How To Treat And Prevent ‘Maskne’ (AKA Acne Caused By Wearing A Face Mask)

The skincare pros share their top tips and practical tricks on how to swerve maskne...


by Grazia Contributor |
Updated on

By now, we're all well accustomed to sporting a face mask on-the-go, so it's likely you've been experiencing maskne to some degree. What is maskne, you say? It's the latest skin side-effect of lockdown, and a new beauty term used to describe the acne - those fresh breakouts, blackheads, pimples and spots that are hitting up chins and mouth areas nationwide - which are the result of constant mask-wearing. Honestly, we can't do wrong for doing right!

There are, however, several tips and tricks to help swerve maskne - as the pros explain below. But we also wanted to bring to your attention to Chrissy Teigen's latest skincare tip that she recently shared on Instagram. 'Life hack: nose strip under your mask. Keep safe AND get those rent free blackheads out,' she captions a family photo where you can see her nose strip sitting snuggly under her face mask. Genius! One fan commented on the image to say 'also chin strips'. Designed to decongest and unclog pores, face strips like Bioré Deep Cleansing Pore Strips, £10.99, are a brilliant way to tackle blackheads - and can be done so in the safety of a mask. Double win!

Several skincare brands have been hot off the mark too, launching new products designed to save our skin from maskne. Take 111SKIN for instance, the celebrity favourite has just released its new Maskne Protection Bio Cellulose Mask, £12, that fits snugly under a fabric mask while going to work with lactic acid and aloe vera to calm redness and banish blemishes.

If you’ve invested in a face mask - whether it’s of the cotton variety or something more high-tech - you’ll know that they’re problematic for skin, particularly the kind that our frontline heroes have to wear daily for full shifts. We reached out to two pros for their top tips and practical tricks. We've also scoured high and low to find the best face masks, including one skin-savvy face covering with antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to help swerve breakouts.

Oh and if you're OBSESSED with Dr Pimple Popper she has some of her own maskne solutions to impart. Watch her dish out her top tips below:

What is maskne?

‘Face masks can affect your skin in a couple of key ways,’ explains Cosmetic Doctor, Dr Sophie Shotter. ‘One is by causing friction in the areas where the mask makes contact with your skin. This can lead to skin irritation and sensitivity, or can cause acne mechanica - a type of acne caused by repeated rubbing. Underneath the mask there is also a very warm, humid environment which is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Breakouts underneath the whole mask are not uncommon, especially if people are wearing heavy comedogenic make-up.’

face mask

Can pimple patches and breathable foundation help to reduce maskne?

It stands to reason that pimple patches would prove an answer to maskne. If a spot or two or three have reared their heads, covering them with a pimple patch and shielding them from any contact with your face mask will both prevent your breakout from becoming more inflamed and stop spot-causing bacteria transferring onto your mask and other areas of your face. Find out everything you need to know about pimple patches and shop our favourite ones right here. If you're after a bit of coverage too, a breathable foundation is the anti-maskne answer. Take Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation, £45, and Oxygenetix Acne Control Foundation, £53, for example. It's Kourtney Kardashian's favourite base and for good reason. Read all about its maskne fighting benefits here.

What's the best way to prevent face mask induced acne and irritation?

‘Friction usually occurs when the mask is slightly loose and can move repeatedly against the skin,’ explains Dr Qian Xu, Medical Director at Skin Aesthetics Clinic. ‘This can be avoided by making the mask a little tighter, which also improves the effectiveness of the mask. If you are using medical masks with ear loops, you can simply tie a knot at the base of the ear loops to shorten them, and fold the sides inwards to close the gap.’

As for preventing breakouts: ‘Only wear masks if you need to. When you are out in open spaces and other people are more than 2 metres away from you, there is no need to cover your face. If you do need to wear masks for work, try to take breaks often and change your mask several times throughout the day if possible.’ Both Dr Xu and Dr Shotter agree that you should avoid foundation if you can, particularly any heavy formulations that, when pushed into the skin, could clog pores and lead to blemishes. If you do want to wear a base, Oxygenetix Foundation, £45, is Dr Shotter’s absolute go-to for letting skin ‘breathe’.

How can skincare help reduce the impact of wearing a mask?

‘Have a good regime but don’t over complicate it,’ says Dr Shotter. ‘The more products you layer on in the morning underneath your mask the more likely you are to get problems. Keep it simple with light antioxidant protection, lightweight hydration and a good sunscreen. In the evening cleanse your skin thoroughly to remove dirt, grime and spot causing bacteria, before using your normal night-time regime.’

Echoing the importance of a good old-fashioned cleanse, Dr Xu encourages you not to wait until the end of the day if you’ve had a particularly long stint of mask wearing. ‘Cleanse your face thoroughly with a facial cleanser as soon as you get home in the evening. This will reduce the amount of time the dirt and excess oils will stay on your skin, and can help prevent breakouts.’

face mask

What are the best skincare ingredients to treat maskne?

According to Dr Shotter, there are several smart solutions to be had…

AHAs and/or BHAs: ‘Are definitely an ingredient to look out for as they will help exfoliate your skin and minimise the potential for pore clogging.’

Salicylic Acid: ‘If you’re struggling with the occasional spot or blemish breakout, consider adding in a salicylic acid toner to help control them.’

Hyaluronic Acid: ‘Look for lightly hydrating formulas containing hyaluronic acid rather than heavy moisturisers which are more likely to cause breakouts.’

Hydrating sheet masks:**** ‘These are a personal favourite of mine, particularly if your skin is used to intense moisturisers this is a good way of getting extra hydration into the skin without thick creams.’

As for star products, Dr Shotter has been swearing by CLINISEPT+ SKIN PROTECT, £9.49, (a cleanser with antimicrobial properties) throughout lockdown. ‘I’ve been regularly spritzing my face with Hypochlorous solution (Clinisept Plus), which kills 99.99% of bacteria viruses, fungi and spores in under 15 seconds - great for all round health reasons, but also for minimising spot causing bacteria on the skin.’

And finally – make your mask work for you…

‘Masks can take some getting used to,’ cautions Dr Shotter. ‘I would say make sure the mask is comfortable before you head out - the last thing you want to be doing is fiddling with it and therefore touching your face more than you should be. Personally, I prefer masks that go around my head compared with ones that have ear loops, as the pressure on the ears can be uncomfortable.’

Shop: The Face Masks That Give Back


Stylish Face Masks

The Avant Guard, Face Mask, £391 of 12

The Avant Guard, Face Mask, £39

We're head over heels for the concept of a skin-friendly face mask. While they're not exactly purse-friendly, these luxury masks are created from a special antibacterial, antiviral fabric to ward off breakouts. We'd say it's worth the spend.

Alice + Olivia, Stace Face Protective Face Mask, £8.612 of 12

Alice + Olivia, Stace Face Protective Face Mask, £8.61

These fast-selling masks by Alice & Olivia not only look chic but, with every purchase, the brand will donate one mask to the medical community. Alice & Olivia has also announced it will be donating 5,000 face masks to medical centres - bravo.

Collina Strada, Fashion Face Mask with Bows, $1003 of 12

Collina Strada, Fashion Face Mask with Bows, $100

Alongside sending a free face mask with every purchase on its website, NYC based brand Collina Strada has launched fashion-forward face coverings with its signature bows - 'Welcome to our 1:5 ratio, with the purchase of 1 mask you will be providing 5 masks to healthcare workers in New York City.' Click here to see the brand's tutorial on DIY face masks.

Reformation, pack of 5 masks, £284 of 12

Reformation, pack of 5 masks, £28

L.A cool-girl brand Reformation has partnered with The City of Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti on LA Protects, an initiative to organise local manufacturers to make five million non-medical masks for brave people doing essential work, ensuring medical grade masks can be available to healthcare workers. On top of this, Reformation has also started selling mask packs on its website for personal use, small businesses, or donation - so far selling over £250,000 worth. Wanting to make your own but can't sew? Follow these super easy DIY instructions on how-to make your own mask out of a bandana and two hair bands.

LoveShackFancy, Face Mask, $155 of 12

LoveShackFancy, Face Mask, $15

Each one of a kind mixed print mask is made with hand-dyed fabrics and sewn with love by local seamstresses in Palm Beach, Florida. For every mask sold, LoveShackFancy is donating a mask to healthcare workers who are fighting on the front line for us.

Baukjen, Non Medical Face Masks - 5 pack, £256 of 12

Baukjen, Non Medical Face Masks - 5 pack, £25

Baukjen has partnered with one of its manufacturers in Portugal to make non-medical masks for personal use. The masks are made using 100% soft cotton leftover fabrics and cut-offs with no inner lining, which have been treated with an anti-bacterial coating for extra protection. With every purchase, Baukjen will ensure another 100 masks are distributed directly to The NHS Volunteer Army, other volunteers and the public.

Everlane, The Face Mask Three-Pack, £237 of 12

Everlane, The Face Mask Three-Pack, £23

Sustainable brand Everlane (and a favourite of Meghan Markle's) has teamed up with its tee factory in downtown LA to make face masks for customers - for every pack produced, it has donated a mask to Feeding America.

Helmstedt, Safety Mask - Beestract, £308 of 12

Helmstedt, Safety Mask - Beestract, £30

Safety Mask of upcycled deadstock fabrics from Helmstedt's SS20 collection. All prints are unique and the profit from the sales of safety masks will be donated to WHO's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Brora, Liberty Print Face Mask, £199 of 12

Brora, Liberty Print Face Mask, £19

Brora has launched Liberty Print face masks with the goal of raising £10,000 for NHS Charities Together. Retailing for £19, Brora is donating £10 from each sale to the charity.

Florence Bridge, Picnic Baby Blue Face Mask, £1210 of 12

Florence Bridge, Picnic Baby Blue Face Mask, £12

Florence Bridge is a London-based fashion designer and label, renowned for creating classic contemporary womenswear from quirky digital printed silks, patchwork leather and shearling textures. The brand has created a collection of unisex facemasks and 25% of sales will be going to @fuelourfrontline charity who are delivering essential groceries to hospitals around the UK.

Rails, Non-medical Masks 5 pack, $2511 of 12

Rails, Non-medical Masks 5 pack, $25

In March, Rails halted garment production to commit to producing 5,000 100% cotton personal use masks a week. These are now available for sale on the Rails website for delivery globally, and for each pack purchased Rails will donate one to local communities in need.

Zalando, Even&Odd 3 pack masks, £10.9912 of 12

Zalando, Even&Odd 3 pack masks, £10.99

E-tail giant Zalando have just launched face masks on their site which are available globally with all profits generated from the sales being donated to charity. We love the chic palette of these - perfect for return to work.

READ MORE: Breakout Breakdown: What Is Actually Causing Your Spots?

READ MORE: Chrissy Teigen Shares Her Skincare Secrets Including The £10.99 Pore Strips She Swears By

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