| Amy Robson

Q: What is Maskne, and how can I avoid it?


My heart goes out to anyone who landed on ‘better, healthier skin’ for their 2020 resolution! We’ve talked on and off on the blog about how the various challenges of this year could have affected our skin, but this week we’re steaming full ahead to the not-so-wonderful world of Maskne!

Let’s start at the start… Maskne is not an invention of this pandemic. Healthcare staff and other workers requiring masks have been experiencing this unfortunate phenomenon for a while, so we already know quite a bit about the condition formally known as acne mechanica. But thanks to the pandemic we’ve been facing, a more social-media savvy term has been coined for the unfortunate break outs caused by your mask! 

When you put on your mask, an environment of warmth and sweat is created around your mouth and nose which traps oils and bacteria on your skin, allowing them to clog your pores and cause (or worsen) acne. And if you have been touching your mask, or it has dirt or bacteria from the previous wear, you run the risk of even angrier skin. Whilst us spot-prone skin types are used to flare ups, this specific combination of factors is causing even those with previously no issues with acne to suddenly suffer alongside us.

What you may not have realised, is that your chosen mask could be making it much worse. It comes down to fit, and fabric. Too tight, or too loose, and your mask is going to rub and irritate your skin, breaking down your protective layer of skin and causing micro-abrasions. Then in comes the bacteria, settling down for a fast following flare up. Using a rough or non-breathable fabric can only exacerbate these issues, which is why if you’re using a reusable fabric mask, stick to cotton, or even better, silk. (And help a small business out as you do so by shopping online in places like Etsy for your new mask!)  Remember to wash them regularly with a fragrance-free detergent just in case of any sensitivities.  

When you wear your mask for a prolonged period of time, is causes occlusion to the skin. Whilst occlusive skincare, products which create a film or barrier over your skin for protection, is great for stressed, dry and damaged skin, the skin itself doesn’t like occlusion. If you’ve ever worn a wound dressing or bandage which caused skin irritation after a while, strapping tape for exercise, or even just making the wrong call on a heavy garment on a hot day, have experienced the negative effects of occlusion. So if you’re just popping it on for your weekly shop or a bus ride to work, it’s not as dire as it sounds. And of course, I’ve got some tips for keeping your skin happy and clear! 


Wash your mask regularly

I know this is the obvious one, but ideally you want one mask per day. This reduces the chance of bacteria from your hands, or the environment, getting stuck on your face and causing havoc. Try and store your masks in an airtight container, such as a zip lock bag, and wash your hands (or sanitise if that’s not possible) before touching it. If it makes it any easier, invest in a set of nice fabric masks and allocate a day of the week to each! Some people even suggest a little spritz of toner in your mask before you put it on to keep things balanced!


Wash your face regularly

If you aren’t already washing your face twice per day, this is your big flashing sign to start! By washing your face before putting your mask on, you’re keeping bacteria off your face, and getting rid of them in the evening after you’ve taken it off for the day. For a midday refresh, pop out your toner for a quick skin refresh after removing your mask. Our Niacinamide Daily Toner is a perfect choice, especially to reduce the redness of any emerging spots!


Rethink your makeup routine

The mask, and the heat beneath, has a pretty good chance of ruining your makeup, and transferring to the inside of your mask in turn, not to mention another skin barrier to clog your pores and incite spots. Whilst my advice would be to leave your skin bare, what better time than now to hone your eye makeup skills?




Use light, water-based skincare

You’re already going to get sweaty, and a little oily, under your mask, so keeping your skincare light can ensure you’re not adding to the problem. A product like our Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum is a great choice for deep hydration which doesn’t sit on your skin, although a light moisturiser can be a good option for boosting your skin’s natural barrier against mask friction.


Repair your skin overnight 

Focus on non-comedogenic products filled with antioxidants to soothe irritation and boost skin repair, as well as ones which keep your skin barrier healthy. If you’re new to blemishes, try something that balances your oil levels like our Zinc PCA Facial Serum, to minimise the clogging effects under your mask. On our checklist, look for products with ‘Stressed’ ticked.

You can also use a detoxifying face mask, like our Activated Charcoal Face Mask, to draw out all the irritants from your skin, or a gentle chemical exfoliator to remove any dead skin which can block pores.  




Be aware of mask related dryness, reactions, and exacerbation of other skin conditions

Okay, not technically Maskne, but still something to consider! The environment created under your mask can cause flare ups of rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis and folliculitis, as well as drying out your lips. If you’re finding the reaction particularly bad or unmanageable, it’s a good time to speak to your dermatologist. As for lips, if you’re not on the lip oil bandwagon yet… No time like the present! Our Liquorice Lip Oil absorbs quickly so your lips can be hydrated without the product touching or sticking to your mask, and seal in with a lip balm if you like to keep the sweat and bacteria out.   

Unfortunately for our unhappy skin, but fortunately for the greater good, wearing your mask is an important way you can protect the people around you and getting into a good habit seems like the way forward towards a safer transition out of 2020. So keep that mask on! We all appreciate the skin-sacrifice for the greater good, although hopefully now we can use these tips for healthier skin ☺️

To our health! 🥂

Amy @ Team Q+A

Amy Robson
Online community coordinator at Q+A and maskne sufferer

Psst! Are you a NHS worker suffering from Maskne? We're still running 20% off the entire range through the Blue Light App! 

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