Last night I shouted out to the amazing peeps on my email list. The subject line reads – Maskne and Pac-Man – here’s what they have in common.
(psst – subscribers get my best stuff 😉 are you one of them?)
And I ended with a question.
Have you been affected by Maskne? Hit reply to let me know.
I got 87 replies, so if you have Maskne right now, know you’re absolutely not alone.
And in this next 5 minutes, I’m going to have you feeling back in control of your skin.
What is Maskne?
Here’s the thing my friend. Maskne is a reinvention of an existing cause of acne. It’s like Madonna but doesn’t sing as good.
Maskne before the COVID-19 rollercoaster hit us was previously known as acne mechanica.
And if we’re being technical, Maskne is now a recognised subcategory. Like a daughter or son of acne mechanica. The family tree is sprouting.
Is Maskne a thing? Heck yes it is.
Not only does wearing a mask interrupt your skin biology in a way which can explicitly lead to acne – more about this soon. When I asked you last night, the evidence speaks for itself.
Joy told me yes she’s being affected by Maskne, every time she went out she was getting guaranteed cystic acne breakouts by the following morning.
Meg told me yes she’s developed acne over the past months and she’s still experiencing it even since consulting a doctor. It’s also flaring up before her period.
Vivi told me yes, Hanna told me yes, Kelly told me yes, Chrissy told me yes – it will not go away! Help! Meg.K told me yes it’s awful and takes forever to go away.
Sheila told me she definitely struggled with Maskne but ever since she came to SkinCoach with me her Maskne dramatically improved. In fact, she said the changes I guided her through have been a game-changer. And today I’m here to share. However please remember – these are general recommendations I’m making without an understanding of your skin history, skin health and skin type. These I can only make for you on SkinCoach Me.
Disclaimer over 😉 let’s get to this.
What Causes Maskne?
Why am I getting spots when wearing a mask?
Why is my mask giving me acne?
If you’re reading this and are currently suffering with Maskne I hope you feel less alone right now. Others stand right here with you. And I want you to know you’re awesome for being on this rollercoaster of a year and to keep on going so gracefully even with mask acne.
Please pause to let yourself know how awesome you are 😊
Acknowledgement of your amazing self complete, it’s time to start at the beginning. What causes Maskne?
I hinted before.
Did you catch it?
Specifically, the biology changes a mask causes.
Because here’s what wearing a mask does to your skin;
- It causes friction which ‘rubs off’ your protective skin barrier
- It causes friction which irritates your skin – this gets worse as more of your skin barrier gets rubbed off
- Traps moisture right next to your skin – this moisture has a pH level much higher than your skin – your skin pH at its healthiest is between 4.2-5 aka it’s slightly acidic, your breath when it condenses is slightly alkaline, studies tell us it’s usually about pH 8.2
- Upsets your skin’s microbiome aka the family of bacteria living on your skin right now – that’s because a healthy skin pH breeds a healthy skin microflora, you’ve already guessed what an unhealthy skin pH does eh – acne bacteria can strike
- And as all of these skin changes happen your skin gets poorly and doesn’t exfoliate itself in an even and healthy way – clogged pores pounce
- Wearing a mask also heats up your skin way past the temperature it’s used to being at – heat speeds everything – just think of how quickly heat brews a cuppa – the hotter it gets underneath your mask, the quicker Maskne strikes
All of these biology changes happen as you wear a mask. The stronger your skin is, the longer you’re going to be resisting Maskne for. We’re here to get your skin strength back.
How Do You Treat and Prevent Maskne?
There are ways my friend. I hope Sheila’s experience goes to show you there is hope and there is help.
The first point I must make here – Maskne is different to hormonal acne.
As Meg is experiencing, hormones can make Maskne worse, however, hormones are not at the root cause of your mask acne. If you didn’t have acne before wearing a mask and if your acne is only around the area of skin your mask covers – you have mask acne not hormonal acne.
Now’s time for the good stuff.
5 Steps to Preventing Maskne
How can I prevent pimples while wearing a mask? You’re asking the right question my friend.
You must prevent Maskne before existing Maskne can heal. Kudos.
Here are a selection of steps which can help – for specific recommendations please enrol on SkinCoach Me.
1) Use skincare which contains skin protectants
Your skin barrier is being worn away. Imagine your skin like a frosted cake. Now imagine putting a mask on top of it. That frosting’s getting messy, being smushed around and being rubbed straight off.
Certain skin care actives are known skin protectants meaning they can help form a protective seal on top of your skin.
Like a cake shield.
Known and FDA registered skin protectants include allantoin and dimethicone. Look for these on your skincare ingredients list.
2) Use a makeup primer – it matters what kind!
And use it no matter if you’re wearing makeup (more about if makeup makes acne worse here). Think of primer like skincare. The only difference is it’s skincare that’s designed to sit on the top layers of your skin. Bonus. This is where we want it. This is where your skin needs help when suffering Maskne.
Top tip – a lot of primers contain dimethicone – can you see how this helps?
Skin protectants to the rescue.
Note – not every primer contains them. Not every primer will help reduce the friction of your mask against your skin. The right primer will.
3) Wear a silk face mask – or one with antibacterial properties
Mel asked this question for her friend Stacey from Cincinnati, Ohio, “What are the best masks for preventing acne? Cotton, silk, one-use disposable? Is there anything that can be sprayed on them to help prevent acne?”. And she’s nailed a couple of extremely important tips here.
#1 – the rougher your mask is, the more friction it causes, the more Maskne you’re getting.
You want as soft and as slippy fabric as possible. Of course please keep in mind that some masks will be more effective at preventing COVID contagion than others. When it comes to mask acne a super soft mask is best, look out for phrases like high-quality soft cotton. However, the safest, least friction causing fabric is likely to be silk, like here.
#2 – you can also get masks which are made from antibacterial fabric – this is better than a spray treatment – silver is known to be antibacterial and that’s why when silver is spun into fabric it can make it antibacterial – see an example of an antibacterial silver face mask here.
Update; face mask brackets have also just become available – they help to keep the fabric of your face mask away from your skin therefore helping to prevent the friction that causes Maskne.
4) If you’re wearing a mask for several hours a day – wash it after each use
And make sure you’re using a fragrance-free, sensitive skin-friendly washing powder. Washing powder residue can upset your skin barrier.
5) Resist the temptation to over wash your face – it’s going to make your Maskne worse
Over-washing your face, especially with a high strength anti-acne face wash is going to make your Maskne worse long term. As a rule, washing your face just once a day in PM is best.
Quick how-to prevent Maskne summary;
- Use skincare that contains skin protectants i.e. allantoin
- Use makeup primer
- Wear a silk face mask/antibacterial face mask
- Wash your mask frequently
- Don’t over-wash your face
5 Steps to Healing Maskne
1) Follow the 5-steps to preventing Maskne from above – this is where you must start
You can’t heal from Maskne if you’re not taking the right steps to prevent it first.
2) Use pimple patches on red, cystic, irritated acne
You can even use these in the day underneath your mask – no-one’s going to see eh. These help reform a temporary skin barrier allowing your skin to heal at super-speed underneath.
3) Use pH balancing skincare
The pH of your skin has a huge impact on the health of your skin. And wearing a mask is like washing your face continually with breath fog (remember that’s pH 8.2ish). Studies tell us how this can upset your skin health;
“…the use of plain tap water, in Europe with a pH value generally around 8.0, will increase skin pH up to 6 h after application before returning to its ‘natural’ value of on average below 5.0. It is demonstrated that skin with pH values below 5.0 is in a better condition than skin with pH values above 5.0”Int J Cosmet Sci. 2006 Oct;28(5):359-70.
You can use pH balanced skincare or you can use acidic skincare which helps to reset your skin’s pH balance. You’ll also want to steer clear from most traditional anti-acne spot treatments as these can have high pH levels.
4) Use a probiotic moisturiser
Probiotic moisturisers can help repair your skin barrier, balance your skin pH and improve your skin’s resilience. Basically, you’re sending your skin down the gym 😉
5) Use the right face oil in PM
If you’ve been Googling for mask acne help, you’ll have seen the advice, don’t ever use face oils. In my opinion and experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth of what’s going to help you.
The important point of difference is this – it has to be the right face oil for your type of acne aka mask acne and for your skin type. The top layers of your skin aka your skin barrier are almost completely oil-based. Therefore face oils can act as a temporary second skin. They can also help replenish your skin barrier. Winning.
Quick how-to heal Maskne summary;
- Follow steps to prevent Maskne first
- Use pimple patches
- Use pH balancing skincare
- Add a probiotic moisturiser to your daily skincare routine
- Use the right face oil in PM
There you have it my friend. 5 steps to preventing your Maskne and 5 steps to healing your Maskne. If you know someone who’s suffering right now, please, please use that green button below to share this with them. On this 2020 rollercoaster ride – there’s one thing getting us through and that’s each other.
Have you been experiencing Maskne? Will you share how wearing a mask has changed your skin in the comments below? It really helps others to feel less alone and supported.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.