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How to Treat and Prevent Maskne, According to Dermatologists

Photo-Illustration: Retailers

Even though more than half of Americans have been fully vaccinated, mask-wearing is far from over. The spreading Delta variant has caused many cities to once again recommend (if not require) masks indoors, regardless of a person’s vaccination status. The CDC has recommended that masks be worn in schools, and they are still required on most forms of public transportation. Which means maskne — pimples caused by wearing a cloth mask — isn’t going anywhere either.

“The technical term for maskne is ‘acne mechanica,’ and it is the result of the mechanical friction of fabric against the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Carlos Charles, founder of Derma di Colore. “That friction can lead to inflammation and irritation of the skin that impacts the pores, contributing to acne,” he says, and it can be exacerbated by moisture getting caught in the mask from humidity and sweating.

The good news is, you are not doomed to break out whenever you wear a face mask. According to Charles and the three other experts we spoke with, a few simple changes to your mask-wearing and skin-care routine can make a big difference in getting rid of maskne and stopping it from forming in the first place.

Best masks for preventing maskne

One of the first steps in preventing maskne is choosing the right face masks. The dermatologists we spoke with all agree that you should stick with lightweight cotton or silk, both of which are gentler on the skin and create less friction than synthetics like polyester and rayon. This Vida mask is made from two layers of 100% cotton and even comes with a filter. Strategist senior VP of e-commerce Camilla Cho, who owns the Vida, says it’s easy to breathe through, and she appreciates the snug fit from the metal nose piece. Another thing to do is get a mask that fits well. As celebrity facialist and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar explains, “I’ve noticed people constantly adjusting their mask every 20 seconds, which only makes friction worse and your mask dirtier.”

After that, it’s just keeping it clean. Board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman says, “use dye-free, fragrance-free detergents and fabric softeners. It’s often scents and dyes that cause the problem.” In her thorough guide to mask-washing, Strategist writer Hilary Reid calls this Arm & Hammer detergent one of the best for sensitive (and maskne-prone) skin. You’ll want to wash your mask daily, so make sure you buy enough masks to last between laundry days.

If you want to give silk a try, these masks come from the same brand as our favorite silk pillowcase, which is also a top pick among those with sensitive skin.

Dermatologist Marina Peredo of Skinfluence tells us that copper’s antibacterial properties can stop the growth of acne-causing bacteria — much the same way that silver or copper fibers in some athleticwear can prevent odors caused by bacteria. This mask, from FaceLife, can be washed up to 60 times without losing its bacteria-fighting properties.