Maskne – what is it and how can I treat it?

Written by Angela, 13th November 2020

As soon as we opened our doors again to skin treatments in September, there were a lot of clients with breakouts in their mouth, nose and chin area. 

Throughout lockdown we had been receiving messages from key workers who were experiencing this and we now now commonly know this increase in breakouts and blemishes in the ‘mask area’  as ‘maskne’. Pronounced ‘mask-knee’, this is not a cleverly coined name, but a real skin problem and we have been looking at ways in which you can either prevent, reduce or treat it. 

Many of us will not be used to wearing a face mask for a prolonged period of time and this has caused skin problems for a lot of people. As soon as a vaccine has been rolled out and mask wearing can be reduced, or even removed, this phenomenon will most likely go away, but until that time lets look at what we can do to help improve things. 

Tips on preventing maskne

Wearing a mask for long periods of time is new to most of us  and anything we can do to help prevent maskne is welcomed by most of our clients. Our top tips are:

  1. Clean and rinse your mask thoroughly and change it frequently to reduce bacterial build up. 
  2. Store you mask properly. 
  3. Try different materials to see if cloth, paper, or silk suits your skin best. 
  4. Adapt your make up routine to suit mask wearing.
  5. Change your skin care routine to adapt to the new reality of frequent mask wearing. 

How often should I change my mask?

Mask hygiene is your number one priority. The mouth and nose area have high levels of bacteria and the mask provides a perfect breeding ground for them. The warm, dark area is just what most bacteria adore. When you think that bacterial numbers can double every twenty minutes then one bacterium can become many thousand in eight hours.

Whether you opt for disposable masks or a reusable one, aim to change your mask frequently. Environmentally a reusable mask makes sense, but ensure that you wash it well and remove residue of washing detergent thoroughly especially if you have sensitive skin. Detergent residue can be a problem for some skins. 

Ideally, change your mask at least twice a day, if you can, to help keep excessive bacteria at bay.

How should I store my mask? 

Just slinging your mask into your pocket or handbag in between uses is not ideal, as this will create the opportunity for more bacteria to build up. 

Carry a small cloth or plastic bag to place your mask in between use to create a more hygienic storage solution. 

Which type of mask is best to prevent maskne? 

This will come down to how sensitive your skin is. Some fabrics create more friction on the skin than others, potentially irritating the skin and enabling bacteria to penetrate more easily.

The type of acne that occurs due to friction is known as ‘acne mechanica’ and can happen when skin is rubbed, squeezed or stretched. Wearing masks for a prolonged periods of time can create acne mechanica. 

It may be better to choose a mask that is pleated rather than one that fits tightly to the mouth and chin as this will reduce friction and potentially cause less problems. 

Experiment with different cloths, paper and even silk to find one that suits your skin best. Remember if you can blow a candle out through your mask then it isn’t a mask. Select your mask for efficacy and safety as well as comfort and skin care. 

Make up to help prevent maskne?

We are adjusting to our new way of living in so many ways and, if you wear makeup, you may need to adjust your make up too. 

Maske can also be triggered by pores being blocked with makeup and long wear makeup can be an issue here. 

Many foundations have colour from F,D & C dyes which are known to cause skin congestion, so look at natural mineral bases instead to reduce pore blockage. 

Rather than wear a heavy makeup which may also exacerbate breakouts, opt for a minimal look. Look at a tinted moisturiser or a BB cream. Dermalogica’s SkinPerfect Primer is a great option as it gives a light, skin-smoothing coverage and has a little bit of tint and powdered pearl for a healthy glow. 

As most of your face is covered by a mask concentrate on your brow and eye area with immaculate eye makeup instead. 

For lips just carry a tinted gloss for when you are not wearing a mask as most lipsticks will rub off on the inside of your mask anyway.

Maskne skin care tips

Here are our top skin care tips to help prevent and tackle maskne: 

  1. Cleanse your skin thoroughly twice a day. 
  2. Exfoliate using a non-gritty exfoliator
  3. Opt for water-based skin care products
  4. Use a targeted blemish treatment

Cleanse your skin thoroughly twice a day

With bacteria, sweat, dead skin cells, makeup, pollutants and other dirt trapped under your mask, and building up as the day progresses, it is important to adopt a gentle yet thorough cleansing routine.  

We always recommend a ‘double cleansing’ routine. Step one removes makeup, oil-based debris and surface dirt. Step two is a prescribed cleanser to address breakouts without drying out the skin. 

Your cleanser should be soap-free and pH balanced to maintain the barrier function of your skin. 

Stick to no more than a twice daily cleanse as it is important not to dry out your skin, cause irritation or redness which will only make the condition worse. 

Why choose a non-gritty exfoliator?

There is a difference between a ‘skin polisher’ and an effective ‘skin exfoliator’. 

Gritty products are usually skin polishers and it is important to avoid them, this is because they create more friction on the skin’s surface which is the last thing that you need if you are suffering from maskne. Also, the small particles are likely to irritate existing blemishes rather than helping your skin condition. 

Look for products that contain salicylic acid to exfoliate by breaking down pore-clogging debris which is factor in spot formation.

Water-based skin care products

Look for light, water-based, gel-cream formulas with non-pore clogging ingredients. 

Keeping your skin hydrated is an important part in tackling maskne as well-hydrated skin enables it to function properly. 

A skin that is hydrated and functions well is less likely to have sensitivity, dryness, breakouts and premature ageing. 

Look for ingredients that will add moisture without adding oil. However beware of some ‘oil-free’ moisturisers as formulations sometimes used to substitute oil such as isopropyl based ingredients are known to be ‘pore-cloggers’, which will only make your skin condition worse. 

For example, we love Calm Water Gel. It’s cooling, soothing and packs the skin with moisture maintaining the skins barrier function.

Add a facial spray before your serum or moisturiser and to hydrate your skin thoughout the day. There is something really uplifting and refreshing to take a break and spritz your face. 

Best way to treat skin blemishes

For blemishes that just won’t budge use a targeted spot treatment. 

Tea tree is always a good option to apply onto spots and blemishes. We also love Dermalogica Spot Fader to treat individual blemishes as it is fabulous for not only clearing the blemish, but the niacinamide it contains reduces scarring and skin marking too.

A suggested ‘maskne skin care routine’ 

Use Precleanse to remove make up, surface debris and oil-based secretions. Apply to the skin, emulsify with water and remove with a clean, damp wash cloth.
Follow with Clearing skin wash to start gently treating breakouts without drying. Massage it over damp skin and remove with the same wash cloth.
Use Daily Resurfacer to exfoliate. This is a ‘no rinse’ exfoliator, so once you have applied it to your skin just spritz with Ultracalming Mist afterwards and apply either Calm Water Gel and Invisible Physical Defence for daytime or Sound Sleep Cocoon at night. 

Sound Sleep Cocoon is a beautifully light, yet moisturising gel-cream formula with essential oils. It not only soothes your skin but also your soul for a good nights rest. 

Once a week use a face masque to deep-treat your skin. We recommend the Charcoal Rescue Masque. 

Top tips for skin treatments with maskne

Our top recommendation for a ‘maskne’ facial is a Dermalogica Pro Skin 60 Skin Treatment. This sixty minute treatment will:

  1. Start with a skin and lifestyle analysis to assess which will be the best products and procedures to get maximum results for you. 
  2. Proceed to a thorough, but gentle cleansing and exfoliation process to unclog pores and remove dead skin cells to enable following products to penetrate more deeply. 
  3. Include steps to combat bacteria and reduce inflammation and may include extractions of any blackheads if needed.
  4. Finish with finishing products to protect and repair the barrier function of the skin.
  5. Include further treatment and homecare recommendations to continue the effectiveness of your  Dermalogica Pro Skin 60 Skin Treatment. 

For more  help or information on any of our services, our facials and award-winning treatments contact us here.

Also, remember you can easily book your beauty, health & skin care treatments online – just click here.

Originally published November 13, 2020 10:59am, updated January 15, 2024

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