Here’s a new grooming phenom of 2020: Lots of us are getting maskne, which is the acne you get from saving lives (or rather, from wearing a mask). And you know the mask is the culprit, because the pimples form anywhere that the mask has been pressed up against your skin.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it is a new means of this type of breakout. This acne is called occlusive acne, and it is the result of particles, grime, sweat, and other debris being trapped inside the pores—as a direct result of something pressing against the skin for long periods of time. And, it’s doubly risky when something unclean is pressed against the skin.
We get occlusive acne from any number of things, like pillowcases, ballcaps, helmets, cell phones, and even from touching our own faces. The mask is a new addition to that list, at least for most of us.
Suddenly, that mask is serving two purposes: to prevent the spread of germs, and to conceal your pimples. So, how can you prevent maskne in the first place, and how can you treat it?
How to Treat and Prevent Occlusive Acne
Follow these tips to prevent breakouts, and minimize existing occlusive pimples. Apply the same logic to other situations, like sweaty ballcaps and dirty pillowcases, to prevent occlusive breakouts across the board.
TIPS TO PREVENT MASKNE
1. Keep your face clean: Wash your face twice daily, at least. And wash it again after any intense bouts of sweating, like after a workout or on a hot summer day. You don’t want to overwash when it’s not necessary, but cleansing is imperative to do first thing in the morning, and again before bed, in the very least. (It also helps keep those pillowcases clean, though you should wash them weekly, too.) This will flush away any of the grime that gathers in the skin, and should minimize concerns for daytime mask wear. Use a deep-cleansing, gentle cleanser, like Cardon’s, which utilizes clay to extract impurities from deep within the pores.
2. Do a cleansing mask once a week: Speaking of cleansing clay, you should also do a clay face mask once a week (after an evening cleanse), to soak up any pore-clogging oils and impurities that have taken residence deep within the skin. Clay is also a terrific spot treatment on any fresh pimples, to soak up the sebum and dry out the comedon.
3. Wear a clean mask: Unless the insides of your pockets or backpack are clean, then you’re probably not wearing a clean mask. Secondly, after wearing it once, you’ve breathed all kinds of germs on the material, not to mention touched it all over with your fingers. So, you need to wash (or replace) your mask frequently, or else you’re pressing a dirty, bacteria-riddled piece of fabric against your skin, and are essentially inviting havoc.
Cloth masks can be easily washed by hand—use your favorite body wash or hand soap for the task, then let it dry overnight. Rinse it well, though, because you don’t want any dried or fragrant soap left on the cloth, which can then irritate the skin and cause its own unique problems. Try washing your mask every couple days, or getting a bulk pack of disposable one-day masks. And it’s also worth considering how frequently you was your pants or backpacks, too (however you tote the mask). Perhaps you could stow the mask in a ziplock between uses. Do whatever you can to minimize the buildup of bacteria on your face, just as you should wash your caps, helmets, or pillowcases—or even wash your hands before touching your face.
TIPS TO TREAT MASKNE
1. Seek salicylic acid: Find a pimple patch or serum with salicylic acid (used as frequently as directed), in order to dissolve dead skin cells and further flush out the pores. Besides clay’s extracting and absorbing powers, salicylic acid is the best ingredient for keeping skin clear thanks to its ability to zap away intruders and leave skin clear. Like clay, salicylic acid is also a terrific spot treatment for pimples, to help dry it out from the inside, without needing to break the surface of the skin. (It’s especially great for those hard, sensitive papules that are embedded deep in the skin. Don’t press on them, and treat them with salicylic acid for a couple days; it’ll work like magic to empty and deflate the blemish.)
2. Wear a restorative nighttime moisturizer: Whether you have acne or simply want to fortify the skin against blemishes, one other way is to give a boost to your bedtime skincare regimen. Use a moisturizer that focuses on restoration and repair, with ingredients like niacinamide, cactus extract, and rosehip oil. Cardon put all three into its gel moisturizer to promote smoothness, prevent oil buildup, and improve cellular turnover while you rest—which is the most opportune time of the day to rejuvenate the body.
3. Prevent discoloration with SPF. This is more of a bonus tip regarding acne scars. If you have acne and it’s exposed to the sun, you want to make sure to wear an SPF moisturizer over top, as well as over the dark spot that remains once it deflates. Doing so will prevent discoloration from the sun, which might otherwise preserve that dark mark for months to come.