Mask acne, or “maskne” is yet another form of acne that has come with COVID-19. Although the use of masks is incredibly important to help protect yourself and others, they can also cause flare-ups of chronic skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
Why do we get “maskne”?
As you go about your daily life, your skin cells will shed and at the same time, your skin will produce oils to protect and nourish your skin barrier. However, if you have a mask covering your face for a long portion of the day, these dead skin cells and oils can become trapped in your pores, leading to inflammation and pimples. Chronic acne is generally caused for a number of reasons, such as increased oil production; the growth and shedding of skin cells and the over-colonization by certain bacteria . Read our blog on causes of acne here (LINK to Thyme Blog). Mask-wearing can exacerbate some of these causes. If you have noticed increased acne spots in the area where our masks sit, such as over the cheeks, jawline, and upper neck, this may be ‘maskne’.
So, what can we do about it?
Choose a mask made of natural fibers
Masks made with a cotton or silk lining are often gentle on the skin, more breathable than synthetic fabrics and will not trigger acne flare-ups . The mask should also be sized correctly so that it sits comfortably on your face without having to be readjusted frequently. Constant readjusting can cause friction on the skin and damage to the skin barrier. That being said, it is also important to ensure that you are washing your mask regularly with a laundry detergent that is safe for sensitive skin (eg. Dye and fragrance-free).
Go makeup free and take breaks
For all of you makeup users, keep in mind that certain products may aggravate the skin or feel heavy on your face. When you’re wearing makeup under your mask, it’s even worse. It can further contribute to the clogging of your pores which leads to inflammation and break outs. Try going makeup-free under your mask or simply ditch the makeup altogether if you, to give your face a break. Also, it would be a good idea to take a break from your mask every four hours when possible to let your skin breathe, reduce any trapped moisture and to allow your skin cells to shed without being constricted. Of course, only do this if you are alone or a safe distance away from other individuals.
Adopt a great skincare routine
This can look different for everyone, based on your skin type (eg. dry, oily, combination, mature). However, it is important to keep up with a skincare regimen that incorporates cleansing, moisturizing, sun-protection, and exfoliation to help the dead skin cells shed and clear out any build-up in our pores. Avoid over-cleansing by sticking to washing only twice per day and ensure that you remove all your makeup in the evenings. A spot treatment for small acne spots can also be helpful. Our Thyme Blemish Control line includes a gentle and effective Thyme Blemish Control Cleanser and Thyme Blemish Control Gel for spot-treatment. Applied before you place your mask on, it may help keep any 'maskne' at bay.
At the end of the day, we also love to use ReLiv Organics’s Seaweed Microderm Cleanser + Mask combination to exfoliate and gently stimulate blood circulation to the skin.
Choose nutritious foods and hydrate
You are what you eat. When you have a well-balanced diet it will create the foundation to healthy skin and optimize your overall health. For acne, supportive nutrients include antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A and zinc. These vitamins and minerals are beneficial for skin integrity, structure and to prevent damage from environmental factors such as UV radiation from the sun and pollution. Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish and certain vegetarian sources (eg. flaxseed, chia seeds) are great to help reduce inflammation which can propagate acne presentation.
Get to the root cause
Acne and mask acne could be related to many areas of your health, from the foods you eat, underlying infections, your gut microbiome or hormones. It is important to determine what the root cause of our acne is in order to prevent further inflammation and clogged pores from mask-wearing. For example, if you notice that your acne is generally worse close to your menstrual cycle, or surrounding a stressful time, it is likely that it could relate to fluctuating hormones or imbalances in your hormonal profile. On top of this, I'm sure you can tease out certain triggers for your acne, whether it be a type of food, or switching to a new skincare product. Speak with your healthcare practitioner to determine what may be the root cause of your acne and that way you can heal from within.
We hope that you have found these tips helpful. By being mindful about the type of masks you use and the routines surrounding them, you may be able to decrease mask acne. As we continue to wear our face masks for protection, we should not have to live with the ‘maskne’ that may come with them!
Leave a comment below about any of these tips you have started to incorporate, or any other tips you have found helpful.
By Dr. Arlene Dubier ND
- Dreno, B., Martin, R., Moyal, D., Henley, J.B., Khammari, A. & Seite, S. (2017). Skin microbiome and acne vulgaris: Skin microbiome and acne vulgaris: staphylococcus a new actor in acne, Experimental Dermatology, 26(9). https://doi.org/10.1111/exd.13296
- Ricci, G., Patrizi, A., Bellini, F. & Medri, M. (2006). Use of textiles in atopic dermatitis: care of atopic dermatitis, Care of Atopic Dermatitis. 33, 127-143. https://doi.org/10.1159/000093940