How to avoid breakouts and acne from wearing a face mask

It’s no secret that lockdown has wreaked havoc with our skin, the disruption to our daily routines, the stress of the current situation and lack of Vitamin D has mean that our skin has taken a hit and may not be in tip top condition at the moment. On top of this, it has now been announced that, in addition to wearing a mask on public transport, it will soon be mandatory in other places such as shops and supermarkets. Whilst this is a positive step in controlling the virus and preventing a second wave, wearing a mask daily could cause our skin to go into meltdown.

Here Lucy Xu, skin specialist and founder of the London Premier Laser Skin Clinic and doctor Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor, offer simple tips on avoiding breakouts from wearing a mask, also known as ‘maskne’.

What is maskne?

“Maskne is the term given to acne and breakouts which are caused by wearing a mask; from friction of the the mask causing irritation, to bacteria transferring from the mask onto your skin, there are many ways in which wearing a mask could mean your skin will start to suffer, becomes irritated, congested and could potentially promote acne around the cheeks and chin area.”

face mask

Maskne is the term given to acne and breakouts which are caused by wearing a mask

Buy the right type of mask

“When choosing a mask, I would spend a little bit more to ensure that it is a good fit, large enough to cover the face, and offers the right type of fabric, which is breathable, soft on the skin and non-irritating. I would also advise buying a couple which will allow you to rotate the mask every day so that you are wearing a clean mask each day whilst the other is in the wash, this will not only prevent you from catching Covid-19 but, of course, will keep your skin clean and free of any unwanted bacteria. Opt for natural fabrics such as cotton or washable silk as these types of fabric will reduce the friction of the mask on your face, which should help to prevent any irritation from rubbing.”

Keep your mask clean

“Keeping your mask clean is imperative for ensuring that you are keeping your skin clean and free from any harmful bacteria that could cause you to breakout. Furthermore, the air from breathing in a confined space will build up underneath the mask and will begin to suffocate the skin, this mixed with sweating and long periods of wearing the mask will act as a breeding ground for bacteria leading to potential breakouts and congestion, so its super important to ensure that you remove your mask when you aren’t wearing it to allow the skin to breathe and to get some air into the mask. I would also advise machine wash your mask after every use on a hot setting with good detergent, and as mentioned previously I would advise buying a few masks so you can rotate them.”

Turn skincare regime up a notch

“If your skin is prone to inflammation and breakouts, then you may want to invest a little more time and money into your skincare to ensure that, whilst we have to wear masks, you are looking after it morning and night to make sure that it is regenerating for each day. I would advise, if you don’t already, double cleansing each evening before bed to ensure that your skin is clean after wearing the mask. You can use a cleansing balm, milk or oil but just ensure you double cleanse using warm water and a muslin cloth to remove any unwanted bacteria from all areas of the face and neck.

“I would also start to use face mask treatments more regularly, perhaps a few times a week, these will work to draw out any impurities and bacteria which has surfaced onto your skin from wearing the mask and will work deep into the epidermis. A clay mask is best for acne prone skin.”

face mask restaurant

Restaurant workers are wearing masks and other protective equipment to help slow the spread of Covid-19

Only wear the mask when you need to

“Only wear the mask when you need, so getting on and off public transport (in shops) and also if you are in any highly congested areas. Other than that, ensure you are removing your mask as much as possible to allow your skin to breathe and to ensure your mask doesn’t become too sweaty. Once you take the mask off put it in a safe place away from anywhere it could gather bacteria, perhaps pop it in a material pouch or draw string bag for safety.”

Add in anti-oxidants and balms into your daily skincare

“If you are heading onto public transport and into the city, you should think about adding in some anti-oxidant skincare products into your regime to keep your skin healthy and to protect it against any harmful pollutants as well as any bacteria from under the mask. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant ingredient which will work to keep your skin healthy and illuminated and will neutralise any free radicals, it will also work to repair any damaged cells from wearing the mask. Once lockdown is eased and clinics start to open again, I would advise going for a professional Vitamin C skin peel to get rid of any damaged and dead skin cells and to brighten your appearance, you may also want to try topical treatments which can be applied to the problem area directly.”