The effects of maskne can vary but for people with darker skin tones, this recent type of acne can come with additional skin issues to combat. Read on to understand why and some ways to treat it.
Mask-wearing has become a part of today’s reality. While there’s no arguing it’s absolutely necessary to wear — the CDC has provided enough scientific evidence that proves that wearing masks are the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it does come with it’s fair share of pimples, breakouts, and irritation, otherwise known as maskne. Yes girl, maskne is an actual thing and it’s not fun, especially if you have darker skin that’s often prone to hyperpigmentation.
“Masks, although necessary in Coronavirus prevention, can lead to increased friction, irritation and sweating,” says NYC-based Dermatologist Dr. Elena Jones. “Depending on the material used to create these face coverings, occlusion of pores and follicles can occur leading to all varieties of pimples, comedones, pustules, and cysts.”
In fact, maskne is considered to be a common kind of acne mechanica which Dr. Jones explains is due to increased friction, heat, rubbing, and irritation from the masks. It’s so common now that the American Academy of Dermatology (A.A.D) has released a report on ways to prevent face-mask skin problems.
“The skin is not used to being covered for long periods of time (with the exception of it being pressed against your pillow case when sleeping),” says licensed esthetician, pro makeup artist, and founder of Melaskinstudio, Lakeisha Dale. “Now we have this covering that can trap sweat, oil and bacteria from our mouth on the surface of the skin, which can cause the pores to get clogged and can also lead to breakouts. It’s also rubbing against our skin which in itself can cause irritation. Overall irritated and inflamed skin.”
As someone who doesn’t struggle from cystic acne or even frequent acne, I know I panic every time I get a white head — forget two or three on my chin or jaw area. And it’s not even so much because of the breakouts themselves. With the right spot treatment or acne patch, they usually go away in a day or so. What stresses me out is the dark spot that’s almost inevitable on darker skin tones, which is why I reached out to three Black skin care experts on everything from preventing and treating maskne to preventing and treating the hyperpigmentation that might follow.
Cleansing is Key Here:
“I think another thing that people aren’t realizing is that when you get home, don’t wait until night time to wash your face,” says Nyakio Grieco, skincare expert and founder of Nyakio Beauty. “The same way when we come home we wash our hands immediately because we’ve been out in the world, wash your face immediately. It’s almost like starting a regimen over again. If you go out twice in a day, that means you’re going to be washing your face that day three times.”
Nyakio who is a major fan of K-Beauty’s double cleansing, recommends cleansing with a gentle and moisturizing oil cleanser followed by your favorite gel cleanser. I’ve been consistently using the Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil (AHA) followed by the Dr. Oracle A-Thera Cleansing Foam, a gentle gel formula that foams into a rich later and is formulated with salicylic acid to clean pores and leave acne at bay. It’s also gentle enough for sensitive skin types. It never irritates my rosacea.
Don’t Skip out on Exfoliating:
“The number one step that you should do is make sure that you’re exfoliating,” says Nyakio. “If you were exfoliating once a week before, make sure that you’re exfoliating twice a week now. If you were exfoliating twice a week before, make sure that you’re exfoliating maybe 3-4 times a week. You need to up your exfoliation game because the skin needs to go through its own regenerative repair process.”
As much as she loves herself a good lactic acid peel, Nyakio recommends sticking to gentle exfoliators these days since mask-wearing already leaves the skin a lot more sensitive. She uses either her Nyakio Kenyan Coffee Face Polish or does a DIY remedy. “I share the recipe all the time, which is just Kenyan coffee grounds, one tablespoon of avocado oil, two tablespoons of coconut oil, and a few drops of your favorite face oil.” She recommends the Nyakio Maracuja and Yangu Rescue Oil for it’s soothing and restorative benefits.
Keep your Skin Moisturized:
All three experts couldn’t stress enough the importance of keeping the skin moisturized. It actually works as a barrier and protects the skin from potential mask irritation. While less is more for certain skin types, I have found that my highly sensitive and rosacea-prone skin tends to thrive when I add essence into my routine. The watery formula not only further hydrates my skin but it allows the products I layer on after to absorb better. I love the silkiness of the Then I Met You The Giving Essence. Instead of a serum, I apply The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Oil because it keeps my skin smooth, calm, and incredibly hydrated without ever clogging my pores. I then follow with a light-weight moisturizer like the Dr. Oracle A-Thera Emulsion.
Wear Your Sunscreen Indoors Too!
For darker complexions, sun exposure after a breakout can actually make us more prone to developing dark spots or hyperpigmentation, which is why it is that much more important to wear sunscreen at all times.
“Sunscreen should be worn daily and reapplied hourly if spending a day outdoors or simply, returning home from work,” says Dr. Jones. “Carry your sunscreen with you! With all of the onscreen hours, or intense office lighting, sunscreen should be worn indoors too. It should be part of your daily routine and kept handy so that it can be reapplied. Look for sunscreens with micronized titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These types lessen the ashy hue that can be left behind on skin of color by some sunscreens.”
“I use Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 and I haven’t tried it yet but a lot of my Black and brown friends love Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30,” says Nyakio. “Obviously as women of color we don’t want anything that’s going to look purple on our face. I will say that if I know I’m going to be going outside I’ll put it across my forehead and the upper part of my face and apply a very light layer in the lower face that’s covered underneath the mask because I don’t want my pores to get congested in that area.”
Up Your Acne Patch Game:
The few times I do get a pimple that’s deeper or hard to reach than my usual white heads which I combat with The Klog Soft Shield Pimple Patch, I’ll apply the Acropass Trouble Cure patch. It contains innovative microneedle technology formulated with hyaluronic acid, niacinmide, and oligeopeptide-76 that works to penetrate into the skin and treat both the bacteria and inflammation that’s occurring. I’ll apply the patch to the pimple overnight and usually by the morning the pimple has calmed and flattened, speeding up the healing process.
On the days I’m going out for a run or it’s hot and humid out, meaning I know my face will be sweating underneath my mask, I’ll apply a Mighty Patch Surface strip to my chin and jaw areas to prevent future breakouts. Not only do they treat occurring breakouts that might form in clutters but they also work great in protecting my skin from breaking out in the first place.
Use Calming Masks:
I’ve switched out my clay masks for treatments that are a lot more calming and soothing on my skin like the Inward Agas ACue Herbal Mask. It’s a wash-off mask formulated with green tea and Korean mint (agastache rugosa) that works to deep clean pores while also soothing and calming breakouts and irritated, inflamed skin.
Add Vitamin C to Your Regimen:
“Because most Black people or POC experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) after breakouts, I would suggest using a product that contains Vitamin C or Kojic acid in it,” says Dale. “These two ingredients both brighten and help fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots. My favorite is the Hyper Clear Serum from Hyper Skin.”
I’ve had incredible and almost instant results from incorporating a face mask into my routine that includes vitamin C, turmeric, and aloe vera. The Gleamin Vitamin C Face Mask visibly brightens skin while fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation. I’ve been amazed at how well this has worked for me.
Moisturize your skin overnight:
I’ve always been a major fan of overnight masks but instead of using them a few times a week, I now use them on a daily basis to give my skin that extra TLC. I’m obsessed with the Skin Pot Sleeping Pack because it deeply hydrates my skin without clogging pores. It’s also formulated with hemp seeds oil that helps soothe and calm my super sensitive skin.
Lastly, make sure you’re properly washing your face masks:
If you’re using a reusable cloth face mask, it’s crucial that you wash it after every single use. “I have loved using 100 percent cotton masks. You just have to make sure that it’s thick enough — 2 ply or 3 ply,” says Nyakio. “The other thing is if you’re using cotton ones you need to make sure that you are consistently washing them. Right after use and make sure that you’re using a clean detergent like Honest Hypoallergenic Baby Laundry Detergent or Seventh Generation Free + Clear Laundry Detergent specifically designed for sensitive skin because if it’s going on my face I don’t want all those chemicals that maybe a non-clean detergent would have.”