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Our face mask culture seems like it is here to stay—if not forever, at least for the foreseeable future. While wearing a mask every day shortens your makeup routine, the lack of product may not be helping your skin as much you might have hoped. Many of us are experiencing acne from wearing a face mask. Even if you are not acne-prone, you might be suffering from breakouts related to mask-wearing and feel unsure about how to deal with them.
If you are experiencing acne for the first time in your life, the good news is that this probably won’t be a long-term problem. The bad news is that you won’t be able to completely eliminate the cause, because you can’t just stop wearing a face mask. You can, however, find the source of the problem and treat it accordingly, which will help your acne to clear up.
What Causes Acne?
Many factors can cause acne, and if you’ve suffered from this condition at any point in your life, you know how frustrating and annoying it can be.
Some of us are genetically predisposed to the condition, meaning that our skin overproduces oil and dead skin cells, leading to blemishes and breakouts. Acne can also be caused by hormones; most of these breakouts occur around your chin area before or during your period. If you’ve experienced breakouts after wearing a face mask, neither of the aforementioned causes is likely the source of your problem.
Acne From Face Masks
You can blame it on the mask itself, but more than likely, the acne you are experiencing is a result of the environment the mask is creating on your face. Wearing a mask, especially in the summer, is hot. Those warm, sweaty, non-ventilated conditions cause your facial pores to clog, and as a result, acne can develop.
If you have never had acne before and are now experiencing breakouts around your mouth and cheeks it likely from the bacteria that forms on your face while wearing a mask, whether you’re doing so for only an hour or the whole day.
In addition to these conditions, other factors may contribute to your new skin condition as well. You may not have known this, but the number one cause of acne is stress. COVID has everyone on edge, and with stress levels through the roof, it’s no wonder that breakouts are occurring. Stress increases your cortisol levels, which in turn activate the oil glands in your skin. Excess oil mixed with dead skin cells and bacteria, causes acne.
Additionally, touching your face often could be the culprit. When wearing a mask, we often unconsciously adjust our face covering from time to time, touching our face in the process. Your hands can rub sweat and dirt into your face, and these can be redeposited to your pores from your mask.
How to Treat It
Now that you know what is causing your acne, the next step is to treat it. I have suffered from acne most of my life, so I am quite familiar with the most effective products. There are a few key ingredients I recommend to help treat a breakout.
Face Mask Acne Treatment
Cleanse—Get rid of all of the dirt and bacteria on your face by double cleansing your skin. Cleanse once with an oil-based cleanser to remove your makeup, and then switch to a cleanser containing salicylic acid. Use this only on the affected areas to unclog pores and help with exfoliation.
Tone—Help clean your pores even more vigorously with toner. Use a cotton swab to wipe off any excess dirt and oil while unclogging your pores and minimizing your breakout.
Treat—Adding a medicated moisturizer to your routine, will help treat your acne throughout the day. Salicylic acid will help reduce oil and dead skin cells and ultimately reduce inflammation, which will also help prevent scarring.
Nighttime—At night I recommend adding retinol into your regimen. This vitamin A ingredient exfoliates, boosts collagen production, which results in smoother skin, and evens the skin’s pigmentation. Only apply at night, however, as it can increase instances of sun damage if worn during the day. Rosehip seed oil is also a great ingredient that helps to reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation while hydrating the skin.
How to Prevent Mask-Related Acne
Let me remind you that genetic predispositions to acne and/or hormonal acne cannot really be prevented. However, if you find that your acne is a side effect of your face mask, there are a couple things you can do.
The first thing is to wash your mask every day, or use a disposable mask only once before discarding it. This will help keep your face cleaner by removing any lingering bacteria or dirt that can settle on your face.
Secondly, if you have to wipe your face in public, use a cleansing cloth or shower wipe. This helps remove excess sweat without redepositing it on your face.
Lastly—and this may be the most difficult task of all—try to stay calm! As I mentioned, stress is a huge factor in causing acne, so the calmer you are, the better your skin will look. Yoga, meditation, or just taking 10 to 15 minutes to yourself after working from home or grocery shopping can help to calm your nerves.
And if that doesn’t work, try a glass wine (#lol).