Here in Australia, we all naively hoped that COVID-19 would be a thing of the past by now. No masks, no more lockdowns, no more cancelled plans. Although not surprising, it is still extremely frustrating that COVID-19 and its accompanying nuances are still very much here. Which means - still more cancelled plans, possible snap lockdowns and the constant need to drive back home because we’ve forgotten our masks.
At the end of 2019, had we told you that wearing masks would be as essential as grabbing your house keys, you all would have thought we were witches. Who would have known that this would now be our reality? A small gesture to keep our community safe. We’re all heroes we dare say, but being a hero comes with a price… damn maskne. If you haven’t heard of maskne, don't fret - it’s not another virus, it’s acne caused by wearing a mask.
What causes Maskne?
The friction, pressure and rubbing of the face mask causes irritation on the skin barrier. In addition, the humidity, heat, oil secretion and bacteria from our own breath under the mask also becomes a perfect breeding space for microorganisms that wreak havoc on the skin. Things could get worse in summer as the heat increases causing our pores and sweat glands to dilate further. This then increases oil and sweat production which ends up clogging our pores and resulting in unexpected blemishes.
While we continue to hope for the day that COVID-19 is no longer a threat to us, there are many easy ways in which we can control our lifestyle and skincare regime to keep maskne at bay. Here is 5 simple and effective ways:
If you weren’t already, wash your face day and night and detoxify a few days a week
Regular cleansing can help remove any build up of dirt, excess oil, sweat and bacteria from our breath. Remove them regularly and they won’t get the chance to tackle your skin. When choosing a cleanser, try to select one that is nice and gentle. When we say gentle, opt for sulfate-free so that there is no risk of over stripping or causing further irritation. Remember, the skin is quite vulnerable and sensitive during these times. It’s also a very good idea to exfoliate the skin surface and use a detoxifying mask a few days a week to regularly clear out the pores.
Focus on strengthening the skin barrier, don’t skip the moisturiser
Whilst wearing a mask, the skin is under constant stress. It is important that we focus on strengthening the skin barrier so that it’s less irritated to constant friction, pressure and rubbing. The easiest way to help protect the skin barrier is to continue to use moisturiser even though it might feel wrong to. Think of it instead as a layer between the mask and the skin. The moisturiser will help the skin stay flexible and intact so that it has the ability to protect itself. Also, look for ingredients that can effectively strengthen and replenish the building blocks of the stratum corneum. These include ceramides, free fatty acids such as omegas 3,6,9, cholesterol and squalane.
Rebalance the skin microbiome
There’s a lot of hype these days on rebalancing the microbiome and especially during these times. What does it mean to rebalance the skin microbiome, you ask? Well, the skin actually contains both good and bad bacteria on the skin. The good bacteria actually helps strengthen the skin barrier and protect it from premature aging and lack of radiance. The bad bacteria on the other hand is what causes acne. Rebalancing requires us to feed and preserve the good bacteria on the skin with prebiotics or probiotics. Nowadays there are more and more skincare that have prebiotics and probiotics.
If you don’t have to wear makeup, don’t do it or at least keep it minimal
Wearing makeup then covering the face with a mask can worsen the occlusion of our pores and further contribute to acne development. This is an easy way to help prevent breakouts. If you can’t go without a little somethin’ somethin’ then we recommend going for mineral based makeup or consider using light skin tints, tinted moisturisers or tinted sunscreens.
Clean your reusable masks as often as possible
Look, this is a given. While the mask is used to protect us and the community, it can collect anything that it comes in contact with - dirt, sweat, makeup and bacteria. If you’ve done all the hard work by following the above tips but still use a dirty mask constantly, then you’re back to square one. If you can make the switch to silk face masks, even better. Silk can’t harbour bacteria and it’s also gentler on the skin as it reduces friction.