An increasing number of cities and states are mandating that people wear masks and other face coverings in public to stem the spread of COVID-19. But while they can provide protection from the virus, spending time out in the summer heat with a snug face cover or wearing a lightweight mask for the course of an entire work shift can have an unpleasant side effect: maskne.
If you haven’t yet heard the portmanteau, “maskne” is the acne that can appear after wearing a mask for long periods of time. And while it may be a made-up word, experts say that maskne is legit.
World-renowned dermatologist Yoram Harth, MD, states that the increased temperature and raised humidity caused by breathing under a mask can promote bacteria growth on facial skin. Friction from the material damages the protective layer of skin, making it a prime surface for blemishes.
Fortunately, you can avoid maskne — or treat it if you’re experiencing a breakout — without any special treatments or products.
Harth recommends cleansing and moisturizing your face as soon as you take off your mask. He says that lightweight gel- or water-based moisturizers are best for preventing clogged pores.
New York City dermatologist Elyse Love, MD, meanwhile, says that exfoliating is another beneficial step. You can easily achieve this using a cleanser that contains retinol.
“Although adding retinol can be helpful to exfoliate the skin gently, it should be started slowly to avoid over irritation,” Love told Better Homes and Gardens. She recommends starting out by using it just three times a week. “If your skin tolerates it, increase to nightly.”
Maryann Mikhail, MD, notes that skipping makeup under your mask can also help to prevent acne. Not only can makeup soil the fabric, but it can also increase clogged pores, making your skin even likelier to suffer a breakout.
Finally, start each day with a fresh mask. If you wear disposable masks, toss them after wearing them. For fabric masks, wash them after each use.
If you follow these simple beauty tips while wearing your mask, not only will you be safe, but you’ll look good, too.