So "Maskne" Is A Thing: Here's How To Get Rid Of Face Mask Breakouts, From A Derm

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.
Medical Mask on a Blue Background

Image by Marc Tran / Stocksy

As quarantine stretches on for its third month, many of us are used to donning the protective gear while getting groceries, on runs, and so on—especially as lockdown restrictions ease in some states. Wearing a mask, of course, is a good thing, as it will help slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, you might be noticing some skin irritation around the areas where you're wearing it, especially if you're wearing your face mask frequently: A concern cleverly dubbed "maskne."

There are two types of maskne that can occur when wearing face masks: contact friction and breakouts. They can occur at the same time and on the same person (meaning: not mutually exclusive skin concerns). But they do have unique triggers, and, therefore, they have different treatments.

What to do about acne from wearing masks.

You may be breaking out right now due to a variety of reasons, including stress and changes in your diet. Add face masks to the list of culprits, says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D: "The occlusive nature of a protective mask creates a humid and warm environment under the mask, which can lead to increased sebum and sweat. And this can lead to irritation, inflammation, and breakouts."

And unfortunately, the area that a mask covers—nose, mouth, and chin—are areas that tend to break out more anyway. So if you are an acne-prone individual, take extra precautions to keep skin clear.

"I recommend washing the face before and after wearing a mask. A gentle cleanser is adequate, or if your skin is particularly oily or acne-prone, consider a cleanser with salicylic acid, which can penetrate into pores and gently exfoliate and remove sebum," says King. "And use a light moisturizer that's noncomedogenic, to support and bolster the skin barrier without clogging pores. Avoid heavy and potentially comedogenic products under the mask area." Yes, this means skipping heavy foundations (but there are plenty of reasons to take a breather from makeup right now anyway).

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What to do about skin irritation from wearing masks.

As for irritation from friction, "any areas that are tight or rubbing can irritate the skin. Minimize this as much as possible by making sure the areas that contact your skin are smooth and not abrasive and not tighter than necessary to achieve a good seal," says King. "If you notice this kind of irritation after removing the mask, wash the area with water and a gentle cleanser and apply an ointment."

And ultimately, some irritation may be unavoidable, unfortunately. This just happens when you wear a secure fabric on delicate skin or for long periods of time; because you can't necessarily stop it from happening, your best bet is to soothe it after the fact. It's comparable to hand-washing: Since you can't change the drying nature of hot water and soap, instead you treat dryness with a hand cream after the fact. Take the same approach with your face-mask-induced irritation.

So when you reach for a healing ointment, here are a few ingredient suggestions: Aloe vera is a super-hydrating anti-inflammatory (that's why people love it for sunburns and the like). You can use on its own via a face mask—and just spot-treat the areas that are most irritated—or it's often formulated into lotions and creams. Colloidal oat is a nurturing derm-approved favorite that you'll see in many sensitive skin formulas. Finally, ceramides are incredibly healing for the skin barrier.

The take-away.

Of course, we want to stress just how important it is to wear masks, especially if you are in public places. (You should also be careful with how you wear it, take it off, and clean it.) If skin irritation occurs, it's perhaps annoying but overall far better than the alternative. Do not use skin irritation or breakouts as an excuse to skip wearing one—simply tend to your skin a bit more diligently right now. If anything, use it as an excuse to try a DIY hydrating treatment or spot treatment for zits.

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