While you will never hear us complain about wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID, our skin has been less than compliant. Even our friends (and founder) with normally clear skin are reporting irritation, dryness, breakouts and more. We asked holistic esthetician Hayley Wood what to do—and she gave us some maskne tips.
Contrary to popular belief (and those Neutrogena ads from the 90s), aggressive cleansing and toning and treating and exfoliating are not the solution, says Wood. Instead of reaching for a quick fix, ask How can I nurture myself?
Wood wants you to give yourself a break, including when it comes to your skin’s reaction to being in a mask regularly. “Be kind and non-judgmental to yourself! You’re doing a service to yourself and others by wearing your mask.”
She’s right—and she also has a few maskne tips for anyone fed up with skin irritation.
Tips for wearing your mask
Keep your mask clean. Keep a few cloth masks on hand and switch out regularly. “Don’t wear the same one over and over without washing,” says Wood.
Take off your mask when you’re alone. “I see a lot of people driving with their masks on. Little things like taking it off when you’re safe and alone can help!”
Dispose of disposable masks, don’t reuse them. Especially if you wear them for long stretches. Ditch them, instead of using them again. That can feel wasteful, so when you dispose of them make sure to cut the ear loops off.
Get a little vitamin D. If you have the outdoor space to be safe without a mask, step outside and let your face be exposed to the sun for a few minutes, Wood says (though she’s not advocating for skipping your SPF!).
Maskne tips for your at-home skincare routine
The instinct to over-cleanse or over-exfoliate needs to be re-evaluated in general, says Wood, not just when we’re talking about maskne. Try these tips instead.
Simplify: Strip down your routine to just a couple products, or maybe even give your skin a break for a day.
Skip makeup in that area: Replace tinted CC cream or tinted moisturizer with untinted moisturizer. You don’t need it in areas that are covered, and it can help keep skin clear, says Wood.
Target treat: Try double masking to target/treat what your skin needs in different areas. Use a soothing mask on areas that are covered by your cloth mask, and a hydrating (or acid-based or cleansing) mask on other areas. It doesn’t have to be one size fits all!
Balance deep cleansing: Choose a hydrating, soothing product as a follow-up to something deep cleansing to keep your skin balanced, Wood says.
Our favorite products for maskne and inflammed skin
Wood’s most important piece of advice when choosing products is to give your skin what it’s asking for. If your skin is upset, don’t treat it like it’s calm. Likewise, “don’t try to doctor your skin by adding more inflammatory responses to it with harsh treatments,” cautions Wood. In other words, choose a gentle product as a default. Here are a few we reach for to manage our maskne:
Ice roller: To prevent yourself from being harsh with your skin, try an ice roller. Its cooling effect can help calm inflammation. Just make sure to clean it before and after, even if only one person uses it. (Or, try these Chill Wands.)
Arcona The Solution Pads: When you see a breakout coming on, swipe your skin with one of these pads before bed, after cleansing. The glycolic acid will wipe them out or seriously diminish blemishes by morning without irritating skin. You’ll also wake up looking like you had a mini peel!
Laurel Honey Berry Mask: If you’re not vegan (of if you adore honey in your skincare like we do) try a honey-based mask. This one is anti-inflammatory, and calming. Plus, the berry is naturally brightening. Using it every other day can help with irritation.
Josh Rosebrook Active Enzyme Exfoliator: Yes, Wood says to avoid over-exfoliating. However, this mask is gentle enough for use a couple times a week to restore moisture and help with skin irritation while giving you an exfoliation fix!
De Mamiel Skin Recovery Balm: Azulene oil, the blue oil distilled from blue tansy, yarrow and chamomile, gives this soothing balm its heavenly color and scent—and it helps reduce redness and irritation. A little of this goes a long way, and it’s great as a treatment for inflamed skin.
Osea Sea Minerals Mist: The same ingredient that can help calm sunburned skin is the powerhouse soothing in this mist. Aloe, with hydrating and calming properties, also helps create a barrier on skin to protect it.
Nicolle Mackinnon is the managing editor at Healers. She also manages her own content creation business where she’s worked for nearly a decade with wellness + beauty brands that are creating change in their industries. Along the way, she’s become a trusted voice in the wellness category, all while learning to trust herself, too. Nicolle lives in Minneapolis with her 70-pound rescue poodle Sam.