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Woman trying to fix her maskne

How to Tackle Maskne

five simple steps & recommended products

By now, we’ve all been there: We wear our masks diligently, and our skin thanks us by giving us those bright red bumps on our cheeks, nose, chin, basically anywhere the mask protects. There’s even a name for it now—maskne.

So how should you tackle it? What can you do to make it go away?

Dr. Nnena Agim, a pediatric dermatologist with Children’s Health, has some tips that are applicable to kids, teens and adults alike.

First, know that maskne is essentially unavoidable. Agim says acne starts with what’s called the micro-comedone—skin cells at the opening of the hair follicle—and those become sticky. “As the cells stick together, they block the opening of the follicle, forming a whitehead,” she says. “Natural skin oils accumulate, thus triggering bacterial growth and inflammation. A mask literally blocks those pores.”

Of course, there are always other factors at play. Agim points out that there are good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. “The types of microorganisms … and the ratio of good versus bad may vary based on how humid or dry your skin is in a given area,” she explains. “When your face is covered with a mask, you are changing the local environment of your skin and creating a more humid environment.”


Agim says these steps are important for taking control of your skin:

1.“Wash your face every day.” Make sure to find a product that’s gentle on your skin.

2. “Avoid heavy face products.” Yes, this includes makeup, moisturizers and even sunscreen. If you still want or need to use any of these products, pick something as light as possible. “When [you] apply these products, wait 15 minutes before putting on a mask so that the mask doesn’t soak [it] up,” Agim adds.

3. “Take care of your mask.” This means if you’re using a cloth, reusable mask, wash it often.

4. “Clean your face at the end of the day.” Agim recommends products that include keratolytics—products that unstick the cells and unblock pores. Some of these include ingredients you’ve probably seen in most acne products, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, lactic acid, retinoids and glycolic acid. “If you [use] these products regularly and [keep] pores open, acne is less likely to form,” Agim says.

5. “Talk to a dermatologist if severe acne doesn’t go away.” If your maskne is severe or painful, and washing and topical or oral treatments aren’t helping it go away, find yourself a dermatologist. Agim says they’ll be able to come up with a treatment plan specifically for your skin.


So now you know what causes maskne and what you can do to help prevent and reduce the breakout. But what products should you use? Licensed cosmetologist and makeup artist Daniela Bell shared her favorite tips and items.

First, Bell says to apply your makeup like you normally do. But make doubly sure that your sponges and brushes are clean every time you use them for application. “One of my favorite products to clean my makeup brushes is alcohol 91%; this will dry off quickly without damaging [your brushes], and sanitize them, killing most bacteria and stripping out all the makeup,” Bell adds.

Second, she recommends that you “seal your makeup in place to ensure that it will not rub off and transfer to your mask.” She says she personally loves using MAC Cosmetics Fix + Setting spray.

Bell also suggests that you exfoliate your face twice a week. “This will ensure that you are cleaning your pores deeply and stripping out all the makeup from your pores,” she explains. “I recommend using Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser.”

Another product Bell loves is Clinique’s Acne Solution Liquid Makeup. “It’s a great product to use to cover or conceal any imperfections,” she says. “You can apply it all over your skin for a super smooth and flawless finish [without] worrying about breaking out since it has a low concentration of salicylic acid.”

Finally, she recommends Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation. “It’s very moisturizing, [but] it’s oil free,” she adds. “If you have acne prone skin, you definitely need to stay away from oil-based makeup products.”

Image courtesy of iStock.