Acne can be a frustrating problem that robs many of their self-confidence. It's hard enough to be a teen with acne, but adults often feel stigmatized by their acne struggles if they continue unchecked into adulthood. And now, with the need to wear masks during the pandemic, even those who don’t normally have skin problems may be having issues, too. Termed “maskne,” this mask-induced acne is a real problem for lots of people so if you've got it going on, you're not alone. Fortunately, there are ways to improve skin and combat this condition.
Washing our faces more frequently removes makeup, dirt, sweat, and oils that may build up on the skin. These don’t usually cause issues, but keeping the face under a mask may turn it into a sauna-like environment with extra humidity and those oils can make bacteria from the mask stick to the skin and then, well, it's probably going to cause a breakout. Clogged pores ultimately cause more breakouts and acne problems. Even for people who have never had acne issues, wearing a mask may aggravate the skin and cause problems. Frequent face-washing, especially before bed, may reduce or eliminate those concerns.
While it may seem counterintuitive, the products designed for teenage acne are often stronger than those made for adults. They also have a different formulation in some cases. When buying and using a product for teens, adults may be stripping too much oil and moisture from their faces, causing them to dry out and sparking other problems. While it may result in less acne, it may also mean that the skin becomes susceptible to flaking, itching, and other problems that come with dry skin—so don't go there. There are many good acne products for adults on the market, and any of them will generally provide ample benefits without drying out adult skin.
Using multiple acne-fighting products together can also dry out the skin or lead to other damage. They might also not work as well in combination as they would on their own as some things do cancel one another out. When battling maskne, it’s often easier to choose only one or two different products to use. If they don’t provide the intended result, it’s okay to try another one in place of one currently in use. But using too many at once probably won’t give the desired effect of clearer skin.
Probably the most important thing on this list is this: Frequent mask washing needs to be a habit. Washing our masks removes dirt and oil that can accumulate on them during the day. Treat a mask like any other article of clothing and get it in the wash every couple of days if you use it frequently. While most people don’t wash theirs after each time they wear it, it’s ideal to wash it frequently. Anyone who’s in an environment where they have to be close to a lot of other people for a prolonged time may want to consider more frequent mask washing, as well just to eliminate any germs they've picked up. A good rule of thumb is to wash it after every few wearings.
Cotton masks are less likely to cause maskne than some other types of fabrics. That’s because cotton is more breathable and may keep a person’s face cooler overall. A cooler face means less sweat and humidity, which in turn means less risk of maskne.
Using cotton masks isn’t a guarantee of an acne-free face, but it can help and might be worth consideration—plus they wash up easily and there are more studies on their successful use than many other types. .
Masks need to cover the mouth and nose, but some of them are shaped a little bit differently than others. Some masks cling more tightly to the face, and some are sealed well at the edges but have more of a loose front, such as the pleated type. By looking for a mask that sits differently, people might reduce the amount of cloth in contact with their faces. That, in turn, may also allow for more air circulation under the mask, which might mean a cooler face, less sweat and therefore less maskne.
There are ways to combat maskne and help skin stay clear and healthy—but we keep hearing stories of people feeling helpless. So the best thing to takeaway here is that it's controllable, and not inevitable. That’s good news, we hope. With a few small changes in their mask-wearing and skincare routines, maskne may become a thing of the past. Whatever you do, we do urge our readers to keep wearing masks. And we'll be here to help combat the minor inconveniences in the meantime.
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