We love face masks. They help protect us and our loved ones from illness, hide a multitude of sins, such as awkward and poorly-timed facial expressions, and it’s just fun to run around pretending you’re in disguise. However, wearing masks regularly comes at a price. We are talking about the onset of the dreaded chin, mouth and cheek breakouts – also recently known as ‘mascne’. Ditching the mask is, of course, not an option, so what can you do to keep this unwanted side-effect at bay? Follow these five rules of thumb to keep your skin clear and fresh under that mask:
1. Do not reuse your masks!
Do not reuse disposable masks, ever. When you breathe and talk, your mask tends to trap warm air close to the skin. This moisture-rich environment is perfect for bacteria to flourish in, both on your skin and on the inside of your mask. Additionally, the friction between your skin and mask can inflame the skin which will leave it more vulnerable to bacterial infections. Combined with the likelihood of increased pandemic-related stress, this is a perfect storm for breakouts to brew in. Play it safe and only wear clean masks. This might feel wasteful so wearing reusable masks might be a better option, but don’t forget to wash them after each wear with fragrance-free detergent. This may be a bit of a chore but for avoiding mascne, it’s a must. If you work out while wearing a mask during the day, swap it for a fresh clean one immediately afterwards for these same reasons.
2. Keep your skin very clean
This may go without saying but cleansing becomes even more essential when you are frequently wearing a face mask. Use a gentle cleanser without fragrance and harsh surfactants, and if you already have blemish-prone skin, choose a formula which includes salicylic acid to further help remove oils and keep your pores clear. Your face should always be clean before wearing a mask, no matter how late you’re running.
3. Treat with caution
It may be tempting to pull out the big guns – acids, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids – at the first sign of a breakout but less may be more in this scenario. As your skin is already likely to be irritated from the mask, its protective barrier will be particularly vulnerable to inflammation and may react. The last thing you want is red, uncomfortably dry patches of skin to accompany the maskne! That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use these products if you already incorporate them into your skincare routine, but just be wary of how often you use them and at what strengths.
4. Stay moisturized
Ensuring you keep your skin both hydrated and moisturized will keep it balanced and healthy. Applying moisturizer will also act as a barrier between the mask and your delicate skin, particularly moisturizers formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and peptides (lookin’ at you, snail mucin) as these will provide extra protection and help your skin heal faster. This would be a good time to avoid products with artificial fragrances, essential oils, and heavy emollients which may clog your pores, such as coconut oil.
5. Keep your cool
Managing stress levels is critical to banishing mascne. An increase in Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, leads to overactive sebaceous glands which produce excess sebum. These excess oils mix with dead skin cells and bacteria and result in breakouts. While we accept that our ‘new normal’ collective reality means we are experiencing a higher level of stress and anxiety in general, making an effort to control your stress levels will have a major impact both on your body as well as your mind. Now is the time to make a commitment to spending more time on activities which help you cope with stress, whether that involves working out, practicing yoga, prayer or simply spending quiet, quality time with yourself when you need it the most.