With many states and businesses requiring mask-wearing to prevent the spread of coronavirus, we’re seeing an uptick in a related skin problem: maskne. But none of us would want vanity to get in the way of helping our neighbors, so what’s a person to do? Esthetician Crystal Shaffer of Exhale Medspa is here to help you stay beautiful and safe.

Why am I breaking out more under my mask?

If your mask is doing its job and limiting the distance your exhalations can travel, it will also be increasing warmth and moisture levels in the areas it covers. These conditions are different from what your skin is used to and can increase inflammation of the skin. It can also cause pores to stay more open, allowing bacteria to more easily enter them.


Top ways to avoid maskne:

1. Don’t wear makeup under your mask. Force of habit might lead you to apply foundation over your entire face, but if you are heading out in a mask, try skipping the zone covered by your mask. You can get all the self-care pleasure of applying makeup by focusing on the eyes, saving your full-face makeup for your Zoom meetings or a date night at home.

2. Wash your mask frequently. Fully washing your mask after each use is helpful not just for coronavirus safety but also for your skin. There’s no sense in putting any of yesterday’s bacteria in contact with today’s clean skin.

3. Throw your pillowcase in the wash with your masks. This sounds like it has nothing to do with masks, but if you are fighting maskne, a clean pillowcase each night can be very helpful in reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria your skin encounters. (Consider that your face is pressed against your pillow for seven to eight hours each night!) While you are at it, put your face towels in the wash, too.

4. Use unscented detergent to clean your mask and skip the fabric softener. Besides saving you from breathing in excessive amounts of artificial fragrance, unscented detergent will be less irritating to your skin. Look for options designed for babies or sensitive skin. Fabric softener can also be an unnecessary irritant.

5. Establish good cleansing habits. Soap and water are great for getting viral particles off of our hands, but your face deserves better. That said, if you’re fighting breakouts, I can’t recommend heading to the drug store and trying random over-the-counter (OTC) cleansing products for a few reasons. 

For one, OTC options often contain ingredients that are more harsh than helpful. And secondly, trying to match up what your skin really needs with the right products isn’t easy. Consult with a medical esthetician (even if it is a virtual consult) to find out what cleansing routine will best support your skin type and concerns.

6. Get a medical facial every other week, or at least once per month. Whether you are already experiencing maskne or simply want to avoid it, I strongly recommend regular facials to refresh your skin. HydraFacials are a particularly great choice as they draw out debris and can be customized to help prevent and treat breakouts. By going in for a facial, you’ll also be getting your esthetician’s expert eye on your skin at regular intervals — and that means they can help with problems before things get out of hand.

I specify a medical facial for a few reasons. First off, a true medspa (like Exhale here in Little Rock) has access to physician-only ingredients and more advanced skin treatments. This is particularly important for acne patients. Additionally, cosmetic surgery centers are much more experienced with following advanced sanitation procedures and thus better able to protect patient safety during a pandemic.

7. Talk to an esthetician about your skincare productsLet’s say you are wearing a mask inside an air-conditioned space. Your upper face is enjoying cool, dry conditions while your nose and lower face are living in the tropics! This means we need to use our skincare products a little differently. 

Your aesthetician may recommend doing your skincare by zones rather than treating the entire face the same. For instance, this could mean an acne-targeting cleanser plus lighter moisturizer for areas covered by your mask and your normal products for the rest of your face. 


If you are wearing a mask whenever you leave the house, you deserve a big pat on the back for helping us all stay healthy and get through the pandemic as quickly as possible. If skin problems crop up, try using it as the impetus for tuning up your routine, whether that means using a proper toner, updating your moisturizer choices or visiting a medical aesthetician for the very first time.

This article first appeared on the Little Rock Cosmetic Surgery Center website.

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