Maskne. Like many other dreaded terms these days (COVID-19 anyone?), it only entered our vocabulary in 2020. And it’s yet another word we’d rather not have to use on the regular, but the struggle with maskne is real, since wearing a face mask can trigger breakouts. While it may seem like it’s inevitable, the good news is there are plenty of maskne products that can help keep your complexion clear and healthy. To help you do just that, we got the scoop from experts who answered your burning questions about the topic.
Below, we have answers to frequently asked questions about this topic, and we’ve also rounded up the best maskne products to stop breakouts in their tracks.
What causes maskne?
“Face masks cause acne because of direct and indirect effects on the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Friction from the mask against the skin causes direct inflammation that promotes breakouts. Indirectly, masks trap oil, sweat and dirt on the skin that block the pores.”
Maskne can be a potential problem regardless of what type of mask you wear, whether that’s cotton, N95 or surgical paper. But, breathable fabrics, like cotton, reduce the risk. If you’re wearing a resuable mask, another trigger could be your laundry detergent, which is a common culprit of irritation, so if you have sensitive skin stick to a fragrance-free detergent to avoid a reaction.
“Wear masks made of natural fibers like cotton, which are gentler against the skin,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Clean the mask regularly and do not put it on if there is any visible soiling. Think of your mask like you would any other garment that sits directly against the skin. Stick to dye-free, fragrance-free detergents like Tide Free & Gentle, which is gentle on the skin and carries the seal of the National Eczema Association.”
Lastly, wash your masks daily and make sure your mask is completely dry before wearing it again. Ideally, you should be able to rotate between several masks so that you can wear a clean one every day of the week.
Tide Free and Gentle Ultra Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent
This gentle detergent is safe for even the most sensitive skin. Another bonus is the eco-friendly, clever packaging, which is made with 60% less plastic per ounce than bottles.
How should I prep my skin before putting on a mask?
“Make sure you are starting with a clean slate,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to full remove soiling before you put on your mask.” He recommends using one that hydrates while it cleanses. If you’re already suffering from breakouts, use a cleanser with salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and help avoid clogged pores. Make sure to wash your face at least twice a day to remove dirt, oil and other build-up, which can trigger breakouts.
Cetaphil Redness Control Daily Foaming Face Wash
Cetaphil is loved by dermatologists for being one of the safest brands for sensitive skin and this foaming face wash is no exception. In addition to maskne, regular mask wearing can also trigger redness and this cleanser helps soothe that. It delicately washes away dirt, oil and other impurities that can clog pores and lead to breakouts. The non-comedogenic leaves skin balanced and calm, which is why it’s one of the best products to treat maskne.
What can I do while wearing a mask to prevent maskne?
Create a protective physical barrier between your skin and the mask to avoid irritation and breakouts.
“It’s important to moisturize your skin underneath the mask, no matter the skin type,” says Dr. Frauke Neuser, Olay Principal Scientist. “If the skin is dry, the skin barrier will be impaired. This makes skin more likely to develop irritation from a face mask. A moisturizer without perfume like the Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance-Free is a great choice — it also contains niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) which strengthens the skin’s natural barrier function and boost skin’s resilience.”
Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance-Free
Truly a twofer, in addition to restoring the skin’s natural moisture barrier to prevent irritation, this multitasking moisturizer also has plenty of anti-aging perks to turn back the clock. It firms, smooths fine lines and lifts skin by boosting elasticity, plus it gently exfoliates to remove dead skin cells, leaving a smoother, brighter complexion behind.
You’ve heard this one before, but you should be wearing sunscreen every single day — rain or shine — to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Maske is another reason you should be slathering on SPF daily. “Consider a mineral-based sunscreen,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Not only does zinc oxide protect you from UV light, but also it serves as a barrier between your skin and the face mask. Zinc oxide is commonly used as a skin protectant in babies to prevent diaper rash.”
Sun Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion
Completely free of chemicals, this mineral sunscreen relies on zinc oxide to keep skin safe from UVA and UVB rays. The matte finish and lightweight texture make it ideal for everyday use.
Another key to avoiding maske is keeping your hands clean. “Try to avoid touching your face as much as possible, and always clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately before putting on your mask, after touching or adjusting your mask and after you remove your mask,” Dr. Neuser says.
What should I do after I take off my mask?
“After taking off your mask, wash fully and apply a moisturizer,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Consider moisturizers that contain ingredients like niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3 that calms inflammation and helps strengthen the skin.”
Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Gel Moisturizer
This moisturizer was practically made for fighting maskne, making it one of the best maskne products out there. That’s because it has both niacinamide to soothe stressed skin and strengthen it, as well as hyaluronic acid to deliver serious hydration. The gel formula won’t feel heavy on skin, plus it’s packed with antioxidants to ward off environmental damage, including vitamin C. It also has anti-aging perks to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
How can I treat current breakouts?
A good spot treatment is hands down one of the best products for maskne breakouts. Look for one with active ingredients like salicylic acid to fight pimples and blackheads. Spot treatments are best applied at night before bedtime so they can get to work while you snooze. If the stubborn spot is still there in the morning, apply it again after washing your face.
Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment
A tried and true classic, a spot treatment is a maskne product necessity. Dab this on to see results fast — we’re talking just one day. Witch hazel and 2% salicylic acid get to work right away to bust breakouts, reducing the size, redness and swelling of zits. Though it also soaks up excess oil on skin, the oil-free formula won’t over-dry or strip your complexion.
How can I change my skincare routine to prevent maskne?
If your current routine only consists of face wash and a sunscreen, it’s time to add a few more maskne products to your arsenal. Clean pores equal fewer breakouts and smoother skin, so you’ll want to try a mask or pore treatment at least once a week or so to get out gunk.
Neogen Canadian Clay Pore Stick
Essentially a peel-off mask in stick form, this product makes less of a mess but delivers the same results. Korean beauty at its best, all you have to do is swipe on the mask, let it polish away blackheads and declog pores, then rise it off. Canadian colloidal clay draws out impurities, so skin is left cleaner and tighter, and pores look smaller, leaving a smooth texture behind.