Maskne: 5 ways to avoid breaking out under your face mask
As we begin to adapt to a new way of life following lockdown in the UK, we’ve all found ourselves with a new essential accessory – the face mask. While face masks are vital for providing protection to yourself and those around you, they have one major downfall – they’re a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. If you’ve been out and about in your face mask, especially in this warmer weather, it’s likely that you already know how problematic they can be for the skin. So that you can stay safe while also maintaining a healthy complexion, we asked Dr Sophie Shotter to share her top tips and practical tricks for swerving maskne once and for all.
How does wearing a face mask affect the skin?
Face masks cause friction against the skin. They wear away at the skin’s natural barrier and make it more vulnerable to irritation and infection. As a result, we may develop a condition called ‘acne machanica’, where acne is prompted by heat and friction. Underneath the mask our breath creates a very warm, humid environment which makes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and those who wear make-up will find their pores clogging more easily.
What can be done to prevent maskne?
Limit what you’re using on your skin
When you’re wearing a mask, it’s important to keep the products on your skin to an absolute minimum. Don’t use too many aggressive products as they could potentially cause further irritation. Instead, opt for barrier nourishing, non-comedogenic products. Either go make-up free or stick to Oxygenetix foundation which contains Aloe Vera and allows the skin the breathe.
Dr Sophie swears by Clinisept+ which kept her skin spot free while she was working back in the NHS during lockdown. Simply spritz the face after removing the mask to kill 99.99% of bacteria viruses, fungi and spores in under 15 seconds – great for all round sanitisation, but also for minimising spot causing bacteria on the skin.
Make your mask work for you
Friction usually occurs when the mask is slightly loose and therefore, moves repeatedly against the skin. Adjust the ear loops to make the mask a little tighter or opt for a mask that fits around your head. Only wear your mask when you really need to and make sure that you’re changing it several times a day if you need to wear it for a long period of time.
Don’t overdo the skincare
If you’re breaking out, it may be tempting but the answer isn’t to pile on skincare products in an attempt to tackle the issue. The first step is to calm the skin and reduce the irritation through the use of the right products. If you’ve got maskne, remember that your skin may be more sensitive than usual so don’t reach for the most hardcore, acne-fighting ingredients in your cupboard – get some specialist advice and focus on repairing your barrier with more gentle ingredients such as gluconolactone (try the Neostrata bionic face cream). Zit stickers may also be a helpful way of delivering active ingredients to specific spots without having to treat the whole area.
Keep your mask clean
It’s important to change the mask when you feel it become damp, because once damp, it’s ineffective. If you’re wearing fabric face masks, wash and dry them, so it becomes sterile again. If you don’t have access to a washing machine, wash the mask in hot, soapy water and scrub for 20 seconds. Then keep it in a plastic bag until you’re ready to use it.
AHAs and BHAs are an ingredient to look out for but…
Don’t go crazy, the last thing you want to do if you’ve got maskne is strip the skin back even more and cause further irritation. Ingredients such as salicylic and glycolic acid (try the Skin Better AlphaRet Peel Pads) are great for exfoliating your skin and minimising the potential for pore clogging, but use them sparingly and in conjunction with nourishing, barrier repairing products.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.