While wearing a mask is an essential part of stopping the spread of COVID-19, one thing many people have noticed is that having something on your face for prolonged periods of time, especially in the summer heat, can wreak havoc on your face.
We spoke with two board-certified dermatologists to find out the best way to deal with that gross, hot feeling you get while wearing a mask and how to get rid of the unsightly pimples and bumps it can leave behind.
What is Maskne?
“Maskne or ‘acne mechanica’ is the word derived from ‘mask’ and ‘acne’ and it occurs after prolonged periods of wearing a protective covering, causing breakouts on the chin and cheeks,” says Heba Abdulla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Franklin Lakes. “The ugly combination of heat, moisture and friction clogs the pores creating these stubborn bumps.”
“If you’re making your own mask, use simple 100 percent cotton fabric to construct it,” advises Harold Lancer, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and creator of The Lancer Method. “The more synthetic a material is, the more heat retention occurs on the skin that is covered by the mask. This will likely lead to irritation and breakouts so make sure to avoid those.”
Although you might be used to wearing foundation, Dr. Abdulla says that wearing cosmetics under the mask can lead to more problems. Consider taking a break from the extra makeup, at least in the summer.
“Avoid wearing makeup under the masks as it will only be pushed deeper into your skin causing irritation and worsening breakouts,” says Dr. Abdulla.
In addition to washing your mask daily, also consider carrying a backup mask in case the first one gets sweaty. “You should be changing your mask often,” says Dr. Lancer. “Wearing a mask for too long creates heat and sweat on the skin, which can more easily lead to irritation or breakouts.”
Caring for Your Skin
Dr. Lancer recommends simply keeping up with your regular skincare routine. “Maintain your normal, regimented skincare program both morning and night,” he says. “It’s important to keep your skincare program intact.”
Dr. Abdulla says that now is not the time for deep exfoliating or for using facial brushes such as Clarisonic. “Exfoliating will leave your skin more sensitive and irritated,” she says.
Instead, she suggests that if you’re prone to breakouts, to gently wash with a mild salicylic or glycolic acid cleanser. “Some of my favorites are Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash or Glytone Mild Cream Cleanser,” she says.
For dry skin, she suggests a non-soap cleanser like Cetaphil Skin Cleanser.
“Make sure your moisturizers are non-occlusive,” she says. “Look for the word ‘non-comedogenic’ on the label. CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion is lightweight and oil-free.
If you already have a troublesome breakout from prolonged mask wearing, there are a few simple things you can do for relief.
“Make sure to clean the skin with a gentle antibacterial cleanser and incorporate a thorough facial washing every few hours,” suggests Dr. Lancer. “A light-weight moisturizer is key after cleansing.”
He also stressed how important normal cleansing is at this time to remove natural debris. “Using a cleanser with an antibacterial component creates an added barrier of safety,” he says. “Make sure to have a post-cleansing thorough rinse.”
When it comes to your moisturizer, look for one that is anti-inflammatory. “Heat, perspiration and friction from the mask rubbing skin will potentially cause an irritant dermatitis and perhaps a facial yeast overgrowth or blemishes,” he says. “Hyaluronic acid is a soothing, anti-inflammatory repair sugar that works to moisturize the skin and fight these issues, so look for a moisturizer that contains this ingredient.”
If problems persist, Dr. Abdulla recommends seeking professional care.
“If you are developing itchy rashes, this may be due to a contact or irritant dermatitis,” says Dr. Abdulla. “You can try hydrocortisone 1 percent but consider seeking the advice of your dermatologist if the condition is not improving.”
A great thing we can all carry in our bags to freshen up are facial wipes. “I always prefer a good wash over a wipe but sometimes this is not an option,” says Dr. Abdulla. “In this case a gentle swipe is useful. You can try Neutrogena Oil Free Cleansing Wipes for a quick alternative to washing.”
“Use facial wipes if you’re wearing your mask for several hours,” says Dr. Lancer. “You can also do this when you get home and take your mask off. These should keep excess oil under control, and they don’t require significant time.”
“Sometimes I also use Avène Thermal Spring Water spray to immediately soothe my irritated itchy skin after eight hours of continuous mask wearing,” says Dr. Abdulla.
Take a Mask Break
Sometimes the best relief for maskne is to give your skin a little fresh air, especially if you’re wearing one all day at work. Dr. Abdulla says it’s important to take it off every once in a while, while maintaining best safety practices, of course.
“Take breaks!” says Dr. Abdulla. “Go outside during lunch and let your skin breathe.”