English senior Jillian Gray’s experience with acne is different from many students because as someone with eczema, she was already seeing a dermatologist early on in her life.
Eczema left her skin dry and blotchy, Gray said, and she went to the doctor to try and relieve those symptoms. Those trips also had a second benefit, she said.
“I kind of had the chance to talk to the dermatologist and find some products that really worked for my skin at a young age, which is why I think I haven't had so much of an issue with acne as everyone else,” Gray said.
Despite escaping her high school days with only the occasional breakout, Gray has recently noticed an increase in pimples on her face — particularly where her mask touches her skin.
She’s not alone. Since mandatory mask-wearing was implemented, many people have suffered from “maskne,” a term coined to describe the acne caused by wearing a mask.
As a result, Gray is cleansing more and being extra careful with her diet and the products she uses on her face because her sensitive skin reacts to a lot of things.
Gray uses a spot treatment from Neutrogena for any acne that crops up, and her normal facial routine usually consists of cleanser, toner, moisturizer and SPF.
Her biggest tip for people like her who are experiencing acne for the first time because of masks is to make sure you cleanse and moisturize to give your skin the best chance of keeping out bacteria, Gray said.
Health educator Alexis Perez said that although it’s important to remember that not everyone’s skin is the same, wearing a mask is definitely a big factor in the increase of people’s acne during recent months.
For example, Perez has not seen an increase in acne on her own face, but her husband, who is a coach and has to wear a mask outside daily, has begun to break out.
Another common factor that resulted from the pandemic is stress. This along with overeating, especially sugary foods, can affect acne levels.
For students who work or go to class and can’t avoid wearing their mask for long periods of time, Perez said making sure your mask is made from the right material is essential.
“It is definitely recommended to find masks, if possible, that are made from 100% cotton,” Perez said.
Cotton is a material that allows your skin to breathe, and is recommended as most helpful to patients with sensitive skin, Perez said. This extends not only to masks but to clothing like underwear as well.
“Allowing your skin to breathe” is a phrase used often in clothes marketing but rarely explained as to why it’s important.
The air you breathe out has bacteria in it, and if your mask is the wrong material, that bacteria is then trapped against your face for however long you wear the mask, Perez said. And if you’re ever sweating or coughing or sneezing under the mask, that effect is only increased.
“If it's not cotton, then [maskne] is increased because you have no ventilation or chance for breathability,” Perez said.
Another tip is to wash your mask between uses, Perez said, and increase your oral hygiene practices when you know you’ll be wearing the mask extensively.
This is one tip management senior NicolasMcClintic has begun to follow because like Gray, he’s seen an increase in acne since beginning to wear his mask to work for many hours each day.
He knows his mask is the problem because he breaks out only on the lower half of his face, and was relatively clear-skinned before the pandemic.
However, unlike Gray, McClintic’s skin becomes irritated when he washes it too much, leaving him with less options to prevent breakouts.
He never wears the same mask twice without washing it, McClintic said, and the masks he received from his job at the Central Library are already cotton. Nevertheless, he has yet to see a decrease in maskne and isn’t sure he ever will.
“There's not really much you can do in this situation,” McClintic said. “Just got to wait for it to be over.”