Health experts agree that wearing a mask is one of the healthiest and most responsible things we can do during the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, donning a face covering in public helps stop respiratory droplets from folks possibly infected with the disease from being spewed into the air, where they can be inhaled by healthy people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Maskne Is the Result of a Perfect Storm of Factors That Cause Acne
Itâ€™s distressing to start seeing spots pop up on your face again. â€œMasks can lead to acne breakouts for two main reasons. Direct friction promotes inflammation, which drives breakouts. Masks also promote breakouts indirectly by trapping moisture and allowing for overgrowth of microorganisms on the skin,â€ explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
When it comes to the first issue, friction, Dr. Zeichner points out that this is called â€œacne mechanica.â€ Itâ€™s a common problem among athletes. Active bodies are hot, sweaty bodies, and that increase in heat and moisture, combined with the rubbing of sports equipment or clothes on skin, creates an environment for acne to thrive, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
You know you might have maskne if these breakouts appear near â€œthe edge of the mask where the shield touches the skin and throughout the areas covered by the mask,â€ says Lucy Chen, MD, a board certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami.
Skin-Care Tips That Can Help Prevent Maskne
Chen also recommends basic skin-care habits, such as washing your face morning and night with a gentle cleanser. Look for one thatâ€™s oil-, fragrance-, and sulfate-free. Apply a lightweight moisturizer (look for those that are more lotion-like than creamy) on top. If you are wearing the mask for a long period of time, avoid applying makeup in the mask area, too. No one can see that area, anyway.
When possible, keep your mask off your face to give yourself a break. Remember to do this only if law (and responsible public health practices) allow, says Chen. For example: If youâ€™re in your car or home by yourself or with members of your household, you do not have to wear a mask.
In the evening, consider applying a clay mask if your complexion tends to be oilier or irritation-prone. â€œClay masks soothe skin and help absorb oil,â€ says Zeichner, who recommends Clean and Clear Night Relaxing Detox Clay Mask ($7.29, Walgreens.com).
How to Effectively Treat Maskne if It Happens
Just like any acne, dermatologists advise you to keep your hands off of it and do not try to pop or squeeze. â€œThis will only cause more damage to the skin and take longer to heal,â€ says Chen. If you feel a pimple coming on â€” that familiar feeling of something hurting under your skin â€” she recommends putting on a pimple patch. â€œThese are thin hydrocolloid bandages that can be applied to impending breakouts. No one will see them under a mask anyway,â€ she says. One popular brand is Cosrx ($6, Ulta.com).
Your maskne treatment strategy needs to involve some patience. â€œIn a rush to get clear skin fast, people tend to go crazy with scrubs and face washes,â€ says Chen. A cleanser with salicylic acid will work to unplug pores. If you need a spot treatment, reach for a benzoyl peroxide cream with 2.5 to 5 percent concentration. One well-reviewed option is Paulaâ€™s Choice Extra Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment With 5 percent Benzoyl Peroxide ($19, Paulaschoice.com).
Chen also suggests smoothing on an oil- and fragrance-free moisturizer that contains hydrating ceramides, like CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($11.99, Ulta.com). A light serum with hyaluronic acid can furthermore boost moisture for any skin type, including those with acne, notes Proactiv.com. A top-seller at Ulta is The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($6.80, Ulta.com).
Finally, youâ€™ll still want to wear a sunscreen when going out, and in this case, a mineral SPF can even help soothe your skin from irritation, says Zeichner. He recommends looking for one with the active ingredient zinc oxide. â€œZinc oxide provides UV protection and actually has some skin-soothing benefits, which is why itâ€™s used for babies as a diaper cream,â€ he says. One brand that Zeichner recommends is Solara Suncare Time Traveler Ageless Daily Facial Sunscreen ($42, Standarddose.com). Those with breakout-prone skin might also want to search for one labeled â€œnoncomedogenicâ€ (translation: unlikely to cause acne, per the AAD). With a little time and care, maskne doesnâ€™t have to be inevitable.
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