As if we didn’t have enough to be dealing with lately. Midwinter cabin fever. Insufferably trite Zoom chitchat. Sneezing paranoia. Supermarket hand sanny that smells like cheap tequila. Just when you think we’ve swallowed all we can stomach, covid smacks us in the face with yet another biting curveball: maskne.
For those not in the know, mask + acne = maskne. In other words, maskne is a new-fangled portmanteau for the blemishes and general irritation caused by the widespread mask wearing that has gripped the world as of late. But don’t be quick to dismiss this seemingly frivolous condition as a timely marketing ploy to sell more skincare products. Maskne is a form of acne mechanica, a very real type of acne that is caused by friction and pressure on the skin. This physical contact can create micro-tears which allow more bacteria to penetrate the skin, leading to inflammation and potentially breakouts. On top of this, the trapped, moist heat from our breath opens our pores which can then become clogged – another surefire recipe for spots and blackheads. The increased sweat production triggered by prolonged occlusion can also leave our skin feeling dried out and raw. Not a fun combo.
So, how to combat this dermatological sign of the times? It looks like masks are here to stay for the foreseeable, so it’s worth adapting our usual routines and products to minimise the severity of maskne, especially if you are somebody who wears a face covering on a daily basis. Without further ado, here are Inish Pharmacy’s easy tips and tricks to keep your skin looking its best in a pandemic-stricken world
1.Go back to basics
When it comes to a balanced skincare regime, the golden rule is not to pile on the product. And when face masks are added to the mix, the less-is-more philosophy becomes binding law. If the skin around your mouth feels tender and dry, you might be tempted to lash on a rich concoction of your most luxurious creams and serums in an attempt to revive it. But going down this route will likely exacerbate symptoms. The seal of the mask and the resulting occlusion of warm, moist air actually intensify the delivery of product to the skin, which is a dangerous game when you’re playing with already strong ingredients like retinols or salicylic acid.
Go instead for a mild cleanser to keep your skin clean and calm. We’re reaching for Bioderma’s Sensibio Gel Moussant, the caring micellar gel that gently cleanses while soothing irritations and reinforcing the skin’s natural hydration. If your skin is prone to greasiness, a toner can remove any traces of leftover residue after cleansing. But again, keep it simple – and don’t overdo it. La Roche Posay’s Sensitive Skin Soothing Toner contains no soap, alcohol, colorant nor parabens, and is enriched with thermal spring water for an added surge of hydration. Keep layering to a minimum. Should you decide to use serums, stick to the essentials such as The Inkey List’s Hyaluronic Acid. Opt for a lighter moisturiser than usual, even if it’s just for the lower half of your face. The dermatologist-recommended Facial Moisturising Lotion by the phenomenally popular CeraVe is packed with ceramides that restore the skin’s natural protective barrier, and its ultra-light formula is perfect for keeping maskne at bay.
2.Ditch the makeup
On the days when you’re going to be wearing a mask for a long time, consider daring to go bare. When you wear a mask, you’re essentially creating a steam effect with every exhale. This vapour opens your pores and they absorb more than usual, including any oil-based makeup products on the skin, which could lead to clogging and subsequent breakouts. If you’re not ready to go fully fresh-faced, we recommend a tinted sunscreen. Try the bestselling Skingredients Skin Shield for an instant, natural-looking complexion boost in lieu of full glam. This lightweight SPF50+ lotion is a total game-changer, protecting your skin against sun damage and premature ageing while giving you a gorgeous, healthy glow thanks to its universally flattering peachy tint.
3.Wash your mask
Religious skin hygiene is crucial in keeping maskne under control. But what good is it having a rock-solid regime if your mask itself is full of germs? If you are guilty of being a little too economical with single-use surgical masks here and there, try to curb this unsanitary habit in the interest of skincare and indeed public safety. For those who own a reusable mask (and we recommend you do – but more on that later), make sure to wash it regularly. You wouldn’t wear a top more than a couple of times without a wash and the same logic applies to mask-wearing. Dirt and oil tend to collect on the fabric with every use, quickly rendering it a hotspot for bacteria. While we’re on the subject, use a gentle laundry detergent when washing your mask. Harsh chemicals may fan the flames of the maskne, potentially causing further irritation and breakouts.
4.Choose a natural fabric
The type of mask you wear can contribute to maskne and its many symptoms. This makes sense, considering it sits flush against your skin. Synthetic material can aggravate the skin, causing redness and inflammation. Invest in a decent quality, 100% cotton mask to minimise these effects. If you really want to treat your skin, go a step further and indulge in a pure silk face mask. This lightweight, natural and breathable fabric doesn’t trap as much hot air as thicker, multi-layer materials. Though they come with a heftier price tag, silk masks are a worthwhile splurge for sensitive or problematic skin that is most susceptible to maskne. Plus, they look pretty chic which is always a welcome bonus.
Maskne may sound like a first world problem to some. And nobody is disputing that it is a small price to pay in exchange for the protection of ourselves and others. Regardless, skin issues can really affect our confidence, not to mention the physical discomfort of painful spots or inflammation. Luckily, with the right care, you can drastically reduce the effects of maskne. Practice basic hygiene, streamline your skincare and don’t skimp on your face mask. Just another day of learning to live with covid, eh?