Maskne, is the latest word in the Urban Dictionary. This cute word was recently coined as a result of a popular skin condition staring us in the face due to masks. As many American are required to don masks and face coverings publicly in order to protect the further spread of COVID-19, we have discovered a new acne that seems to form around those areas of the face covered by these protective masks. 

In case you haven’t realized, when you wear a mask, you’re sealing in your breath, which produces a moist and humid environment and changes the skin’s natural PH. When your breath, which contains bacteria, mixes with your sweat and oils from your skin, acne can occur. You may also experience inflamed hair follicles and rosacea flareups. Like diaper rash, masks can also irritate the skin by simply being worn for long periods of time. Almost all skin types will see some type of irritation from wearing a face mask for extended periods of time daily. Many will experience irritation from the physical friction and pressure of the material rubbing against the skin, while others will have acne cropping up. An additional problem is the habits we form. Since many masks tend to migrate because they are not a custom fit, people seem to adjust them frequently. This traps dirt and other irritants on the skin. In addition, many move the mask around for eating or drinking. To avoid blemishes, you need to change your skin care routine, consider what type of mask you wear, and how much time you spend in the mask. 

Keeping your skin clean is paramount to prevent breakouts. Make sure to wash your face with a gentle cleanser before putting on the mask. Also, use products which will hydrate, repair, and support your skin’s barrier function. If you can avoid wearing makeup under the mask area, consider doing so. To address the irritation the mask causes from friction, sparingly use a barrier cream, such as Vanicream Moisturizing Ointment, along the edges where the mask is most tightly fitted. This sealed-in moisture will protect the skin. You can also use a moisturizer that contains anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide, which is a B vitamin and supports the skin barrier, aiding with ceramide production (the proteins that retain water inside the skin). It also helps balance the oil produced by the glands within the skin.     

To heal acne blemishes caused by masks, try incorporating cleansers with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or elemental sulfur. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, which helps keep your pores clean, while benzoyl peroxide is a topical that decreases levels of bacteria that aggravate inflammation on the skin.

If you’re prone to acne, consider the type of mask you wear. However, in the event that you work in healthcare, you may not have choices as to what you must wear. For example, N95 masks filter out more than 95% of small particles and are considered essential for those performing medical procedures such as intubations. Because they fit tightly, they create a tight seal around the nose and mouth, which makes the wearers prone to pressure ulcers, rashes, or breakouts, since they’re being worn for extended periods. On the other hand, surgical masks don’t have a tight-fitting seal, so they’re less damaging to your face. However, they only protect from droplets but not small particles. 

Cloth masks depend on the material, fit, and number of layers they’re made of. These can also absorb natural oils, which may trigger your skin to compensate and produce additional oil, leading to acne. The best cloth option for your skin is a silk mask or one lined with silk, since this fabric has antimicrobial properties and is best for those with sensitive skin. However, they aren’t really effective against preventing the spread of the virus, since they tend to gap around the cheeks, nose, and mouth. Plus, the porous fabric allows smaller droplets to enter. A good option would be to line a breathable cotton mask with silk. 

Cleaning your mask often is also important to protect yourself from the virus and from aggravating skin irritations caused by oils and dirt trapped in the mask. If possible, wash it after each wear. The accumulation of germs, makeup, lip balm, and oils can worsen acne while pressing against your skin. You can use a gentle detergent free of dyes and fragrances. Place your cotton or other washable masks in a mesh bag to protect it and use the hot cycle. They can be washed along with your regular laundry. Use the highest setting to dry and be sure the masks are completely dry before removing. If you hand wash your mask, the CDC recommends using 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room temperature water. Soak the mask in the solution for five minutes before rinsing with cool or room temperature water and dry in direct sunlight, if possible.

Remove your mask when you come home, unless you’re caring for someone ill. There’s also no need to wear your mask in your car.

Aside from the breakouts caused by the current ongoing stress level, the maskne can be annoying too. By maintaining good sanitary conditions, you can lessen the problem and help the skin heal.

Risselle Naimark is a Professional Freelance Makeup Artist and Skincare Consultant. She carries an extensive line of personalized skincare, cosmetics, and anti-aging products. Risselle is also available for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, makeup lessons, and all of your beauty needs. She can be reached at 718 263-5517.