Maskne Is a Real Thing—This Is Everything Experts Want You to Know

There’s no doubt that the beauty buzzwords of 2020 look a little different to what any of us could have imagined. Back in January, we were convinced that 2020 would be the year of tranexamic acid, brow lamination and glow-boosters, however many months (and what feels like lives) have passed, and the things we forecast to be big news have been trumped by the likes of at-home treatments and DIY dye jobs.

There is one term though that has ruled the 2020 beauty space for the last five months, and that word is maskne—the name dreamt up by the industry to define breakouts that occur around the mouth and nose area from wearing a protective face mask. From the minute that wearing a face covering in public became a thing, beauty brands far and wide starting trying to flog products to prevent and/or treat maskne. And I have to admit, for the first few months, I was sceptical. I have seen marketing buzz terms like this come and go, and, frankly, giving the consumer yet another thing to worry about in such troubling times felt like total scaremongering.


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But then I started breaking out. And I’m not talking the odd spot like I’m used to, I’m talking my entire chin area covered in big, red zits. Suddenly, maskne didn’t seem like such a con. In a bid to get to the bottom of the issue and figure out how I could tackle it, I reached out to some of the most knowledgeable brains in the game, and this is what they had to say.

Why Does Wearing a Mask Increase Risk of Breakouts?


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Essentially, the main reason that masks are bad news for our skin is down to a combination of friction and build up of sweat and bacteria. Clinical aesthetician and co-founder of Mortar & Milk, Pamela Marshall explains, "Our pores don’t like chaos in any way. Too much bacteria, sweat, sebum, dead skin cells and friction can cause swelling and lead to an inflammatory response (an acne spot).”

The bad news is that wearing a mask for a prolonged amount of time increases basically every single one of the mentioned causes of spots. "The warm, moist environment is a haven for bacterial growth. The longer you have a mask on your face, the more time bacteria has to do its work,” says Marshall.

How Can We Prevent Maskne?


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Some of us are more likely to suffer with maskne than others. For example, those that already experience acne are likely to see heightened issues from prolonged mask wear. Similarly, those that have to wear masks for a very long amount of time are also more likely to encounter issues. While nothing can be done to totally eradicate the chances of mask-induced breakouts, certain measures can be taken to keep the breakouts at bay. "Always wear a clean mask,” says Marshall. "Make sure you have multiples and wash them daily. In the clinic, I wear a disposable mask and change it for each client. While this is bad for the environment, it’s the right choice in terms of minimising spreading the virus. It also means that I’m reducing the buildup of sweat, sebum and makeup on my skin.”

Keeping bacteria buildup at bay is imperative for preventing breakouts. Making sure you are cleansing your face thoroughly both morning and night is crucial more so now than ever. Elizabeth Arden’s consulting dermatologist Dendy Engelman says, "Using products that contain salicylic acid will help as it works to keep the pore open and prevent buildup.”

For management throughout the day, Marshall recommends investing in an antimicrobial solution to tackle bacteria quickly and efficiently. "I carry Clinisept with me wherever I go. At work, we were all struggling with maskne, but now, a few times an hour, we pull our masks down and spray our face with Clinisept. This simple act has either dramatically reduced or completely eliminated mask acne for all of us,” she says.

Another top tip? Consider the mask itself. While certain fabrics can cause abrasion and friction, upsetting the skin and encouraging breakouts, others are considered much kinder. "Look into buying a silk mask. Silk is definitely the best fabric for helping to prevent breakouts. It’s kind on the skin because it produces less friction, therefore minimising the risk of microdamage,” says Engelman.

How Can We Treat Maskne?


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The truth is that when maskne has formed, it should be treated similarly to how you would deal with any other breakout. Marshall recommends weaving certain ingredients into your routine while you’re suffering from mask-induced breakouts to help ease the blow. "Make sure you’re using a treatment moisturiser formulated with mandelic acid or polyhydroxy acids. I also recommend using a great clay mask as a spot treatment,” she says.

Freelance Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.

Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.

While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.

When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.