Wearing a mask 24/7 has become commonplace. It’s our unfortunate new reality as we all do our part to curb the spread of COVID-19. While they’re undeniably uncomfortable, perhaps the worst side effect of wearing masks is that they trap acne-causing bacteria underneath that lead to pesky breakouts that have earned their own nickname: “maskne.”
It’s actually a well-known type of acne that was typically only seen in athletes who wore helmets or other facial equipment, explains Marisa Garshick, M.D., a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in New York City. “Early on in the pandemic, we were seeing it in healthcare professionals and other essential workers, but now we are seeing it in everyone,” she says. “Some people with acne-prone skin are noticing worsening breakouts related to mask use, while there are also people who are only noticing new breakouts since wearing a mask.”
How to prevent maskne & maskne treatments
Needless to say, “maskne” is not cute—and we’re not keen on having yet another annoying thing to deal with in 2020. The good news is that there are some ways to prevent “maskne,” starting with your at-home skin care routine. Dermatologists recommend washing your face the usual twice a day and potentially adding in a third wash if you spend long periods of time under a face mask. “This will help remove oil, sweat, and buildup that has accumulated during the day,” says Brendan Camp, M.D., a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.
Here are some of the best face washes and treatments on the market to tackle pesky “maskne” and get your skin looking bright, clear and healthy.
Chapped skin and chafing are two of the biggest culprits for maskne. Whether you’re a medical worker, an essential worker, or you’re just a responsible citizen (not wearing a mask is obviously not an option!), rocking a mask 24/7 can do a doozy on your skin. This best-selling face balm from MedZone is designed to prevent the rubbing, friction, and irritation that’s created by wearing masks. The travel-size balm is easy to apply and made from all-natural ingredients (coconut oil, shea butter, and aloe extract, just to name a few). It can be applied behind the ears, the nose, cheeks, or chin—basically anywhere you experience friction. One Amazon customer shares, “A must have for essential workers! Mask gave me a bad nose and checks rash and was desperate for a cream that would help. I encountered this product on amazon and wanted to try it. So glad I did! After 4 days of applying this balm , my rash went away! So now I put it daily when I am at work. Smells good as well, & it doesn’t have a strong odor. It also doesn’t make your face greasy or feel greasy. So happy with this product!”
While you may not be sweating up a storm during these blustery winter months (unless you’re participating in a socially distanced Turkey Trot, that is), having a pack of these Argan-infused cleansing wipes on hand will be a lifesaver. While one side can be used to remove eye makeup, the other works like a charm to melt away face makeup. You can say buh-bye to impurities that clog pores and cause maskne in the first place. For those times when you’re too effing lazy to wash yo’ face, simply reach for one of these for a refreshing boost. Keep ’em in your “mom” tote, your gym tote, or your car so that you always have them on hand.
Winter acne and maskne, here we come. While it can be diffiult adjusting your skincare routine for each changing season, sometimes all it takes is a damn good cleanser. We’re partial to this non-drying, balancing facial wash from True Botanicals; put it to work on troubled, congested skin for a clearer complexion. Recommended for oily and combination skin, this sandalwood and cypress-scented product targets breakouts, blemishes, and yes, maskne. Armed with one secret ingredient—black willow bark extract (nature’s very own salicylic acid)—it’s also effective in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
One verified customer shares, “Since beginning a True Botanicals regimen over 2 years ago, my skin has never been clearer! I used to get deep cystic blemishes, albeit intermittently. Now the worst thing I get is a little white head that is gone in a day. THIS STUFF WORKS!”
If you’ve been battling bouts of breakouts for some time and are already using a certain acne medication, using a medicated wash on top of it may leave you too irritated, notes Papri Sarkar, M.D., a dermatologist in Boston. “In that case, this pH balanced, foaming one complete with ceramides and hyaluronic acid is great for getting oil and sweat off, but won’t irritate or break the bank,” she says. If your skin is too irritated for bubbles, she recommends trying CeraVe’s hydrating cleanser instead. “It’s packed with ceramides, glycerin and hyaluronic acid and is so soothing it feels like a moisturizer.”
Follain as a brand is gaining a lot of recognition, thanks to the fact that they’re vegan, non-GMO and free of harmful ingredients that are found in some skin care products. Charcoal and willowbark extract are the two key ingredients that make their balancing cleanser which is notorious for dissolving oil, dirt and grime. “Many skincare products with charcoal in them are really harsh and can dry out the skin but this one manages to be gentle and doesn’t strip the skin at all,” says Dr. Sarkar. It also contains rosewater and witch hazel to help cut back on shine and leaves your skin tone looking more even.
For under $20, you get three of these face washes, which are 9.1 fluid ounces each, meaning that this purchase should last you the rest of the year at least. When it comes to acne, you can’t go wrong with a salicylic acid-containing cleanser, which not only helps treat current breakouts, but also helps prevent future ones. “Salicylic acid is a lipophilic beta-hydroxy acid, which means it penetrates deep in pores to clean them of excess oil,” says Dr. Camp who recommends it to his clients.
When your skin is feeling particularly irritated from all of that mask wearing, consider a cleansing oil, which can be a bit gentler than your average face wash. Dr. Sarkar is a big fan of Caudalie’s Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil, which she says does the job of cleansing skin well, without further aggravating irritated skin. “Because acne often causes a break in the skin barrier, using a gentle, soothing oil cleanser like this one doesn’t cause further irritation from active ingredients or bubbles,” she adds. Bonus: In addition to cleansing the skin, this oil also makes a highly effective make-up remover!
It doesn’t get much more basic than this cult classic facial cleanser, but it lives up to its reputation well, especially for chronic mask wearers. “This gentle yet effective cleanser helps to remove excess oils, dirt and buildup without stripping the skin of its natural oils, so it won’t leave the skin feeling dry,” says Dr. Garshick. “While it can be used by those with sensitive skin, it is also great for those with oily or combination skin as it is non-comedogenic so it won’t clog the pores.”
If you prefer to wash your face with a bar of soap rather than a foamy or gel cleanser, the Dove Beauty Bar is a great option. “It won’t strip your skin of its natural oils, as many ordinary soaps do and uses mild cleansers to help eliminate dirt and buildup,” says Dr. Garshick. “It is non- comedogenic and oil-free so it won’t clog pores, making it a good option for those with acne.” This purchase comes with 6 bars, so you shouldn’t have to re-order any bars of soap for the rest of 2020.
There’s no denying that this isn’t the sexiest looking face cleanser on the market, but its 4,000+ reviews and 4.5-star rating certainly speak for themselves. It is pretty plain Jane, but in a good way—it is free of oil, fragrance, parabens, dyes, formaldehyde and other preservatives. “Given the fact taht masks can be irritating on the skin, this formula is a great option to help minimize extra irritation, but still leave the skin feeling clean,” says Dr. Garshick who recommends it to her clients with sensitive skin.
One of the best active ingredients to fight acne, alongside salicylic acid, is benzoyl peroxide (AKA BPO). “Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient that helps lower levels of acne causing bacteria and reduces inflammation in the skin to help treat acne,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. “It is particularly useful if you have red angry bumps.” Angry bumps or not, this BPO-containing face wash is ready to help keep your skin acne-free whether you’re donning a mask or not.
If you’re comfortable spending a little more for a high-quality cleanser, this is one that won’t disappoint. In fact, pretty much every skin care product that SkinCeuticals puts out is designed to impress. Everything they make is free of parabens, soaps, fragrances, dyes and alcohol. “This gentle exfoliating gel cleanser contains a combination of lipo-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid and glycolic acid to help unclog pores and reduce breakouts and blemishes, without drying out the skin,” explains Dr. Garshick.
Because your face is certainly not the only place where you might (and likely will) get acne, there’s this face wash that’s also designed to help cut back on breakouts on your whole bod. It contains a higher strength of benzoyl peroxide—10% benzoyl peroxide—which makes it a great option for those dealing with breakouts,” says Dr. Garshick. It’s also totally clean—free of parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrances and colors and made without using any animal byproducts.
Now that you’re set in the face wash department, check out some other top-rated and mom-approved beauty must-haves.