October 3, 2022

The pandemic has left marks on lives in a myriad of ways – some of those marks are being left on faces.

Acne from wearing masks, coined as “maskne,” has been a new issue many people have had to deal with. When wearing a mask for a long period of time, sweat, oil, and bacteria become trapped – creating a breeding ground for breakouts.

Skin professionals, like Sofia Awani, owner of Tealstreet Skin and Esthetics in Cambridge, note that the material of many masks can also cause irritation and inflammation to the skin.

Awani poses inside of Tealstreet Skin and Esthetics in Cambridge, Ontario. Photo submitted by Sofia Awani.

“The material of your mask may scratch the skin, creating entry points for bacteria or friction that may increase oil production,” the previous Senior Instructor for Dermalogica said.

While every individual’s skin is different, Awani says there are a few steps you can take to help prevent maskne.

“Be thorough when washing your [reusable] masks and store them in a hygienic place,” Awani said. “Avoid stuffing them in your pocket with keys and money.”

Other preventative measures Awani mentioned included special attention to the chin, because it is already prone to breakouts from hormones. Minimizing the amount of makeup or heavy moisturizers in the area can help prevent pores from clogging.

If you do need to wear makeup, the Tealstreet owner advises mineral-based powder makeup, as it is more breathable than silicone-based liquid makeup.

For those who tend to stand in front of their mirror prodding at their acne, Awani has one piece of advice.

“Don’t even think about it,” she said. “I know it’s tempting, but it will spread the bacteria, making the problem worse.”

Ann Moores, a 22-year-old student at Conestoga, is all too familiar with picking.

“It’s hard when I have a zit all big and bumpy, just begging for me to squeeze it,” she said. “I try not to give in – because when I do, it usually leaves scars behind.”

When maskne does insist on rearing its head, there are some ingredients to look for in skin care products to help treat it.

“Two to look out for are salicylic acid and niacinamide, which are very popular and effective ingredients,” Awani said. “Both at drugstore and high-end price points.”

The similarities and differences of niacinamide and salicylic acid. Diagram created by Merissa Busato.

The two can be used together, but it is important to use them in order. Use salicylic acid first to remove the build-up on skin, then niacinamide to soothe skin and lock in moisture.

“The best thing to do is to speak to a professional,” the esthetician said, for those who are worried about using products incorrectly. “We have a strong understanding of the skin and the brands we carry to help with the treatment of acne on different skin types.”

Awani has seen clients across all age groups struggle with maskne, but particularly, female clients between 14 and 35 years old.

Both Moores and her 50-year-old mom can attest to that.

“Neither of us have broken out like this since we were like 16,” the student said. “My mom jokes that when she says she wants the skin from her youth back, this isn’t what she meant.”

Despite the acne being bothersome, Moores tries not to let it bring her down.

“It helps to remember so many people are fighting the same problem,” she said. “At times, maskne can make me insecure, but I remind myself it’s temporary. I’m pretty with or without it.”

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