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From a very young age, I have been self-conscious about my oily and acne-prone skin. This insecurity has only become intensified in the age of mask-wearing during the pandemic. 

You may be thinking: why would you feel insecure about your skin when you can now cover half of your face with a mask? This is a good point. But it also happens to be the reason I and other students are breaking out even more and experiencing other forms of skin discomfort due to wearing masks.

Maskne, or mask acne, is caused by the trapped moisture and bacteria between your skin and mask; you will experience inflammation, rashes, and breakouts around the chin, jaw, cheeks, and mouth areas. Frontline workers are particularly prone to this reaction as they must wear PPE for long periods of time to treat COVID-19 patients. 

The College asks that students wash their masks after every use, but even wearing masks while going on runs around campus or doing outside workouts can cause sweat build up on your skin. Let’s not forget about the steamy dorms that make an oil-free skin lifestyle almost impossible. So, what are some tips for helping your skin during a pandemic when masks are the most necessary everyday accessory?

Clean Those Masks!

It is vital to clean your masks not only as a health issue but also as a skin issue. Conn advises students to wash their masks after each use or using single-use masks. When cleaning your mask, make sure to use a gentle and fragrance-free detergent as you don’t want to use a product that could further irritate your skin. Also, consider using a tightly woven cotton mask instead of synthetic fabric as these are more breathable. 

Your best advice is to have multiple masks on hand and toss them in with the rest of your laundry so you can put on a fresh mask each time you leave your room.

Cleanse & Moisturizer That Skin!

The current pandemic does not necessarily mean you have to develop a new skin routine. When in doubt: stick to the basics of cleansing your skin before and after using a mask with a gentle cleanser such as CereVa and hydrating your skin with a moisturizer. While this may seem counterintuitive if you have oily or combination skin, but now is not the time to let your skin become dry. I recommend Cetaphil Oil Absorbing Moisturizer, and you could even go a step further and purchase a healing ointment for any recent breakouts. An inexpensive option is CeraVe’s Healing Ointment. I am also a huge fan of the Cosrx Blemish Cream which is perfect for those who constantly pick at their skin when they are nervous.

Spot Treatment to the Rescue

If you do find yourself with constant blemishes from maskne, consider purchasing an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide treatment. It is important to start with a low percent concentration and only dab the product on your spots. For black or brown skin, try glycolic acid to treat blemishes and hyperpigmentation––it is also important to wear sunscreen to protect your skin!

Put Down the Mascara Wand

While covering up your breakouts (beyond the mask) may be tempting, try to avoid makeup as caking on foundation or concealer will only add to the irritation your skin is already experiencing. If you do need to wear makeup for a Zoom meeting, make sure to remove all of the makeup from your skin before putting on your mask. Also, make sure to clean any mask which touches makeup extra well, too.

This article is not an excuse to not wear your mask: you must wear your mask and social distance to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. But there are ways to help manage any maskne you are experiencing. And when you are alone in your room or alone on a walk or jog, you can remove your mask and let your skin breathe.

Elizabeth Berry

Conn Coll '21

Elizabeth Berry is an English and Italian Studies double major at Connecticut College with a passion for journalism. She enjoys overnight oats, traveling to new cities, and reading the night away.
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