With up to 50 million Americans affected by acne each year, it is certainly a common pain point—even for kids. Unfortunately, the pandemic may be making acne problems worse, as the friction caused by masks may exacerbate irritation and become what is known as 'maskne' (mask + acne). Elizabeth Mullans, a board-certified dermatologist, provides her responses to common face mask-related questions to help mamas navigate their concerns.
"First came masks, then came maskne. Even when half of our face is covered by a mask, we still need to protect the skin underneath that could be irritated or else it can lead to skin sensitivity and breakouts," says Dr. Mullans.
Here's what you need to know about 'maskne' for your family:
Why do face masks cause acne in the first place?
Face masks trap sweat, skin oil and saliva against the skin, therefore disrupting the protective skin barrier and causing irritation. Bacteria can then penetrate the skin barrier and cause pimples, while skin oil and products can clog the pores. As a result, these irritations may lead to blackheads, pimples and pustules.
Should I be alarmed if my kid gets maskne?
No, this is nothing to be concerned about. Be sure to wash their face twice a day with a fragrance-free hypoallergenic face wash. Use a cleanser like Neutrogena hydro boost for extra dry skin to help prevent irritation and help hydrate the skin. You can also use a cerave cleanser for their skin, too.
What mask material is the best for my skin type?
Thick masks can cause more sweat underneath and around the mouth area. So it may be best to opt for a lighter face covering or more breathable material. It's important to know what materials a mask is made of and try to avoid synthetic materials. For especially sensitive skin, 100% cotton is advisable as it absorbs moisture and is far less irritating to the skin than other materials.
How can I clean my mask?
Face masks pick up dust and bacteria throughout each wear, making it important that fabric masks are washed after each use in hot water. Try a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic detergent such as Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin, Free & Clear Detergent to avoid skin irritation from residue left by harsh chemicals. Masks should be handwashed or washed in the delicate cycle of your washing machine, and then line dried—though check the specific care instructions of each brand just to make sure.
Should I wear sunscreen under my mask?
Although masks cover some of the skin on the face, there is still quite a bit left exposed to the sun, so don't skip sunscreen. If you're concerned about using heavy sunscreen on the face, try using a light moisturizer with hyaluronic acid to protect the skin's barrier, and follow up with sunscreen with a SPF of 30 (or higher) before heading outside. Many facial moisturizers even contain SPF.
If I have acne, does wearing makeup exasperate the problem?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it is best to avoid wearing makeup under your mask, especially heavy foundation. If wearing makeup, try to choose makeup products that are non-comedogenic or switch to a tinted moisturizer.
How can I proactively take care of my skin?
As always, make sure to use a gentle cleanser twice a day to avoid the buildup of dirt on the skin and clogged pores. For overall skin maintenance, adding a supplement into your diet like Vitafusion Gorgeous Hair, Skin & Nails is recommended as it has 5000mg of biotin per serving (talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements).
"It's what is behind the mask that matters most. By implementing manageable skincare steps, you will be able to help prevent future breakouts and allow for a little bit more confidence—with or without the mask on," adds Dr. Mullans.
If you develop maskne, here's how to treat it:
AAD suggests to stop applying skin care products and medications that can irritate your skin until your skin heals. Avoid using:
- Acne treatments that contain salicylic acid
- Anti-aging products
- At-home light devices
- Peels + scrubs
And of course, if you don't notice an improvement in a few days, consult with your doctor.