Everything You Need to Know About Maskne & How to Treat It

A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting at the dermatologist. I thought I left acne and my days in the derm's office in high school (I also thought a world-wide pandemic was impossible), so it seems a lot was unexpected. At first, I thought that the breakouts appearing on my skin in March were due to stress over the new reality. However, despite efforts to reduce stress (a very difficult thing to do in the past months), these stubborn, chin-concentrated pimples weren’t budging. I felt so frustrated as another thing that I couldn’t control was added to my list. 

Once I figured out that I was not alone in this issue and that there was a name for the mysterious skin phenomenon, I felt better. Sometimes you just need to know you are not alone. Just know that "maskne" is a real thing, and it is causing an uproar in the skincare community.

After getting the rundown from an expert (and, admittedly, Googling for hours) I was nearly crying and laughing about how many silent maskne victims there are. So, I’ve created a guide to help you identify, eliminate, and avoid the breakouts happening under your mask, with tips from plastic surgeon and founder of Therapon Skin Health, James Beckman. Plus, I'm sharing some extra advice from my personal dermatologist, Dr. Rhonda Q. Klein

What is “maskne” exactly?

Maskne is the name of the new genre of acne caused by masks.

According to Dr. Beckman, your face and scalp play a big part (up to 80%) in regulating body temperature. When you're hot and body temperature increases, air flow across the skin picks up moisture from sweat to cool you down. Excess heat usually leaves the body with the evaporated sweat — however, with a mask covering your face, the evaporative cooling effect decreases. Masks prevent airflow to face, and so that damp, warm environment on your nose, cheeks and chin foster bacteria growth. Bacteria are always on the skin’s surface and easily get trapped in hair follicles — but breakouts are only enhanced when your skin is dirty and damp under a warm surface.

Dr. Klein explains that maskne is a lot more prevalent for people who have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Most of the time, acne isn’t something you are doing wrong — it is just something that you are unfortunately more susceptible to, whether that be because of genetics, diet, hormones, medications, or stress. 

Treating maskne

Dr. Beckman describes below, six maskne solutions to try out before making a derm appointment.  

Keep it clean

Keep skin clean with regular washings using a gentle surfactant cleanser. You can try the soap-free Theraderm Facial Cleansing Wash, which can even be used on false lashes.

Hydration, people!

Drink six glasses of water daily and set a good sleep pattern to optimize skin health and natural hydration. C’mon, did I really have to tell you this one? 

Let skin breathe

Remove masks for five minutes every hour during the day (when alone or properly distanced outdoors) to give skin some “rest.” This helps prevent bacterial invasion and skin maceration or irritation. 

Watch what your washing with

It may be time to switch up the products you are using and bring in the heavy lifters. Try troubleshooting the problem with products meant to target acne. Dr. Beckman recommends the Theraderm Reversion Clear Skin System ($46) with medicating ingredients and soothing botanical extracts to help clear acne fast and prevent future breakouts.

Masks are not one size fits all 

Make sure your mask fits well. Masks that don’t fit your face can rub on certain areas and cause irritation, leading to breakouts.

Mask hygiene

Clean your mask nightly! Each day should begin with a clean mask. Using the same mask every day that has not been cleaned or sterilized is asking for trouble.

Additionally, dermatologist, Dr. Klein suggested buying a washing machine-friendly mask so that the mask itself could be kept fresh by being thrown in with the laundry.