on-site shop

This Cleanser Annihilated My Maskne (and My Boyfriend’s) in Just a Week

Photo-Illustration: retailers

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2021. We’re republishing it because it is now enabled with on-site shopping, so you can buy this (once again necessary) maskne-eliminating cleanser without leaving this page. Read more about our on-site shopping tool here.

I’m no stranger to breakouts. As a teenager, I dealt with acne so pesky that I had to go through countless bottles of Proactiv but not so severe that I ever needed Accutane. Using a careful combination of lightweight moisturizers, gel cleansers, and birth control, it eventually cleared up by the time I went to college seven years ago. After that, I thought the worst of my acne was behind me. Then we started wearing masks.

Even though the fully vaccinated may be wearing masks less often these days, there are plenty of scenarios that still require them, making the accessory seem like one we’ll be slipping on for a while. Anyone who has put on a mask knows it doesn’t take a lot of wear to result in a pimple: The friction caused by the material rubbing against skin, combined with any sweat and dirt trapped underneath, can irritate and clog pores pretty quickly. As soon as the first mask-induced zit popped up on my chin, I knew plenty more were bound to appear. This was back when lots of restrictions were still in place, and we weren’t leaving the house (unmasked) as much, so I took time treating my maskne with pimple patches, gel formulated with salicylic acid, and pore-cleansing clay masks. The routine was effective but not exactly fast. Patience, I remembered from my high-school days, can be key when treating acne. But as leaving the house maskless became more common for vaccinated folks like me, I craved a more immediate solution.

It was around this time that I rediscovered a cleanser I had received earlier this spring but had packed away while I prepared to move into a new apartment. When the brand, Peace Out, wrote to me about testing the product, I recognized its name from the boxes of pimple patches I buy every few months. I kept buying those patches because I saw results, which made me think the cleanser (called a blemish balm) might be just as effective if I ever needed more than a spot treatment for acne. While my skin is acne-prone, it is more combination than just oily. In addition to salicylic acid, the blemish balm’s formula includes hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, and glycerin — all ingredients dermatologists say are good for those looking to treat skin with dry and oily spots.

When I first applied it, the balm felt gritty, but in a good, gets-deep-in-your-pores kind of way. From first use, I learned a little dime-sized dollop would be all I need to cover my whole face. After washing it off that first time, my skin felt neither stripped nor squeaky clean. It instead felt sort of plump, which I suspected was from the hyaluronic acid quenching my dry cheeks as the balm’s other ingredients got to work on my acne-riddled T-zone. The next morning, my acne felt drier, but my skin didn’t look that different. Patience, I thought. Six days later, after using the balm once a day at night, there was no trace of my maskne.

I’ve been using nightly for more than a month now, and my skin looks as good as it ever has — clear, even, bright, and smooth. I was so impressed with the results that I even got my boyfriend to try the cleanser. He has eczema-prone skin that also breaks out pretty often because he has to wear a mask to his office. To our surprise (and his delight), it didn’t irritate his sensitive skin, but it gave him a brighter complexion and cleared up the few zits he had around his T-zone. It still feels awkward to leave the house with the lower half of my face showing, but now I know anyone I catch staring isn’t looking at my zits.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

This Cleanser Annihilated My Maskne in Just a Week