How to treat maskne caused by wearing face coverings

Wearing face masks regularly is leading to maskne – both for beauty therapists and their clients. Image Skincare's UK head of education, Charlene Stoker explains how to prevent and treat the skin condition.

What is maskne?

Technically called acne mechanica, this type of skin issue is caused by repeated friction, pressure, and irritation from using face coverings regularly.

Having spoken to a lot of clients about their skin since having to wear a mask daily, we have been seeing a lot of inflammation and this can be seen as redness on the skin and can feel sore to the touch. Some clients are noticing that their skin has become dry and flaky and others have been noticing a lot more breakouts, which seems to be the most common side effect. 

A face mask or covering will lead to congested pores by blocking them with sweat, make-up, oil, and other clogging particulates. When you are wearing a mask, the air can’t circulate around your face so it traps your breath inside the mask and the humidity caused by the moisture allows bacteria to breed on the skin.

Breakouts are also caused by friction, which is why some people notice breakouts on areas of tight-fitting clothing. The same can occur with a mask or face covering. 

How can I prevent maskne? 

Having a heathy skincare routine will really help to prevent breakouts. Double cleanse with a gentle pH-balanced cleanser to make sure all surface irritants have been removed.

Advise clients to avoid wearing make-up in the area of the mask, or if they do wear make-up, to use a mineral formula to prevent blocked pores. They should change their mask daily if disposable or use a fresh clean mask every day as bacteria will breed on it. If they can remove theor mask to allow air to circulate, they should do this as much as they can if safe to do so.

Having professional skin treatments is also important to give a deeper cleanse and exfoliation to promote healing on the skin and prevent future breakouts. As a therapist, you can then advise on products that are best for your and their individual concerns. 

Recommend that clients wash their face as soon as they get in from work or as soon as they can remove their mask, to make sure the bacteria and moisture is off the surface of the skin. They should make sure pillow cases are changed regularly, make-up brushes are washed weekly, and use tepid water on the face, not hot or cold, so as not to shock the skin. 

Ask them not to pick or touch the face as it could lead to scarring and spread bacteria, making the situation worse.

How should clients change their skincare routine?

If using a flannel or face cloth to remove cleanser, they should use a fresh one each day and use tissue to blot dry rather than a towel which can hold moisture and bacteria. Applying our serums and moisturisers straight away will give better absorption.    

Regular exfoliation is really important as this will prevent pores from becoming blocked. Salicylic acid is a fantastic ingredient to work into the pore and clear it out, regulate oil production and prevent future breakouts. Image Skincare's Ageless Total Resurfacing Masque and Clear Cell Clarifying Tonic leave-on treatment are great for this.  

Chemical exfoliations can penetrate the skin much deeper compared to physical (beads) exfoliation, as that will only work on the very surface of the skin and we want to avoid too much friction.

If someone’s skin is irritated, then gentle plant-based enzyme exfoliation, such as our Ormedic Gel Polisher, will work better to remove the dead skin to prevent from a build-up leading to breakouts.

Retinol is always a favourite of ours as it helps to regulate the skin, so if it is acting differently to normal it’ll help normalise it. Retinol is a cell communicator and will tell your cells to act differently, like a younger healthier cell, therefore helping with nearly all concerns. Retinol needs to be introduced slowly to a routine and I'd recommend Ageless Overnight Retinol Masque.

Clay-based masks are good to draw out impurities and oil from the skin - try I Mask Purifying Probiotic Masque, or Clear Cell Clarifying Masque.

Soothing masks can also be used to calm irritation and sensitivity; for example, Oremdic Balancing Gel Masque, or The Max Stem Cell masque.

When masks are used regularly, they will make a real difference to the skin health. It is really important to make sure clients are keeping their skin hydrated (try Ageless Total Pure Hyaluronic6 Filler. If the skin becomes dehydrated, they will lose moisture, the healing process will slow down, skin will become more sensitised and breakouts could become worse. Oil-free moisturisers such as Clear Cell Mattifying Moisturiser will hydrate without being heavy.

If the skin has become very dry and chapped then active ingredients such a retinol and acids will need to be avoided. We can rebuild the skin first with calming soothing ingredients (try Ormedic Balancing Anti Oxidant Serum)  and then once the skin is in better health and the barrier function is working we can look at adding in actives.

How to treat maskne in male clients

The above can apply for men as well, as they may have more irritation from shaving. They need to avoid alcohol in aftershave products as this causes irritation and dryness normally but will make the skin even worse if wearing a mask as well.

When shaving, they should use a ph skin-balanced cleanser to shave with, such as Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser or Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser. Then they should follow this with plant-based oils such as Vital C Hydrating Oil to repair the barrier function and protect the skin from the elements. 

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