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Before 2020, we were all blissfully unaware of the nuisance that is mask acne (aka “maskne”). However, (no) thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, wearing a mask has become a part of everyday life for many of us. It’s a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things, but for many of us, wearing a mask comes with the unpleasant side effect of maskne. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent mask acne and keep your skin clear.
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Firstly, face masks make you sweat and trap bacteria, humidity and oil – basically, everything you want to get rid of – against your skin. The friction of the mask also creates tiny micro tears in your skin and pushes all of the bad stuff inside. All of this creates the ideal environment for acne to rear its ugly (white)head.
Not all masks are equal – some fabrics are much more irritating than others. A silk mask is much gentler choice for your skin, as it creates less friction and allows your skin to breathe. Invest in a few good quality masks and rotate them regularly, washing between uses. You wouldn’t wear yesterday’s sweaty gym clothes, so don’t wear yesterday’s sweaty face mask. Here are a few of my favorite options:
This reversible L Erickson mask is available in a variety of prints and has adjustable straps for added convenience. It’s 100% silk, which means no maskne-triggering friction.
Slip’s silk pillowcases are a cult favorite and the brand has amassed a long list of celebrity fans, from Victoria Beckham to Ariana Grande. Now, they’re branching out into face masks too, which is good news for anyone wanting to prevent mask acne.
Once you’ve stocked up on skin-friendly face masks, it’s time to modify your skincare routine. Let’s start with the morning. A simple cleanse and moisturize system might have served you well in the past, but in order to prevent mask acne you’ve got to up the anti.
I know, I know. When faced with maskne it’s tempting to go all in and blitz your face with an overly stripping cleanser, but your skin won’t thank you in the long run. Trust me, it’s better to start your day with a gentle cleanser and save the big guns until later. Here are some gentle, non-irritating cleansers to consider:
Paula’s Choice is one of the most trusted skin care brands out there because of its transparency regarding ingredients and formulas. The gentle UnScrub cleanser is suitable for all skin types and gently removes dirt, sweat and oil without stripping the skin. It also contains Jojoba oil which helps to soothe and repair the skin.
La Roche Posay’s Effaclar Micro Peeling Purifying Gel Wash does an amazing job of unblocking pores and removing excess oil and bacteria. It leaves your skin clean as a whistle, but it’s still suitable for sensitive skin.
After cleansing, it’s time to go in with a salicylic acid product. Salicylic acid is an amazing anti-acne ingredient and it can actually shrink pimples in just a few hours. It’s gentle enough for daily use, but if you’ve got sensitive skin using salicylic acid just a few days a week will still yield results.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid Exfoliant is my favorite salicylic acid formula. This gentle product will leave your skin clear and glowy in no time at all. It’s a cult favorite and with good reason.
Niacinamide is the superstar of the skincare world. It’s a form of Vitamin B3 that delivers a myriad of benefits. It’s a jack-of-all trades ingredient because it addresses a range of skin concerns and there are very few people it doesn’t work for. It’s an antioxidant that stimulates collagen production, improves the appearance of sunspots and protects the skin against environmental damage… and that’s before we even get into the anti-acne benefits.
In addition to all that other amazing stuff, niacinamide regulates oil production and reduces skin inflammation, all of which really helps to prevent mask acne. It also pairs perfectly with salicylic acid. Together, the two ingredients make something of an acne-fighting dream team.
Dr Dennis Gross Stress Rescue Serum is the perfect serum for inflamed skin. It helps to protect the skin against environmental stressors… and I think we can all agree, face masks place quite a lot of stress on our poor skin.
It can be tempting to skip moisturiser in the midst of a breakout, but that’s a big mistake. The right moisturiser will help to soothe your skin, maintain hydration and lock in all the goodness from your serums. Choose a light cream and make sure it doesn’t contain any irritating ingredients, such as fragrance or essential oils.
Youth to the People Moisture Cream contains a myriad of amazing ingredients such as kale extract, aloe vera and hyaluronic acid to help calm your skin. The brand is vegan, cruelty free and environmentally friendly, so this cream is good for your face and for the planet.
One Ocean Beauty Replenishing Deep Sea Moisturiser is another fantastic vegan moisturiser for acne-prone skin. As you might guess from the name, this product contains ocean-derived ingredients to help reduce inflammation and protect your skin against environmental stressors.
This isn’t directly related to preventing mask acne but you should wear SPF everyday to protect your skin (yes, even if it’s raining.) This is even more important when you’re incorporating exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid into your skincare routine.
I love La Roche Posay’s Antihelios spray. It offers high level SPF protection and mists beautifully over the top of makeup, so there’s really no excuse not to reapply!
Your skin needs different things at different times of the day. We’ll be repeating some of the products from the morning routine, but adding in a few extras too.
Double cleansing means washing your face twice, first with an oil or balm cleanser and then again with a traditional gel face wash.
I know what you’re thinking: “Oil? Hello, breakout!” but there’s actually no need to fear the oil cleanse. Firstly, oil does an amazing job of breaking down makeup, sweat and dirt without stripping your skin. Secondly, it’s only on your face for a few minutes, maximum, before you wash it off, so the product won’t have time to sink into your skin and clog your pores.
Choose a gentle formula without any comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients. Here are some of the best:
The Fresh Seaberry Skin Nutrition Cleansing Oil will melt away your makeup and leave you with gorgeous, glowing skin. It’s also full of antioxidants and skin-boosting plant extracts.
The DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is the gold standard of oil cleansers. It’s a premium Japanese beauty product that’s suitable for even the oiliest of skin types.
Then, follow up with the same gentle face wash as you used in your morning maskne routine.
At night you should apply a leave-on spot treatment to those pesky blemishes and pimples. It’s not necessarily the most glamorous bedtime look, but it’s worth it to wake up with clear skin.
As I mentioned in this post, Cosrx is one of the best Korean beauty brands out there. Their overnight pimple patches have been all over social media lately thanks to their amazing spot-shrinking power.
If you’d prefer a gel product, Dr. Dennis Gross’ Acne Eliminating Gel is another fantastic product that will reduce the size and redness of blemishes overnight.
Centella Asiatica is another skincare superstar ingredient which is common in Korean beauty products. As well as smoothing skin and calming inflammation, it can also help with the appearance of acne scars. Apply this everywhere you didn’t put your spot treatment. Centella Asiatica isn’t all that common in US skin care, but it’s a staple ingredient in Korea.
Purito’s Centella Unscented Serum is one of the best options available. It helps to restore your skin’s barrier and calm all that irritation from your mask. It’s vegan and suitable for sensitive skin.
Last but not least, it’s time for night cream. I recommend choosing a product that contains honey, which is a very gentle, antibacterial ingredient that helps prevent breakouts whilst nourishing your skin. Here are some of the best options:
Farmacy’s Honey Drop is a lightweight, luxurious cream that you’ll actually look forward to applying every night. It’s a great way to protect your skin against bacteria whilst keeping your face looking plump, soft and fresh.
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