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Mastering Maskne: Causes and Tricks for Troubled Skin

Finding more spots than usual on your face these days even though you’ve been religiously doing your skincare routine? You’re not alone. Although masks are a safety essential, it’s unfortunately one of the main culprits of “maskne”, as many have started to refer to it as. Read on to find out how it’s caused, how to remedy it, and how to win yourself and your best friends matching masks!

The term “maskne” originates from a common type of acne sports players with face gears suffer from, acne mechanica, according to Dr. Mona Gohara, a professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. The mask, when on the face for prolonged periods of time, traps sebum, sweat, germs, and makeup, sealing it against your skin and encouraging acne-causing bacteria growth. Depending on skin sensitivity and genes, the bacteria can aggravate an immune response in the skin, which then triggers acne.

In addition, masks can also cause excessive friction on the skin via rubbing, which tends to cause micro-tears on the surface of your skin, according to multiple dermatologists, which then allows bacteria to enter and cause breakouts.

If you’re lucky enough to have resilient skin but still find irritation occurring, the enemy could be the detergent you’re washing your masks with. Some soaps are formulated with fragrances and harsh chemicals (such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate or parabens). They often have irritants such as alcohols, which trigger flare-ups on parts of your face that the mask comes into contact with, such as your nose bridge or chin in the form of maskne, eczema, or even rosacea (a common skin condition that causes redness and in some cases, small red bumps).

Here are some solutions for banishing maskne while masks remain mandatory:

1. Lighten makeup usage underneath the mask to minimise breakouts and clogged pores for prolonged periods, especially in Singapore’s humid weather, and ensure you remove makeup thoroughly after.

2. If you’re searching for new skincare to combat your acne, look out for blemish-fighting products or ingredients such as:

  •  AHAs or BHAs (gentle acids to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells without causing micro-tears like physical exfoliators do) such as salicyclic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid. These also help to reduce hyperpigmentation that results from post-acne scars by safely exfoliating the topmost layer of your skin. However, if you choose to use these acids in your routine, ensure you only apply these at night and follow up with sun protection the next morning as they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
  • Spot treatment to round up your skincare routine with ingredients such as tea tree or benzoyl peroxide that kills acne-causing bacteria and removes excess oil.
  • Hydrocolloid patches of your choice to keep the inflamed area clean and away from bacteria.

3. Opt for soothing or gentle products to avoid irritation, and look out for key words like “sensitive skin” or ingredients like aloe vera, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid.

4. Switch your detergent to one that’s of a milder formulation to reduce chemical irritation. Make sure to wash your masks often!

5. If your skin condition still persists, consider changing the material of your mask! While disposable or reusable cotton masks are most commonly used, treat yourself to a natural silk mask which is equally effective due to its ability to filter out particles, while keeping irritation at bay with its smoother texture.

Psst, keep an eye out for our Halloween-themed mask giveaway on our Instagram page, because the pandemic shouldn’t have to get in the way of twinning with your best friends!


Nicole Ng

Nanyang Tech '24

The real-life Emily Charlton from The Devil Wears Prada. Reach her at nicolengxinen@gmail.com.
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