‘Maskne’ Is The New Acne: Why Mask Breakouts Happen, And How To Prevent Them

The crises have been well and truly piling up this year, and for some of us, there’s a cherry on top of the stress cake: mask acne. Now that face masks are an indispensable part of our outfits, you might have noticed your skin breaking out more – and if so, you’re not alone. ‘Maskne’ is such an issue that the term is catching on, especially in hot and humid Singapore. But don’t despair – here’s our breakdown of exactly why mask breakouts happen, and how you can combat them.

What Causes Maskne?

There’re a couple of key reasons for your skin getting cranky. The first is clogged pores – acne occurs when your pores get blocked with anything from oil to dead skin cells to bacteria. While you probably already have a regular cleansing routine to deal with that, wearing a mask means extra build-up of humidity around your face. This humidity makes a great environment for bacteria to grow, which can trigger breakouts.

No less important is the friction factor. The rubbing of a mask against your skin can damage its outer protective layer, dehydrating it and making it easier for irritants to clog up your pores. If your skin seems to be both oily and sensitive, or you’re seeing a pattern of zits along contact areas between the mask and your face, friction could be the culprit.

Battling Breakouts

The masked-up look isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s worth investing in the right habits to get back your dewy skin. From mask hygiene to moisturizing, here’s what you need to do.

Switch Up Your Mask Fabric

Photo courtesy of Jo Kilda

While we love the convenience of disposable face masks, they’re made of synthetic plastics that tend to irritate the skin. For fabric that creates as little friction as possible, there’s no better bet than silk. Raw silk masks – like Jo Kilda‘s stylish offerings – feel gentle on the skin and are naturally hypoallergenic.

Meanwhile, 100% cotton offers a good balance of particle filtering and breathability – think Independent Market’s double-layered masks, which come in neutrals as well as quirky prints like Unicorn Candy and Dino in Space. Fun fact: new research even suggests that the most protective mask material is a power duo of cotton and natural silk.

Wash Your Mask

Photo courtesy of Independent Market

If you don’t already do this, wash your reusable mask after every use – there’s a lot of oil, dead skin, and other gunk trapped in there. What’s more, be sure to opt for gentle, hypoallergenic detergents that won’t irritate your skin. Tide Laundry Liquid, for instance, comes free of dyes and fragrances, while Seventh Generation Free & Clear Detergent‘s plant-based formula is dermatologist-tested as safe for sensitive skin.

Stay Moisturized

You might be thinking that extra moisture is the last thing you need behind your mask, but the right moisturizer offers a protective layer against bacteria and irritants. Target the areas that tend to rub against your mask – cheeks, chin, the bridge of your nose – for extra protection against friction.

To keep your skin hydrated, look out for active ingredients like ceramides – lipids which form part of our skin’s protective barrier and keep out microbes and pollutants. Hyaluronic acid helps your skin retain moisture and gives it that dewy glow, while jojoba oil is full of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory goodness.

Go Easy on Cleansing

We know, we know – it’s tempting to nuke your acne with all the scrubs and acids in your repertoire. Harsh treatments, however, can damage your skin barrier further, especially when it’s already irritated by mask wearing. Start with milder ingredients like salicylic acid – a pore-declogger which has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties – and take a breather on more intense agents like benzoyl peroxide.

Treat Your Clogged Pores with Facials

If your home routine just doesn’t seem to be degunking your clogged pores effectively, it’s time to turn to the professionals. You’ve probably heard of extractions – the step in a facial experience where oil and dead skin trapped in your comedones are cleared out with extractor tools. This deep cleansing smooths out those pesky bumps in your skin, reduces acne breakouts, and enables skincare products to be more effective on your refreshed skin.

Extractions get a bad rap for being painful, but that doesn’t always need to be the case. My Cozy Room, an award-winning facial spa in Singapore, does it right with (relatively) painless extraction facials, with thousands of successful treatments of skin issues like maskne, pimples, and blackheads under their belt. Meticulously performed by professional therapists with at least eight years’ experience, their extractions leave your skin calm and free of that dreaded post-facial redness.

On top of that, their medical-grade LED light therapy – targeted for maskne treatment – helps kill any acne-causing bacteria in your pores. Proven to have powerful anti-bacterial properties, the blue LED stimulates our skin’s natural healing process and reduces inflammation, thus effectively treating pimples and lightening acne scars. With their Premium Anti-Acne LED Facial currently going at 50% off (usual price S$388), what better time to beat your maskne woes?

Go Bare-Faced

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle – makeup blocks your pores and triggers breakouts, you slap on heavy concealers to cover up, and the routine clogs your pores further. Now that our faces are covered half the time, there’s possibly no better time to embrace the no-makeup trend. But if you’d rather not brave the world bare-faced, go lightweight with mineral-based rather than liquid foundation.

Lifestyle Writer

Jolene has a major sweet tooth and would happily eat pastries for all meals. When she’s not dreaming of cheesecake, she can be found in the dance studio, working on craft projects, or curled up with a good book.