By now, we’ve all become familiar with the deluge of unprecedented acne that wearing a mask entails. Wearing a mask in public places, sanitising and washing our hands regularly are three key pillars to protecting ourselves from COVID-19. And as we learn to adapt and improvise our daily defences, we’re also figuring out the best way to deal with the associated side effects. Last year, ‘maskne’ made an unsought entry into our lives. It refers to newfound acne, bumps or irritation that is caused due to the friction of masks on our skin and the excessive heat and humidity trapped under the said mask.
The heat and lack of constant air throw the skin barrier off, causing irritation and breakouts. On top of that, stress caused by internal as well as external factors like air pollution and dust leads to maskne. Over the years, people in countries like Korea have adopted the practice of wearing masks to protect skin from pollution. Naturally, since they’ve had a headstart on dealing with maskne, let’s take a leaf out of their book—think gentle formulas and ingredients, effective spot treatments and more.
So, how do I prevent maskne?
Wash your masks
This is non-negotiable as your face mask accumulates germs, sweat and dirt throughout the day. Make sure you wash it every day with hot water and detergent unless instructed otherwise.
Don’t touch your face
To prevent acne from getting worse, avoid touching it. It’s tempting but remember that every time you touch a surface and then your zit, you’re applying a fresh coat of bacteria on your face. If you’re tempted to pick at your acne, simply slap on an acne patch.
Avoid wearing make-up
Wearing layers of make-up under your mask can lead to your pores getting clogged. To avoid this, don’t use complexion products as much as possible and if you do, opt for ones labelled as ‘non-comedogenic’ and ‘lightweight’.
How can I manage maskne?
Strengthen your skin barrier
Keeping your skin barrier in top shape is essential for preventing breakouts. This is because it is the first line of defence that blocks acne-causing bacteria from making their way into your pores. Let go of harsh cleansers that make your skin squeaky clean and opt for hydrating ones instead. Go easy on the exfoliating acids in your routine and try gentler toners that don’t over-dry skin. Remember to use ceramide-rich products as these form a barrier that keeps out troublesome bacteria.
If you’re using spot treatments that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, chances are that your skin is drying out. Think of your skin as soil. Moisture is essential to keep the soil soft and without that, it tends to crack. Similarly, if your skin is dry, it will get flaky and will be more vulnerable to infections from microorganisms. Make sure you reach for products that contain humectants like honey, hyaluronic acid and glycerine as these ingredients bind moisture to the skin and keep it healthy.
Use anti-inflammatory skincare
Acne is caused by inflammation of the clogged pores and to counter that, try using anti-inflammatory products in your skincare routine. Look out for ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides, green tea, chamomile and turmeric as these calm redness, swelling and itching.
Stick to a gentle routine
To tackle blemishes, it is important to incorporate gentle cleansers versus stripping ones. Stick to chemical exfoliants instead of physical ones as those can cause microtears on the surface of the skin. Opt for lightweight moisturisers that skin into skin. More than anything, start slow. Introduce only one new product at a time and wait for at least two weeks to see if it works for you.