The words ‘face mask’ used to conjure up thoughts of a lovely, relaxing treat. Imagine snuggling into a fluffy dressing gown, and slathering a creamy blend of goodies over your face. Perhaps you enjoyed lying back with a glass of wine and letting the nourishment sink into your skin.

Today it’s more likely to remind you of a face covering worn as personal protective equipment (PPE) and it can irritate your skin instead of improving it. Perhaps the phrase ‘face mask’ now makes you think about elastic rubbing behind your ears? Maybe you are reminded of a mask stretching across your nose and mouth making you feel hot and a bit claustrophobic?

People working in clinics, surgeries and hospitals have worn face masks as part of their daily routine for a long while, but not for hours and hours at a time. If we have to wear a face mask for long stretches of time we can suffer skin irritation, redness, breakouts and rashes.

Are you feeling a bit stressed? Well, that’s likely to make any skin irritation from a face mask worse. So, what’s a girl to do?

What is maskne?

A few new words have been added to our vocabulary recently, such as ‘furlough’ and ‘lockdown’. You can now add to that list ‘maskne’ or, to put it another way, face mask acne around the nose, mouth and chin. The medical term for this is ‘acne mechanica’ – a skin condition brought on by the prolonged wearing of face coverings or masks.

Wearing a face mask for too long can stop your skin from ‘breathing’ and there’s the added problem of the friction between the fabric and your face as you move. This is a particular issue for essential workers whose jobs bring them into contact with the public or who have to cope with long commutes on public transport.

Your pores are likely to get blocked by sweat as you heat up underneath your mask. However careful you are with your cleansing routine there will still be microscopic bacteria underneath your mask. This is because every time we breathe out we exhale MILLIONS of bacteria! Yuck! There will be oily secretions on your skin and maybe make-up too. It all combines to produce flare-ups, rashes, spots and red, sore skin.

Top tips to combat maskne

These top tips will help you keep your skin as healthy and clear as possible while you are wearing a face covering.

  1. Reusable cloth masks, which you have bought or made yourself, MUST be washed regularly. Ideally, wash your mask after every full day of wear and dry overnight so it’s clean again for the next day. Try and have spare masks for the times when you can’t get it washed in time.
  2. If you are buying a reusable face covering, try and choose one that is breathable – not made from a synthetic fabric. Tightly-woven cotton comes highly recommended, as does washable silk.
  3. If you opt for a disposable face covering, DO replace it after each day’s use. If you take it off to eat or drink, you should throw the disposable mask away, wash or sanitise your hands, and replace it with a new mask once you have finished eating.
  4. Cleanse your face gently and thoroughly twice a day. This should be part of your usual routine anyway. Don’t be tempted to wash or cleanse your face MORE than usual. Vigorous scrubbing or exfoliation should also be avoided. This can just make things worse by drying out your skin, stripping it of essential oils and moisture and causing redness and irritation.
  5. Avoid putting heavy foundation on your lower face. If it’s going to be covered up for most of the day anyway, spend more time on your eye make-up. When you can, you might want to consider semi-permanent eye treatments such as eyelash lifts, eyelash perms and eyebrow tints.
  6. Keeping your skin well hydrated is a ‘must’ if you are wearing protective face coverings for long periods. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Apply a gentle, soothing moisturiser to your lower face, ideally water-based, at least half an hour before you need to wear your mask.

Are there skin treatments that could help my irritated skin?

We are happy to chat about facial treatments that could revive your skin, improve its texture and combat breakouts and maskne.

Our M22™ laser machine is able to treat more than 30 different types of skin conditions. It can help improve the texture of skin; clear blocked pores; treat rosacea, or persistent redness and stimulate the production of collagen. Our clients tell us it makes their face look and feel fresher and smoother.

Get in touch to find out more and book a free consultation.