No matter your age, getting an acne flare up at any time is no picnic. If you’ve noticed a new patch of pimples sprouting, your face mask may be the culprit (hence the name “maskne”). Luckily there are several ways to prevent or subdue these pesky spots. 

First off, what is maskne?

New to the general population, maskne (or it’s medical term acne mechanica) has been a common pain for health care professionals and athletes alike for a long time.

Just like the name states, maskne is acne that forms in the contact areas where any kind of mask (or helmet, in the case of athletes) makes contact with your skin. The moist environment caused by talking, breathing and, of course, sweating, plus the friction and pressure from the mask or helmet, creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that has nowhere to go but your pores. 

Healthcare workers are the most at risk for developing maskne since their masks are tighter, usually layered and they’re wearing them for longer periods. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported in May of this year that there has been an increase in questions regarding acne flare-ups and that 83 percent of the healthcare workers in Hubei, China, reported that they suffered from skincare problems on their face.

Okay, so how can I avoid it?

1. Your mask
Remember to wash or replace your mask often, especially after being at the gym. Secondly, consider the type of masks you’re using. The choice is up to you, and the main concern is to feel and be safe and comfortable.

Dermatologists recommend using 100 percent cotton because of its breathability, which will help alleviate some of the moisture trapped under the mask. Consider carrying an extra mask with you when you go to the gym, so you have a fresh one to swap with if you have any other stops after your workout. 

2. Skincare
If you’re starting to notice some new acne developing, it’s time to scale back and simplify your skincare routine. Make sure you’re washing your face as soon as possible after working out with a gentle cleanser or bring some micellar water in your gym bag.

Since washing too much can dry out your skin causing it to produce more oil (which will just get trapped under the mask), using a gentle, non-soap cleanser will help as will a mild, fragrance-free moisturizer. Moisturizer will also help alleviate some of the friction from the mask. 

3. Makeup
Now is the time to break up with your makeup. Give your skin space to breath, especially the areas that are under your mask. At the very least, make sure to remove your makeup as soon as possible, or consider switching to a tinted moisturizer.

4. Stress and diet
Attempt to stay as stress-free as possible by staying in contact (safely) with friends and family, working out, getting outside and staying mindful of your mental health.

Diet can also play a role in acne, and indulging in processed foods and not drinking enough water can add to your skin situation.

I think I have it, how do I treat it?

Unfortunately, you can’t treat maskne like regular acne. Over the counter, treatments are traditionally very harsh and irritating and you’ve already got an irritating situation, plus the continued irritation of the mask.

If you think you have maskne, a quick trip to the dermatologist will help rule out other possible conditions and get you a prescription for any products that aren’t available on the shelves at your local drugstore.

You can also try washing your face with a glycolic acid wash and applying a light moisturizer that is non-comedogenic before you put on your mask. If you have any spots, start with a mild benzoyl peroxide treatment with a low concentration (but do not combine with any retinol products).