balance, leaving your skin dry and irritated. You should instead often opt for a mild, fragrance-free cleanser, which cleans your face while protecting the natural acidity and barrier intact.
3. Mask Prep and Aftercare
Wearing a mask can weaken the skin barrier, which creates “cracks” in the outer layer of your skin, allowing bacteria to grow. Moisturizing before you put on your mask protects your skin, keeping your oil and moisture balance in check all day long.
After wearing a mask all day, your skin may be dry and crying out for moisture. If you have oily skin, you may want to opt for a gel moisturizer. Normal or combo skin would benefit from a lightweight lotion, while dry to very dry skin may find more relief in a thick cream.
Pro tip: Don’t forget about your lips! Use petroleum jelly after washing your face, before you put on your mask, and before bed to prevent chapped lips
4. Minimize or Skip the Makeup
Again, the name of the game when wearing a mask is to prevent the spread of bacteria. Wearing makeup under your mask can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. Avoid foundation, if you can, and instead play up your eyes with some fun eyeshadow, liner, or perfectly-groomed brows.
5. Simplify your Skincare Routine
Lengthy skincare routines can often do more harm than good, and excessive use of skincare may irritate a weakened skin barrier even more. If you’re struggling with maskne, use simple, multi-functional products to reduce your skincare routine steps and keep your skin satisfied. Avoid irritating products, like leave-on exfoliating acids (think glycolic and salicylic), retinoids, and aftershave.
6. Care for your mask
Your mask should consist of at least two layers of fabric in breathable fabric like cotton and fit comfortably. Avoid synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and rayon.
A mask that’s too tight to your face can cause irritation, and may tempt you to touch or adjust it throughout the day, which can transfer germs. Wash your mask after each use to remove any oils, skin cells, germs, and any other particles that collect inside the mask that could lead to a breakout.
**Disclaimer: while these practices are recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology Association (aad.org), if you have skin conditions like acne or rosacea, a licensed dermatologist can recommend a more suitable plan of action for treatment.