Before we get started, hit play on this Janet Jackson banger and listen as we go on this journey down to Facetown–for no reason other than it was playing in my car this morning and put me in THE BEST mood.
“You might think I’m crazy but I’m serious…”
Indeed, Janet. Now let’s get started.
Maskne: What is it, and what can we do about it?
Maskne: Acne on the skin that your mask touches.
People more qualified than me say that maskne is the result of mask-wearing coupled with pandemic-related stress, creating a moist, warm environment for bacteria to flourish.
Repeatedly taking a mask off and putting it back on can also physically damage the skin’s barrier, leaving it vulnerable to a host of inflammatory conditions. And masks made of synthetic materials may contain chemicals that can further irritate the skin.
If you’re over 40 and currently have both zits AND wrinkles, welcome to the party!
Keep your face clean (but not too clean)
A clean mask and face are very necessary to avoid breakouts. Maskne can result from clogged pores, so wash your face well and often (at least after sweaty exercise and again at night). But know that a strong cleanser may dry you out, possibly damaging the skin’s barrier and exacerbating the wrinkle situation you’re probably also trying to combat.
I’m a lucky lady because I had early pandemic access to a skincare line created by my friend, who was a cofounder of Kate Sommerville cosmetics–called Seiso J Beauty–that’s effective but gentle. (Read more about the science behind how it protects the skin’s barrier here.) She’s in New Zealand not dealing with maskne, but I let her know that her cleanser is giving me life!
Another cleanser I’ve used and liked is Trader Joe’s Face Wash with Tea Tree Oil. With anti-bacterial properties, it’s effective against acne but a bit strong and probably better for oily skin.
Steam: Steaming your face opens the pores and loosens buildup. Elle rated their favorites, but you can also just boil some water, remove it from the stove (important step), position your face over the steam, and cover your head with a towel to collect that precious steam.
Apply a serum
After cleansing, during winter, or after a trip to the desert, dry skin may need a moisture boost. Seiso J Beauty also makes a plant-derived ceramide serum with human-identical ceramides from Japanese koji that increase moisture, reduce inflammation, and repair the skin’s barrier. With a slightly damp face, rub 2-3 drops of this magic potion anywhere on the face–you don’t need to avoid the eye area like you do with other products.
Facial mist: For quick face refresh, I use a few squirts of Tarte’s Ready, Set, Radiant Mist after cleansing or witch hazel (see below).
At night, and if my skin and the weather are not too dry, I sometimes use a retionol serum instead. However, if you are new to retinols now may not be the time to try them because they can cause irritatation, which could be exacerbated by your mask. For me, they give my skin a dewy glow and help to minimize fine lines and acne. If you were born before the internet, it’s time for a retinol.
Make sure you’re moist (but not too moist)
OMG, I mean moisturizer, you perv! <<LAmE JoKe aleRt!!!>>
As with serums, I select a moisturizer–humectant, emolient, or occlusive–based on my moisture needs at the time. For daytime, a lighter moisturizer with a sunscreen component is a better choice to avoid clogged pores. Or you can mix in a nongreasy sunscreen like MUAC’s Brightening Day Protection with your face lotion. The skin repairs itself at night, so that’s the time to really bring in the super-gooey, restorative moisturizers like Shiseido’s Bio-Performance moisturizer.
Astringent: Witch hazel can be used throughout the day to combat oil and acne, particluarly after long periods of mask-wearing. No special brand; generic will do. It’s been around since the dawn of time, and there have been no improvements that I know of.
Especially around the eyes
Because all we’ve got when we’re wearing a mask is our smize, the skin around the eyes deserves a bit of attention. I recently tried MUAC’s Transforming Anti Aging (no hyphen–the editor in me is dying!) Eye Repair Cream with positive results, including less crepey-ness (also not a word) and fewer fine lines.
Eyebrows: To better frame that smize even if you’re light in the eyebrow department like ya girl, DIY that eyebrow dye with Just for Men (Just for Me?) beard dye. Here’s a good tutorial, although I recommend using an angled eyebrow brush to apply instead of the supplied beard brush.
If you wanna just slap on something and chill (who doesn’t?), Patchology makes THE BEST eye gels. I give these as gifts on the regular. They’re so soothing but also effective against a range of undereye issues.
And Protect ya neck (there’s the rap reference everyone was waiting for)
Most of my maskne is along my jawline and neck. The nurse who does my fillers (more on that in a later post) suggested that I put a thin layer of bacitracin zinc ointment on my acne before I do anything active. That way, when I work out and huff hot air into my mask, I’m not creating a bacterial breeding ground. *Yuucckkkk*
The other kind of mask (masque?): I’ve been using the Alma Botanicals clay mask to suck out impurities. Or, as I learned when I was a Girl Scout in the 1900s, egg whites make a good face mask when you’re in a pickle.
Cleaning and care are really the best we can do to fight maskne in these troubling times. Shout out to those who’ve always worn masks as part of their jobs! RESPECT. For the rest of us, the mask mandate won’t be around for too much longer, unlike Wu-Tang, which is forever.