Blemishes are something most of us have experienced in one way, shape, or form throughout our lives. In fact, it’s the most common skin condition in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million Americans each year. However, while most have learned to recognize and address the common causes and triggers of their acne, there’s a new, widespread type that’s throwing even non acne-prone people for a loop: maskne.
Maskne is a form of acne mechanica, a breakout triggered by heat, friction, or rubbing of the skin. It isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon—athletes, along with people who work in the medical field, nail technicians, and those in other industries for which mask-wearing is necessary, are accustomed to dealing with this particular type of blemish. But now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent and prolonged mask usage has become the norm for a vast majority of the population, and incidences of maskne are on the rise.
In the case of maskne, the humidity created by talking or breathing beneath a mask, compounded with added friction and pressure points, disrupts natural skin barriers and provides an ideal environment for bacteria, yeast, and other pore-clogging microorganisms to thrive and cause breakouts.
Other Skin Concerns From Wearing a Face Mask
Under these unique circumstances, masks can often make existing skin conditions worse or create new ones where there were none before.
- Dry skin- If you’re prone to dry skin, mask-wearing traps harmful impurities that are more likely to cause blemishes due to a weakened moisture barrier. Going from one extreme to another (a hot, moist mask environment to a very dry one when the mask is off) further throws the skin microbiome out of balance and exacerbates dry skin.
- Melasma- Melasma, a condition which causes dark patches of discoloration on the skin, is often triggered by hormones, UV exposure, irritation, and heat. Face masks take those last two elements—irritation and heat—and trap them against the skin, triggering the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) to get bigger and produce more of the pigment that darkens and discolors skin.
- Skin irritation- For those with sensitive skin, mask-wearing creates a perfect storm of factors to irritate and stress the skin. Irritation caused by friction triggers inflammation which is only exacerbated by the humidity and weakened skin barrier, resulting in breakouts which add to the cycle of suffering.
- Dry lips & mouth- Speaking and breathing into a mask causes friction against the mouth that leeches moisture, resulting in dry, chapped lips. It also provides a warm, moist environment for yeast and bacteria to flourish, which can cause angular cheilitis, inflammation or cracking at the corners of the mouth.
Despite these issues, mask-wearing is an essential part of keeping you (and others) healthy during a global pandemic. So what’s the best way to prioritize health and safety while also being mindful of your skincare needs? By treating mask time as part of your self-care routine, of course. Here are three J-beauty secrets to help you make the most of masking up.