I’m an advocate for wearing face masks—think of it as public service, you’re basically protecting everyone else from you. While I’m all for flattening the curve and social distancing, one of the unfortunate side effects that have occurred is maskne.
Also termed acne mechanica, these mask-induced breakouts can happen through friction, irritation and occlusion. These are easily distinguished from hormonal acne—tiny bumps that look like whiteheads around the jawline and chin that don’t look like they’re ready to be popped anytime soon (I know because my itchy fingers are always raring to get ’em out, and it’s always never ready).
Before you ditch your mask or, worse, pile up on the peroxides, here’s what you can do to nip it at the bud and combat maskne—from basic hygiene practices to hydrating your skin adequately:
Tip #1: Wash your mask
I can’t stress this enough—wash your fabric mask on a daily basis if you don’t want your chin to erupt like Mount Vesuvius circa 79 A.D. (read: it wasn’t a pretty sight).
If you have the unsavoury habit of forgetting to toss your mask in the washing machine, opt for a surgical mask and remember to replace it after wearing it for four to six hours—please don’t wear the same surgical mask all day long.
But if you don’t have a surgical mask at hand and only have an unwashed fabric mask in your bag, do this instead: Fold two sheets of facial tissue and put them inside and outside your mask’s pocket. This way, you get a four-layer filter that you can change out daily, and your skin won’t come in contact with your soiled (eep!) mask. Word of caution: this step should be your last resort.
What worked for me was stocking up on a few different fabric masks so that I don’t have to worry about 1) my masks not drying in time during rainy day, and 2) times when I forget to do my laundry.
Tip #2: Use fabrics that won’t irritate your skin
Ideally, the best fabric to use for face masks is tightly-woven cotton and two sheets of chiffon, natural silk or flannel, according to a recent study. This combination has been found to be the most effective in filtering out tiny aerosol particles—cotton with a tight weave provides a mechanical barrier, while silk helps to hold a static charge.
If you can’t find a cotton-silk blend, go for a 100 per cent cotton (tightly woven!) mask to help you breathe easily while filtering out nasties instead. Put those fancy fashion-ready ones on the shelf if it’s made from denim, leather, canvas and any other fabrics that may be too rough on the skin. It’s a no brainer between
sandpapering your skin/looking chic vs keeping your skin health in check.
Tip #3: Go without makeup
While it’s tough to do (I feel you, my chin is a veritable cesspool of scars and blemishes that could really use the help of concealer), having makeup around the area that your mask is going to be on most of the day is not going to work in your favour.
Think about it—your mask is going to trap your makeup, and that’s not including your sweat and sebum that will be piled on if you’re out and about. The result? A full-on, oil buildup and bacteria fest which may lead to cystic acne and flare-ups.
Also, another fun fact: makeup can hinder your mask’s air filtration ability, whether it’s foundation, concealer or lipstick; not to mention, it’s going to soil your mask, which makes it more difficult to clean.
If you’re feeling conscious of your zit-riddled chin/jawline, just keep your mask on all-day long—no one’s gonna fault you for keeping everyone else protected anyway.
Tip #4: Water-based > oil-based
If you have oily and acne-prone skin, you may want to swap your oil-based skincare for water-based products right now. Look out for non-comedogenic formulations to ensure your pores don’t get clogged, and that your skin won’t overload on sebum production.
Water-based lotions, serums and moisturisers are equally as effective, especially if it’s laden with actives such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin and the like. The best part—it won’t make your skin feel uncomfortable when you start sweating under your mask, especially when it’s humid out.
Tip #5: Check your laundry detergent
Surprise, surprise—your laundry detergent can be the reason why your skin is having a field day. Check the label and make sure it doesn’t have any fragrances as this may aggravate your skin.
Also, if you typically wash and dry your mask with the rest of the laundry in the same load, omit fabric softener and dryer sheets (if you have a dryer) as they may coat your mask with a layer of wax and fragrance—not something you’d want in contact with your skin.
Tip #6: Mask, mask, mask
Not that kind of mask, if you were wondering. Don’t forget to amp up on the TLC for your skin every week. Even if you aren’t experiencing unusual breakouts, masking helps to maintain your skin’s tiptop condition and keep any unwanted skin dilemmas at bay.
On a personal note, masking once a week doesn’t quite cut it for my skin anymore—I alternate between sleeping masks (the new Chanel Camellia Repair Mask is an absolute dream) and sheet masks every two days for extra hydration.
On days when my skin acts up, I indulge in a mud/clay mask to decongest pores and rebalance my skin, such as Sothys Purifying Two-Clay Mask that has green clay, white clay and salicylic acid. The finale? A hydrating mask to seal the moisture in and keep skin supple—Fresh’s Rose Mask is my long-time favourite and you can stock up on their limited-edition design, exclusively designed by artist Jayde Cardinalli.
Tip #7: Don’t overdo the actives
Every time a flaming zit makes its rounds, I’m always tempted to coat that area with a super thick, goopy layer of blemish cream. But I’ve learned my lesson (the hard way)—overly dry, highly-irritated and super sensitised skin is not something you’d want to replace your spotty areas.
Instead of layering benzoyl peroxide and retinol all over your maskne, opt for a gentler option such as salicylic acid after a proper cleansing routine. You’ll want to double cleanse to make sure you’re removing all traces of buildup and even sunscreen.
But if your maskne is exacerbating and you can’t wait to pop every one of them, you’re going to have to sit this one out and distract yourself. You don’t want to cause unnecessary scarring and damage your skin, and have a spotty chin even after your zits have popped. Put the needle away and focus on loading up on the hydration to repair your skin barrier.
My go-to zit kickers: Drunk Elephant’s power-packed duo to decongest skin and keep it nourished, Coxrx Acne Pimple Master Patch to ensure my pesky fingers won’t come in contact with my blemishes, and Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Cream to calm my inflamed skin.
Check out more skincare tips here.
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