How to prevent mask acne: advice from the experts

Taylor Burnfield

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Editor’s note: This article is meant to be informational and is not intended to provide medical advice or diagnose medical problems.  

     Right now, many of us are dealing with a relatively new problem, known as mask acne (or “maskne”). Since this is a recent development in our lives, it can be frustrating not knowing how to prevent it.  

     I am a licensed esthetician (skin care specialist) in the state of Colorado and worked in the skin care industry for several years before attending college. During my time in the industry, I learned that there is a lot of misinformation out there, and people are often confused about how to properly care for their skin. 

     I find that it is best to get skin care advice from dermatologists. Even though mask acne is a new problem, dermatologists have already weighed in on the best ways to treat mask acne.  

     So, according to the experts, the following methods are the best ways to prevent “maskne”: 

Less is more 

     Since the area underneath your mask traps sweat, bacteria and oil, your pores get clogged easily. According to dermatologist Dr. Nina Desai, it is best to keep the skin underneath your mask as clean as possible. 

     If you wear makeup, Desai recommends not wearing makeup in the area that is covered by your mask, as makeup can further clog your pores. She also suggests using a gentle cleanser before putting on your mask.  

     Desai advises not to wear heavy moisturizers or other heavy skin care products underneath your mask. Because your skin cannot properly “breathe” while wearing a mask, wearing heavy products on your face all day will only clog the pores even more.  

     She recommends wearing a light moisturizer or light sunscreen during the day. 

Keep your mask clean 

     To prevent the spread of bacteria, Desai says that it is best to throw away disposable masks immediately and not to reuse them. If you have a reusable mask, she recommends washing it frequently.  

     If you must wear your reusable mask for long periods of time, she suggests washing it as soon as possible before wearing it again.  

     “You want to treat your mask like you would your underwear,” she says.  

Change up your nighttime routine 

     Desai and dermatologist Dr. Rachel Reynolds both recommend using a different cleanser at night than the cleanser you use in the morning. They suggest using a cleanser that contains acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide at night. 

     It is best to use these products only in the evening, and not during the day before you put on your mask. This is because these ingredients are strong and could further aggravate skin that is already extra-sensitive as the result of wearing a mask during the day.  

     Before using any new skin care products, it is important to make sure you do not have any allergies to certain ingredients. 

It may not be acne 

     Some people may experience redness, bumps and irritation on their skin as the result of wearing a mask, but this may not be acne.  

     It could be contact dermatitis (the medical term for skin irritation) caused by the fabric your mask is made from or even the detergent used to wash your mask.  

     Desai suggests using a 100 percent cotton mask, as this will be less likely to cause irritation. 

     However, Reynolds reminds us that “people with compromised immune systems should stick with surgical or other more medical grade masks where the level of protection may be higher.” 

     When washing your mask, Desai says to use a detergent that is less harsh and free from fragrances. She says that it is best to use hypoallergenic detergent.  

     Reynolds also advises avoiding fabric softeners and dryer sheets when washing your mask, as the fragrances in these products can irritate the skin.  

     Only your doctor can verify if you really are suffering from contact dermatitis instead of acne. It is always best to check with your doctor before making any major changes to your skin care routine.  

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