What Causes Mascne (Face Mask Acne), and How to Treat It

What Causes Mascne (Face Mask Acne), and How to Treat It

You may have noticed an uptick in red bumps in the areas of your face that your mask covers. It doesn’t matter if you’re someone who regularly get breakouts or if you have nearly perfect skin, mascne, or mask acne, is an unfortunate side effect of the daily mask-wearing we’re all doing to slow the transmission of Covid-19.

Acne can literally be a pain to deal with, but that doesn’t mean you should stop wearing a mask. If you treat your skin and properly clean your face coverings, you should be able to get it under control and eliminate larger breakouts from happening. Everyone’s skin responds differently to products and stressors, so go slow and spot test any new, potentially irritating ingredients.

What’s Causing Mascne?

Just like regular acne, there are multiple things that could cause mask acne: not washing your mask often enough, washing it with harsh detergent, your mask itself and its materials, or how frequently you have to wear it.

Masks help keep saliva and any other droplets—emitted from breathing, talking, coughing, or sneezing—from getting into the air and potentially transmitting Covid-19 (or other illnesses). That’s what we want them to do, but this means that they trap moisture and bacteria inside, touching your skin. “These masks create a seal that prevents moisture from escaping, resulting in a humid environment where acne-causing bacteria is able to thrive,” says Dylan Mustapich, an aesthetician at Face Haus in New York City.

Board-certified dermatologist Meghan Feely likens it to acne that athletes often struggle with. “Athletes who wear a helmet may develop acneiform breakouts as dirt, oil, and sweat are trapped in their pores, affording an environment conducive to the growth of bacteria,” she says.

If you aren’t washing your mask, that bacteria will continue to seep into your skin. On the other hand, washing it can also cause breakouts. You could have a reaction to the detergent you’re using. Try a gentle, fragrance-free detergent to see if that helps.

And if you’re prone to stress-related breakouts, an international pandemic is surely something to stress about. Try your best to relax.

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How to Treat Mascne

Photograph: Anna Efetova/Getty Images

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