Get us in your inbox

Woman in a mask at a playground
Photograph: Pexels

How to deal with ‘maskne’ and other pandemic-prone beauty bothers

A skin specialist gives us the goss on natural remedies for lockdown skin problems

Alannah Le Cross
Written by
Alannah Le Cross

Look, pimples suck. Even if you find a sadistic joy in squeezing your zits (or someone else’s, no judgement here) – sometimes the appearance of a petulant pustule break out, on top of everything else on your plate, is all you need to send you careening into a meltdown. Which is why it seems like a particularly cruel coincidence that all the mask-wearing we’re required to do right can be a nightmare for those of us prone to outbreaks.

"Maskne" is the new term for those acne flare-ups and unsightly rashes caused by frequent mask wearing. On top of this, many people are suffering with dry lips, chapped hands from all the sanitising, overall skin dryness, and as we found out, rosacea is on the rise too.    

To help us with our Covid era skin and beauty woes, we spoke to Bridget Carmady, a Blue Mountains-based, university-trained naturopath, complementary medicine specialist and the founder of Clémence Organics, a range of non-toxic, planet-friendly skincare products.

“Maskne does seem like a new thing, but it's actually something that doctors and nurses have dealt with for a long time,” says Carmady. “By wearing a mask you are creating this humidifified environment which is just a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So if you have any susceptibility to acne, or for any reason whatsoever, then chances are you're going to get it with mask wearing.” 

Five top tips for preventing ‘maskne’

Avoid synthetic disposable masks where possible

Maskne is really not that you're coming into contact with any new bacteria, it is more about the environment you’re creating under your mask. This can be exacerbated by the type of masks that you wear too. Particularly those cheap, blue disposable masks – they can be the most irritating on the face because of the polyester and synthetic fibres. The cloth ones are generally better.

Wash your masks regularly

If you’re wearing the same mask on-and-off several times a day over the course of the week, then there’s a lot of stuff that builds up. I would say wash them daily, making sure that when you do wash it that you're using a detergent that is designed for sensitive skin that's hypoallergenic.

Choose your detergent carefully 

A natural one is best. While you might not normally react to laundry detergents, your face is much more sensitive than other areas. Something that ordinarily might not upset you, when you start wearing that on your face, you might start to get skin issues you wouldn't normally see there.

Minimise wearing makeup with masks

Makeup just adds to the disruption of the skin’s barrier. It is prone to harbouring bacteria because your skin can’t breathe properly.

Use a gentle, soothing moisturiser

One thing that a lot of my clients use is our Ultimate SOS Balm ($49.98 for 60mL). It is very simple, soothing, anti-inflammatory, and it is just like enhancing your skin’s natural barrier. This is also a multi-use product, it’s also really great when you’re sanitising your hands every day. It has essential oils in there which are a natural anti-bacterial.”

Person looks into mirror and applies lip balm.Photograph: Supplied/Clémence Organics

Having a dry spell? Here are some tips for treating dry skin 

Alright, that’s mask generated pimples solved. But you know what else we could use a hand with? Our dry, chapped hands. “Sanitising and washing our hands all the time disturbs the skin’s natural oils and causes irritation. So many sanitisers are so harsh,” says Carmady. “I recommend using a balm or a nice gentle cream or lotion consistently throughout the day.”

And the next thing on our lips? You guessed it – our dry, flaky lips. Between time in dry indoor environments, trapped under masks, or slapped by harsh, wintry winds on socially distanced walks – the old kisser might be feeling a little worse for wear. “Generally it's just about hydration,” says Carmady. “So making sure that you're drinking enough water, and not too much coffee and alcohol. Also, choose products [lip balms] which do hydrate adequately.” 

Carmady's other tip for avoiding dry skin: reduce the amount you're washing. "When we’re leaving the house in a pandemic we should be washing our hands and sanitsing. But maybe when you’re just at home you don’t need to so much. People sometimes get in the habit of showering twice a day. Cut back if you can, and don’t use water that’s too hot. All these things do exacerbate dryness in general. 

“But I think also, genuinely just trying to take at least five minutes out of your day to do some meditation, go for a walk, or just take some time to bring down the stress levels. We’re all under a lot of pressure right now and it's important to make that time to look after yourself.”

Hiding behind the mask: the rise of rosacea in the pandemic 

Throughout the pandemic, Carmady has also seen an increase of rosacea – a common skin condition that causes redness and visible blood vessels in the face. “I think I talk to someone new about it every single day, and that's because of a handful of things. Firstly, stress. We're all under this increased stress at the moment. It's also been cold, and that exacerbates it. People are also generally drinking more coffee and alcohol, and are just out of their regular routine and are forgetting those things that they do to care for their skin.” 

“There are different forms of rosacea, but it's definitely always not just a superficial issue. It's always exacerbated by dietary and lifestyle stuff, and because those things are very much in flux right now, we’re seeing it flare up. Some people say to me, ‘I think that I had it years ago, but I haven't seen it a long time’. Or there are some people who feel like they're having it for the first time, so it’s a real mixed bag. Another thing is that people have had it for a long time and haven't dealt with it, and suddenly have a bit of extra time to say ‘I'm actually going to find a solution’.” 

Carmady has written more about general tips to reduce rosacea on her blog. If you are interested in an individual skin consultation, you can contact Clémence Organics.

Find inner healing


    More on Time In

      You may also like
      You may also like