It’s been a while now since face masks and face coverings have become mandatory on public transport in the UK; and since the 24th of July, the same rule applied to retail spaces following the Government’s regulations. Whilst the measure has been welcomed with open arms by commuters, retail workers and customers alike, many of us are starting to experience ‘maskne’ – aka the condition associated with clogged pores and dirt particles trapped into the skin caused by mask wearing.
‘The environment under a mask is hot, slightly damp (from breathing) and also open to bacteria where the mask may be rubbing on the skin’ Faace’s in-house aromatherapist Sim Stevens explains. ‘Wearing masks can also cause any oil, make-up and bacteria or dirt on your skin to become occluded. In turn, that can trigger outbreaks of spots, bumps, blemishes, dermatitis, inflamed hair follicles, irritation, broken blood vessels and redness or rosacea’, Dr. Bibi Ghalaie, medical director at British Aesthetics tells Stylist.
With concerns regarding ‘maskne’ being on the rise due to the novelty of the issue, industry experts are advising we switch up our routines to tackle the effects and keep breakouts at bay. From smart skincare swaps to key ingredients to look out for, here’s how to maintain a healthy complexion when having to wear a mask:
Switch up your skincare routine
Being skincare-savvy and picking the right products can work wonders on mask-induced congestion and breakouts. Swapping heavy cleansers for lighter formulas is a good place to start, according to Sim Stevens. Additionally, Sim advises against heavier creams that do not penetrate the skin as quickly as light-weight moisturisers do. ‘They can leave residue on the skin’ which can become the perfect environment for bacteria to develop. ‘Perhaps try a lighter moisturiser or facial oil instead’, she explains. Dermatologist Angeline Yong advises using a ‘mild and gentle exfoliator to support the absorption of your moisturiser’. If you’re not into grainy scrubs, their chemical rivals are actually much kinder to the skin, and even help relieve the issues associated with ‘maskne’ such as clogged pores and excess oil build-up. If you experience painful breakouts around your cheeks and chin, using an overnight spot treatment or drying lotion often does the trick. If you experience severe soreness, opt for some spot patches – not only do they help treat the issue, but they also provide a physical barrier between your skin and the mask. ‘Sweaty faace under your make-up works well to stop the make-up slip and sliding, plus helps keep breakouts at bay’, adds Sim.
Know your ingredients
Getting clued up on ingredients makes it easy to decode products and allows you to build up an arsenal to fight off ‘maskne’. Dr. Dija Ayodele, skin health expert and founder of West Room Aesthetics tells Stylist that looking out for barrier-supporting ingredients is key: ‘gluconolactone, panthenol, ceramides, glycerine and niacinamide will boost hydration and encourage healing of the skin.’ In terms of tackling breakouts, Sim points out that Tea Tree oil is a superstar in fighting off blemishes: ‘It is high in natural astringents, which fight off perspiration. Tea Tree is also anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, helping relieve irritated skin after sweating, whilst clearing away bacteria’. If you’re into essential oils, their holistic skin-loving properties can also come to the rescue: ‘Bergamot oil is antiseptic with punchy mood-boosting power. It can provide a stellar spot treatment for sensitive skin, which might be a side effect of excessive heat and sweating under a mask. Another plus is its antibacterial and antibiotic, meaning bacteria backs right off!’ says Sim.
Avoid wearing make-up
As obvious as it sounds, make-up and masks don’t make good companions. ‘In order to try and prevent irritation and potential breakouts, make-up could be avoided’ says Sim. ‘If you are sensitive to skin irritation, the less is more rule is ideal for under your mask’. If you’re not ready to ditch the coverage completely, Dr. Budh-Raja advises to resort to ‘breathable makeup with a water-based foundation to prevent clogging of pores under the mask’.
Written by beauty journalist Maria Bita with contributions from aromatherapist Sim Stevens