'Maskne': How to avoid skin irritation while wearing a face mask

Sarah Carty
·Features & Style Editor
·4-min read

Wearing masks is an important measure for preventing the spread of the coronavirus, as millions of Victorians are now required to wear them and NSW Premier Berejiklian issued a ‘strong recommendation’ for those in enclosed spaces to do the same.

While we’re all onboard with helping to combat COVID-19 by donning face masks, they aren’t the best for sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Image of woman blogger wearing mask during quarantine, creating new content for her blog on social networks. Female wears mask to protect from virus. Coronavirus, internet, blogging.
'Maskne' is caused by dirt, moisture and sweat building up behind face masks. Photo: Getty Imagaes

We spoke with the experts for some top tips on avoiding face mask ‘Maskne’ and skin irritation while the virus continues to spread around the country.

What is ’Maskne’?

‘Maskne’ is essentially acne or pimples brought on by wearing a mask and the skin’s exposure to excessive heat and rubbing.

According to skincare brand owner, Kimberley Verschuur of Ellus & Krue, as face masks now become the new normal, we’re seeing a rise in people breaking out, as dirt, sweat, makeup and a buildup of moisture leads to unwanted spots.

Young beautiful woman touching skin in bathroom. Unhappy girl standing in towel, looking in the mirror, checking dry irritated skin. Morning skincare routine.
The experts reckon you should stick to your normal skincare routine when wearing a mask. Photo: Getty Images

Skinstitut expert Zoe Devine agrees, telling Yahoo Lifestyle ‘Maskne’ thrives on factors like heat, friction and pressure, leading to acne.

“Wearing a facial mask can create the ideal environment for acne mechanica to form as the warm moist air is trapped under the mask and the friction can cause clogged pores and breakouts.”

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How to prevent ‘Maskne’ and irritation while wearing a mask

Skincare expert and Burt’s’ Bees natural beauty advocate, Belinda Hughes, urges people to stick to their usual skincare routine, especially during the day.

“Be really vigilant because we are adding a covering over the face now. Don’t use any active, leave-on products during the day,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.

“If you’re using AHAs or retinol with enzymes in it, don’t use it during the day because it might be irritating up against the mask.”

Belinda recommends only wearing the mask for four hours at a time, unless it’s essential as part of your job and if your mask is reusable, wash it after every wear.

Portrait of young woman with antiviral mask outdoors
It's recommended you don't wear makeup when wearing a face mask. Photo: Getty Images

Beauty experts recommended people use a natural fibre mask, like cotton or silk so it's breathable and doesn’t block pores.

Dor dry skin, use a calming moisturiser and keep it really simple, avoiding any harsh products on the face.

“Cleansing skin well prior to and after applying your mask and using a lightweight moisturiser as well is essential so as not to block pores,” Dr. Nina Wines, from Northern Sydney Dermatology, told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Should I wear makeup when wearing a mask?

According to Dr. Wines, people should try to wear minimal makeup underneath their mask to avoid clogging their pores up.

Belinda Hughes agrees, recommending people switch to a BB Cream or to no foundation at all but if you really want to feel like you’re wearing makeup, let your eyes be the focal point.

“Maybe put some concealer around the eyes and put some foundation on the forehead. Maybe pop a bit of bronzer on the top of your forehead and do your eyes ,do your eyeliner, do your eyeshadow and mascara, make it pop, make it fashionable. We can have fun that way without irritating the lower part of our face,” she said.

If it is necessary for you to wear makeup underneath your mask, Kimberley Verschuur urges people to make sure they’re cleaning their face every evening to remove makeup and pollutants from the skin.

Close up black woman after shower stands wrapped in towel look in mirror touch gentle skin feels happy after cleansing mask, prevention protection, antiaging treatment usage and natural beauty concept
To treat 'Maskne' you should cleanse the skin throughly and try salicylic acid. Photo: Getty Images

How do I treat Maskne?

If you already have ‘Maskne’, Kimberly recommends thoroughly cleansing your skin daily with a nourishing cleanser that does not strip the skin of its natural oils.

If you have ‘Maskne’, Dr. Wines says you would treat it the same way as normal acne, but if you end up suffering severe acne due to wearing a mask long-term, she claims it might be worth trialing a Fraxel treatment to avoid scarring.

Aesthetics Rx expert, Nicola Kropach, recommends salicylic acid to” gently exfoliate and help purify deeper into the pores breaking down sebum, grime and dead skin cells that may lead to the congestion and bacterial overgrowth”.

“It is also important to reinforce the skin's protective barrier function with a moisturiser to help combat damage on the surface of the skin from constant pressure, chaffing and rubbing which can compromise the skin's ability to protect and maintain itself making it vulnerable, especially to bacteria.”

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