Maskne: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Sep 26, 2020
Maskne: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Face masks might be a part of life now, but maskne doesn’t have to be

If you’ve been experiencing breakouts and clogged pores more than usual lately, it might not just be because of hormones or stress (we’re looking at you, coronavirus). The face mask you wear when you go out in public could be the culprit, causing this skin irritation. This is especially true if you’re noticing those pesky pimples (aka maskne) showing up in telltale places, including the bridge of your nose, your cheeks and your chin (basically, anywhere your face mask sits).

It might seem like your skin type doesn’t stand a chance, especially because face masks are a must right now. However, there is hope in the form of maskne treatment and prevention. Read on to learn more about face mask acne and how to prevent it before it happens (and how to treat it when you’re having a breakout).

First things first, what is maskne, and what causes it?

You may know that maskne (or acne mechanica, if you want to get technical) is a specific type of acne that comes from wearing a face mask. But you might not know what causes the bacteria to form. Knowledge is power when it comes to keeping your skin clear, so get ready for some education. 

Before face masks became a must-have accessory, dermatologists mostly saw this type of skin irritation in athletes. Not because they were wearing cloth face masks, but because they have to deal with friction, heat, and sweat in their helmets and straps. No one ever said being athletic was easy (and this is just one of the things that prove it).

So, when it comes to face mask acne, what causes it? It turns out a lot of things do. Maskne can occur when your cloth mask causes friction, pressure, rubbing, and stretching of the delicate and sensitive skin on your face. Also, it doesn’t just occur in the areas of your face that your mask covers. You can also find face mask acne where the edges of your mask sit.

The friction and pressure from your cloth mask isn’t enough to cause a pimple or blackhead though. Some other factors are involved in this acne equation. You’ll start to notice pimples forming after your makeup, oil, and sweat get rubbed into your pores. All of this gunk clogs your pores, leading to annoying acne and bothersome blackheads. As if that isn’t bad enough, breathing for hours in a mask creates a humid environment for the covered skin. This is great news for acne, but bad news for you.

Can you really take steps now to prevent acne later?

If you’re like a lot of women, you might think it’s impossible to avoid maskne if you have to wear a face mask, and wearing one simply rubs makeup and sweat into your skin. This isn’t exactly true though. We definitely aren’t advocating that you leave your facial mask at home (safety always comes first), but there are steps you can take to set your skin up for success. 

How much do mask materials and maintenance matter?

Let’s start with your mask. The material that it’s made out of matters more than you may think. When selecting a new mask, think breathable as you consider fabrics. 100% cotton masks are not only breathable, but they’re also gentle on sensitive skin. Some people also like wearing silk masks because their smooth texture creates less friction.

Now that you have a mask with a breathable fabric, how often should you use face masks and how often should you wash face masks? If you’re wearing the cloth variety seven days a week, you should be washing it with a gentle, fragrance-free laundry detergent every day after you finish wearing it. Yes, it might be a little inconvenient, but washing removes the gunk that builds up on your fabric masks throughout the day. Think of it this way. You can spend a minute or two caring for your mask to prevent breakouts. Or you can add 10 minutes to your morning makeup routine to try to hide your maskne. When you factor in the need for makeup touch-ups to cover maskne throughout the day, washing your face mask wins every time.

What if you’ve been wearing disposable masks? Face mask maintenance comes into play here too. Try to replace your disposable makeup masks as often as you can. If you need to wear the same one multiple days in a row, be sure to let it air out in between uses. Your skin will thank you for it.

While we’re on the topic of masks, know that you don’t need to wear one 24/7. Giving your skin a little breather (when you can socially distance yourself from other people) can do wonders for any skin type. Feel free to take off your mask at home and while you’re driving in your car (and enjoying a little karaoke if you’re anything like us).

What role does skincare and makeup play in maskne prevention?

When it comes to preventing maskne, there’s another type of mask you need to consider: the beauty face mask. If your daily or weekly self-care routine includes beauty masks, pay attention to what type they are. 

Hydrating masks like cream, clay, and sheet masks shouldn’t cause much of a problem. But you need to watch out for exfoliating and detoxing masks. These varieties can strip away your skin’s natural protective barrier. Without it, your skin is vulnerable to bacteria and dehydration. Dehydrated, dry skin causes your body to produce more oil and encourages your dead skin cells not to shed. This is basically the formula for a breakout under the best of circumstances.

Skincare isn’t the only part of the maskne prevention formula though. Makeup also plays a big role. Think about it. What’s going to be better for your skin when you’re wearing a mask for hours at a time? Rocking a full face of makeup, complete with heavy foundation, or going for a much more natural and light makeup look. If you said light makeup for the win, your skin will tell you that you’re correct.

You don’t want heavy, oily makeup rubbing into your skin day after day. So, if you aren’t already, start using a tinted moisturizer like Honest Beauty CCC Clean Corrective with Vitamin C Tinted Moisturizer. This and other lightweight multitaskers can help you achieve a more even skin tone and texture without having to pile on layers of products.

If you’re not a big makeup fan, you might even consider doing without on days when you need to wear a facial mask or covering. Some dermatologists believe this is one of the best ways to avoid maskne breakouts. But no matter what you do, make sure you wear sunscreen every day. A face mask might protect you from germs, but it can’t save your skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

The pimples have popped up, so now what?

If, despite your best efforts, you notice a maskne breakout developing, don’t despair. But do be gentle with your skin! Lots of women panic when spots start to appear on their skin, sending them into full at-home spa mode. But it’s easy to overdo it with the face masks, scrubs, toners, and washes. Overdoing it with skincare during a breakout can damage your skin’s protective barrier, which you now know is the last thing you want to do.

To keep that precious barrier intact and zap those zits, stick to products that aren’t overly drying but can still help unclog the pores. A gentle and natural face wash with salicylic acid, like Honest Beauty Clearing Cleanser, will do the trick. And don’t forget to double cleanse. No, this doesn’t mean you need to wash your face two times in a row. It just means you should cleanse it in the morning and at night, using lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser that is still effective.

After washing your face, hydration is key (yes, even if you have oily skin). We recommend looking for products that include hyaluronic acid. This helpful ingredient binds water and draws more moisture into your skin, making it the perfect formula for hydrating and moisturizing. A great option for a daily facial moisturizerwith hyaluronic acid is Honest Beauty Soothing Daily Moisturizer.

Even after you cleanse and moisturize, you might find that you need a little extra something to boost your breakout fighting efforts. In this case, you’ll want to start shopping for over the counter acne treatment products that can clear out clogged pores. Or you can place a pimple patch over the trouble spot (or spots). Not only do they help draw out the impurities, but they also stop more bacteria from entering the area. Think of it as quarantining your breakout!

Protect yourself from coronavirus and maskne at the same time

Wearing a face mask doesn’t mean that your skin has to suffer. With a little prevention (and an arsenal of tips for handling maskne breakouts), you can have beautiful skin and protect yourself, your family, and the people around you. Who says you can’t have it all?

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.