Returning to in-person work has been a double-edged sword for me. I was very eager to be in front of students again rather than staring at the screen during hours of zoom classes. I was also happy to see my colleagues, start wearing normal clothes again, and spending a bit more time grooming and being “presentable” overall. Those are the positives. On the other hand, though, returning to in-person teaching means long commutes, having to find childcare options, and, most annoyingly, wearing the face mask for hours on end every weekday.
Within two weeks from starting work, I noticed a few breakouts on my cheeks and some bumps on my chin. What the heck? I have not had any acne outbreaks in years and now this? Having asked around and checking some medical websites, I started connecting the dots – apparently, I was developing a case of mascne or mask acne. And I wasn’t the only one. I had to find a good mascne treatment and it had to be fast.
What is Mascne or Maskne?
Mascne (Maskne) or Mask Acne is a condition that became pretty prevalent these last several months – Thank you Covid! Whereas in the past, only a few of us had to wear masks on our faces (healthcare professionals or people working in polluted areas), nowadays it is the majority of us – at least the sound-minded ones- who wear masks to protect ourselves and our loved ones from contracting or spreading the virus.
The medical term for Mascne is acne mechanica which means that the condition is inherently caused by things related to wearing the mask:
- rubbing the mask on the face
- lack of airflow to the skin
- increased sweating and/or clogging of the pores
- more humidity from our own breath
- touching the face excessively to readjust the mask.
This type of acne is caused by occlusion or friction against the skin that leads to skin irritation in the short term. Over time, continued friction leads to inflammation that can block pores and lead to breakouts. The moisture and sweat trapped on the skin when wearing masks for an extended period can also contribute to these breakouts.US Dermatology Partnershttps
How to Prevent Mascne?
The best prevention would be to not wear the mask. Ha! If it only were that easy! Since we have to wear the mask to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we need to find other ways.
I experimented with a few and here is what works very well for me:
1. Not wearing makeup under the mask.
You should see me getting ready for my workday. I moisturize all over the face. Then I massage some SPF foundation into my forehead only. I put on some mascara and whatever eye makeup I desire that day, and… that’s it. The rest of the face is completely makeup-free. Nothing on it, not even sunscreen. See below why.
2. Skipping or wearing a super light-weight sunscreen.
If I know that I will be in the classroom and my car most of the day, I skip sunscreen below the eye line. If I think I might be spending some time outside, like having lunch outdoors, I’ll put a very lightweight sunscreen on my face under the mask, only right before stepping outside and taking the mask off.
Heavier sunscreens, especially the mineral ones, while great and a must for the beach or a hiking day, really have no place under the mask. The increased humidity and the barrier that the SPF is creating are a recipe for Mascne, no doubt about it.
3. Changing or washing your mask frequently.
I’m sure, we’ve all been there. Grabbing one of the ten masks lying around in the car on the seats or the yucky floor, just because we need one this very moment. Well, these used and re-used masks are Petri dishes for bacteria and so I make a rule to use paper masks only ones, and fabric ones I use at most three times and then off they go into the wash.
4. Simplifying your beauty routine.
Since the mask tends to trap a lot of moisture from our breath, it is crucial to not clog the pores and to use as few ingredients as possible. You don’t want to load chemicals onto your skin and then have the poor face stew in them for hours. My recipe is: simple HA serum and only put the mask on when everything is dried and sunk in.
Hyaluronic acid is one of the dermatologists recommended ingredients that can prevent and help with mascne:
You want to apply moisturizer immediately after washing your face. To get the most benefit from a moisturizer, board-certified dermatologist Carrie L. Kovarik, MD, FAAD, recommends using a moisturizer with one of the following ingredients: Ceramides, Hyaluronic acid, Dimethicone (which can also create a barrier that helps reduce irritated skin)American Academy of Dermatology Association
5. Get the right mask
Don’t be one of those people who wear their mask under the nose or, even worse, as a chin hammock. What is the point? It is crucial to find the mask that fits you well, in order to prevent it from being irritating to the skin. Too tight and your face will be too hot and clammy. Too loose and you will have to touch it all the time and spread the bacteria from other surfaces you touch.
If the mask feels too tight or slides around on your face, it can irritate your skin. You’re also more likely to adjust a poorly fitting mask. When you touch your mask, you can transfer germs to your mask and your face.AADA
6. Take breaks from the mask and let the face breathe.
This is a good idea not only for skin health but also for general health. I make sure to step outside the building once every hour or so, take the mask off and take a few deep breaths.
At the very least, aim for a mask break every four hours or so.
7. Check if you are not allergic to the mask.
There are so many masks on the market, made from so many different ingredients: paper, plastic, cotton, polyester, and more. Chances are, you might be allergic to something. If mascne becomes a problem, despite all the above precautions, I would definitely experiment with a different type of mask.
What To Do if Mascne Strikes Anyway?
I’ve been there. The first week of in-person teaching, I did not know about all the precautions around wearing a mask all day long, and I marched into work with mineral sunscreen and full makeup on. Probably kept the mask on for too long. And so, by Thursday, I saw my first pimple on the chin. Luckily, I have a teenager and a pre-teen at home and I’ve been making acne formulas for them with essential oils. This is what I turned to and within a few days, the zit was gone.
I still had some weird rash on my face where the mask was rubbing around the nose, and so I treated this with a calendula-based salve that I make for general skin conditioning. It helped, but what helps the most is prevention which I implemented from my second full-mask-on week, and thank goodness, I’m staying mascne-free a month later.
Here are a few ideas I compiled for treating mascne if it strikes.
Best Mascne Treatment Ideas
8. Switch to the gentle oil cleansing method
I’ve heard it for years. No oil on oily or blemish-prone skin. Well, turns out, the very opposite is true. Oil attracts oil and so if you really want to clean out your pores, it is the oil cleanser that can do the job really well. Additionally, using oil cleansers, unlike soap-based cleansers, won’t dry the skin out and thus signal the glands to produce more oil to replenish what is lost. If looking to balance your skin, an oil cleanser is really best.
RELATED POST: Oil Cleansing Method
9. Use a spot treatment to treat zits
I’m going to praise my own product here but I really believe so strongly in it, I can’t not mention it. My kids love it, my clients love it. It has only two ingredients: Aloe Vera gel and an essential oils blend. Both work synergistically to take care of outbreaks fast.
Really, myself and also my older kid tried using other go-to’s for acne – benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, zinc, salicylic acid – and really none of those do the job as well as the essential oils in my Bye Bye Blemish spot treatment. Also, while these other medications tend to dry out the skin, the aloe Vera based spot treatment is actually doing the reverse!
10. Use very gentle exfoliation
Gentle means, if using mechanical scrub, going for the smallest particles possible, like in homemade cleansing grains for example, with finely ground herbs and grains such as the olive leaf, lavender, rose petals, hibiscus flower, etc.
If using chemical exfoliation, opt for the lowest strength acids, such as lactic or malic. Leave the heavy-duty acids for another, post-mask-wearing time.
11. In case of rash or irritation, apply a skin barrier.
You want to avoid further irritation by the mask, so, until the condition improves, put a thin layer of a skin barrier such as a beeswax-based balm or simple petroleum jelly after washing the face and before putting on the mask.
There you have it. That’s my recipe for success when it comes to preventing and treating mascne. It works for me and my family, I hope it’ll work for you and yours as well.