How To Manage “Maskne”

As a result of the global pandemic, face masks or covering is mandated in many countries for everyone in shared spaces or in close contact with individuals not considered within their social bubble. For those like myself , who are front line health care practitioners working in a hospital, we wear masks and face shield for continuous hours, at least 40 hours a week.

Since March this has become the norm for me. As a result, I have developed “maskne”. Maskne occurs when sweat, oils and bacteria are trapped on the skin while wearing a mask, causing acne to form.

Prior to the pandemic, my skin has always been sensitive. I have never been a fan of wearing makeup or putting much on my skin. I admit that my skin care routine was pretty much non existent until the last couple of years. I grew up in the Caribbean and therefore basked in the sun. I had a year long tan so I never needed makeup. Also I wasn’t taught to moisturize or use SPF etc. To this day, my mum only uses face wipes (which she started a few years ago; prior to that nada). I have never seen her wear makeup in my life and she definitely doesn’t adhere to any skin care regime (sorry mum!). In university I adopted the practice of using proper face wash and that was the extent of it until maybe 5 years ago when I started using moisturizer. Every year I have since added to my daily and weekly routine. Last year I finally started using SPF (I know, shame on me for treating cancer patients and yet failing to use SPF) and this year I added eye cream, retinol and vitamin C serum to the mix.

My makeup has always been minimal too. I absolutely detest foundation or anything caked on my skin. If I’m getting dressed up, it is concealer to the spots, bronzer, mascara and lip gloss. Because I’ve become anal about my face as I noticed sun spots and malasma, I use self tan water or serum a few times a week and I minimize sun exposure to my face (I use sunscreen daily now, even in winter). Last fall I started doing photofacials to combat the years of sun damage. In February, my skin was the best it’s ever been. Most the scarring and spots went away. I would leave the house truly makeup free and my skin was flawless……until a few weeks into the pandemic.

Yes I am aware that “maskne” is a first world problem considering what’s going on. But my philosophy has always been if you look and feel good, then you are more likely to do good. So I’ve been actively trying to deal with my “maskne” and wanted to share some of suggestions that has been helping.

The best advice I was given was to go back to the basics. As such, I have been careful not to try doing too much for a couple of weeks then slowly started introducing new products and strategies. They are as follows:

  1. Double cleanse

I was advised to use a cleansing balm followed by gentle face wash, both AM and PM. I started using the VERSED brand this summer – marketed as a clean drugstore skincare brand. You can order online directly from their site, but recently shoppers started carrying most of the line. I really feel like the gel cleanser has been a game changer for me.

2. Use a Rose Face Mist

I use a rose spray to calm my skin down. I bought an organic rose hydrosol from “Pure and Simple” at the beginning of the year to help my face in the winter. Now, I use it twice a day – in the morning and at night after I cleanse my face

3. Limit what’s under your mask

When you imagine your skin sitting under a mask for hours without having a chance to breathe, sweat and bacteria are likely building up, so you want to minimize what else you trap under there. You may want to avoid wearing any heavy creams and no makeup.

4. Wait 1 hour after skincare routine before masking

I have noticed that if I wait for skincare products to properly absorb, especially sunscreen, that my face is less likely to sweat it out.

5. Use a light moisturizer

This was my biggest mistake. I didn’t realize I was using a heavy moisturizer (I was thinking in terms of dehydration) until my esthetician pointed it out. She recommended one geared specifically for break out prone skin such as “Propolis facial cream”. This also helps my dehydrated skin . You can find it also at “Pure and Simple”.

6. Target the problem

I’ve never had to use acne focused products before, so admittedly haven’t played around with a lot of brands. I was advised to use something that can help dry out the skin and prevent blemishes. Also from VERSED, I add a thin layer of the acne treatment to the chin and cheek region affects, and for specific spots, I cover with pimple patches overnight. I notice that it helps make the difference with the acne by the time I woke up the next day. Note- if your skin is broken or sensitive, I would advise to proceed with caution.

7. Limit products until skin heals

Since my face was taking months to heal, I was advised to go back to basics so I stopped using heavy moisturizers, facial oils, self tanners, retinols, or anything with acid until my skin started to show signs of improvement. I also minimized the use of face scrubs and face masks (the cosmetic kinds) especially clay ones. Instead I opted for a moisturizing face sheet once a week.

8. Use a gentle fruit enzyme

I waited a few weeks to let me skin settle before introducing a gentle fruit enzyme peel. This was in lieu of using face scrubs. Once a week I did this to help decongest pores and remove dead skin

9. Use a brightening serum

Once all the active acne healed and I was left with just the scars, I re-introduced a Vitamin C serum. My budget friendly favourite is VERSED “Stroke of Brilliance Brightening Serum”. I’m also a huge fan of Olehenriksen Vitamin C serum but it is a bit on the pricier side.

10. Go for a facial

If you can afford to go for a facial, then I would recommend having a professional properly perform the extractions and provide advice on the appropriate products your skin needs. After over a year, I finally went back to “Pure and Simple” and had an extreme deep clean facial. I swear within a day, I noticed a significant reduction to my acne and my skin felt more rejuvenated. And trust me, I was someone who used to think facials were a waste of money until I noticed all my friends with great skin swore that this was key. It was my intention to make it routine but with travels and the pandemic…. Now I am hoping to go every 8 weeks. And it helps that I have a discount code! The code “JESSY15” will give you 15% off both “Pure and Simple” services as well as products.

11. At Home Facial Steamer

A number of people have recommended I buy a face steamer for home use. As a minimalist I am on the fence with getting more “stuff”, but I have seen a lot of really great deals on Amazon so I may cave, likely by the time this blog is published. It would be perfect during a pandemic and it is a more economical.

12. Drink Water!

Drinking adequate amounts of water is something that I have significantly reduced due to wearing masks and shield at work and wanting to reduce the amount of times touching my face to remove them. But keeping up hydration is key to good skin and my dull skin reminded me of this. I can literally see the dry patches on my face when I don’t drink throughout the day so now I am trying to be more conscious to de-mask and drink!

13. Use a good eye cream.

Even though this has nothing to do with “maskme”, I am very conscious of the constant pressing of the mask just underneath the eye. The skin is super delicate there so I like to ensure I am taking care of it.

14. Change your mask every few hours.

For months I felt so bad about taking the 2 allotted masks given to us for an 8 hour shift . But I realized this was contributing to my poor skin. If you are using cloth masks, be sure to wash them frequently. And never wear a mask over and over without changing or washing. In my opinion, you should change it every few hours. It is very easy for bacteria to build on the skin and with the mask being in such close contact, it will sit on it. Not to mention you don’t want to be breathing that in for hours on end.

I hope you find these suggestions useful. While my skin is not great, it is significantly better after a few weeks of consciously working towards improving it, and I am confident that it will continue to improve. If you suffer from “maskne”, I hope you find this blog helpful.



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