How to tackle maskne: A dermatologist’s advice
Choose a snug but comfortable mask. Look for cotton and silk, too, to be kinder to skin
Maskne can be described as 'a skin rash which is exacerbated by mask-wearing and presents as red spots, bumps and blemishes'
I promise that this column will return to a reasonable level of glamour in the next couple of weeks, but for the moment, we should revisit “maskne”.
That word has really done a disservice to the intersection of skin issues it describes. The name suggests the triviality of an Instagram trend, but anyone experiencing skin issues as a result of consistent and lasting mask-wearing will know maskne feels anything but. Every dermatologist I have spoken with since the summer has confirmed an increase in patients complaining of mask-induced irritation and breakouts.
I asked Harley Street dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth to explain what maskne is and how best to navigate it. Dr Wedgeworth describes maskne as “a skin rash which is exacerbated by mask-wearing and presents as red spots, bumps and blemishes”. It’s probably a combination of issues, she says, “but the common feature is inflammation”.
There are two main ways, explains Dr Wedgeworth, that masks can interfere with our facial skin. The closeness of the fabric to our skin and the friction as it rubs and moves “can disrupt the skin barrier which leads to dryness, irritation and sometimes even redness and flaking. Masks result in increased exposure of skin to our own breath and increased temperature; this can disrupt the microbiome (the balance of good and bad bacteria on the skin)”.
Increased levels of oil, makeup and dead skin “are more likely to block pores, which is the first step in the development of acne-like spots”. In choosing a mask, Dr Wedgeworth advises that “natural fibres like cotton and silk are much kinder to skin. The fit of the mask is also important – a snug but comfortable fit will help”.
In terms of skincare and makeup, we should be lightening everything up. “Avoid very thick butters or oils. They can block pores, particularly under a mask. Longwear foundation and powders are common culprits for breakouts. Instead, use a non-comedogenic concealer, if needed, just over blemishes. Then at night you may want to try a carefully chosen active to counteract inflammation and clogging. Azelaic acid is a fantastic ingredient to tackle blemishes in more sensitive skin, whilst mild – 2.5 or 3 per cent – benzoyl peroxide can also be a super helpful targeted treatment for individual spots.”
Sculpted by Aimee Complete Cover Up Concealer (€16 at sculptedbyaimee.com) is a non-congesting, oil-free mineral concealer, and can cover all manner of blemishes without clogging. It’s also Irish and affordable.
When I know I have to wear a mask but feel the need of some foundation, I’ll use their Second Skin Dewy Foundation (€27), which is also mineral-based and breakout-friendly.
When I cleanse my face in the morning, I love another Irish hero – Skingredients Sally Cleanse (€25 at pharmacies nationwide). It contains decongesting salicylic acid and can be used as a three-minute mask on active breakouts. Avoid it if your skin is especially irritated and sensitised.
Avene Antirougeurs Soothing Emulsion (€22 at pharmacies nationwide) is a soothing day cream for combination skin (they also have a richer version for dryer skin) containing SPF 30. It’s designed for irritated, reactive skin, and will soothe and protect without feeling weighty.