What Is Maskne?
Constant worries about safety amid the pandemic are understandably overwhelming, causing even those with typically clear skin to break out from the stress of it all. As it happens, mask-wearing is itself greatly contributing to the rise in acne and other skin conditions. This phenomenon--known as maskne--unfortunately means the same item required for preventing exposure to COVID-19 is also a source of frustration for those battling breakouts.
To healthcare professionals and other mask-wearing workers, maskne has long been a familiar issue, but since the coronavirus outbreak, maskne has affected people across all lines of work. Dermatologists have been flooded with inquiries on how to cope with acne, contact dermatitis, and other skin conditions newly developing or worsening in many mask-wearers.
Dermatologists consider maskne to be a form of acne mechanica, or acne formed in areas subject to friction, pressure, or occlusion. A mask, especially if worn for hours, can trap oil and prevent proper shedding of skin cells, creating the perfect conditions for acne-causing bacteria to thrive. Ill-fitting masks or those made of rough material can also cause inflammation, causing skin to crack and itch.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends face masks made of “soft, natural, and breathable fabric, such as cotton” to reduce the risk of triggering new maskne or aggravating existing maskne.
Choosing the Right Mask: Protection, Fit, & Style
These days, it seems like everyone and their mother is making and selling masks. While it is wonderful to have a plethora of masks to choose from (there are over a million mask listings on Etsy alone!), let’s be clear: not all masks are created equal. A mask seems like a simple enough garment, but there are actually a myriad of ways it can fail to measure up. It is important that your mask satisfies all of the following needs.
The ideal mask should:
To reduce permeability, doctors at Johns Hopkins Medicine recommend masks with at least two layers of tightly woven cotton fabric.
A comprehensive article published by AARP ranks the best and worst masks in terms of effectiveness against coronavirus (after N95 masks).
- Surgical-style masks
- Masks containing polypropylene
- 2-layer cotton pleated masks
- Neck gaiters
- 2-layer bandanas
- Knitted masks
Did you know that according to MIT Medical, gaps on the sides of masks can reduce filtering efficiency by 50 percent or more? I am sure you have seen or used a mask that either vents heavily at the cheeks or more obviously fogs your glasses (more on how to avoid foggy glasses here). An ill-fitting mask will not provide ample protection.
Additionally, having to frequently adjust your mask creates more friction against the skin, causing the mask itself to become soiled at an accelerated rate. The resultant irritation of the skin plus the increased dirt and oil buildup on the mask are likely to contribute to the development of maskne.
A quick search online for a fashionable mask yields results showing bedazzled masks, masks with chains, sequins, lace—the list goes on. These masks may look appealing, but most fail to stop the spread of respiratory droplets, leaving yourself and others more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses. You do not have to sacrifice style and comfort in the search for a protective mask, however.
We simplified this decision-making process for you by outlining the benefits and drawbacks of what we consider to be the five best masks in terms of protection, fit, style, and last but not least, maskne-fighting potential.
5 Best Masks for Fighting Maskne
Hand-selected by experts with protection, fit, and style in mind.
5. Weddingstar 3-Ply Washable Cloth Face Mask
- Cotton-rayon blend
- Wide variety of colors and patterns available
- Filter inserts not included
- Filter inserts are single-use
The Weddingstar mask is a great choice for those looking to save a buck and add a pop of color to their wardrobe. With such a broad selection of colors and patterns to choose from, there is a Weddingstar mask to suit everyone’s style. Due to this mask’s affordability, you might even consider purchasing multiple of them to go with different outfits.
Let’s face it: how many of us are actually washing our masks daily? Life can be hectic, so mask-cleanliness might not rank highly on our lists of priorities. Other times, we might simply forget. These issues are understandable, but wearing a clean mask is essential for preventing maskne.
For a reasonable price, you can purchase multiple Weddingstar masks, enabling you to wash your masks less often, but also reduce buildup on each individual mask. Another key maskne-reducing feature of this mask is the cotton-rayon material, which is gentle on skin.
The single-use filters that go with these masks are not included with the purchase, and it may be inconvenient to have to order new inserts so frequently. That said, this mask is a cost effective and fashionable choice that can go a long way in the battle against maskne.
4. Vida Protective Cotton Mask with PM2.5 Carbon Filter
- 100% cotton
- Simple, minimal design
- Melt-blown filters do not maintain filtration efficiency as well as nanofiber filters, making them less reusable, according to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Filters must be replaced every 7 days
Like the Weddingstar mask, the Vida mask really delivers in the affordability and style categories.
The Vida mask costs just a couple dollars more, and a filter is included with the mask. Vida mask filters also last for a week as opposed to one day, making this a more cost effective, convenient choice.
With its simple and sleek design, the Vida mask pairs well with any look. There are twelve different colors to choose from, most of which are neutral or muted tones. If both style and versatility are important to you, this mask might be a winner.
Another beneficial feature of this mask is its natural, 100% cotton material. Masks made of soft, breathable material like cotton are excellent for staving off maskne for two reasons:
- Softness: helps to prevent inflammation of facial skin
- Breathability: helps to prevent the occlusion of dirt and oil responsible for clogged pores
While the Vida mask’s PM 2.5 Carbon filters are not as efficient as nanofiber filters (more on nanofiber technology to come), this mask is aesthetically pleasing, versatile, and gentle on skin at a price that won’t break the bank.
3. Baggu Reusable Fabric Mask
- 100% organic cotton
- Wide variety of colors and patterns available
- Filter inserts not included with purchase
- All sales are final
The Baggu Reusable Fabric Mask is particularly fashion-forward. There is a variety of unique patterns and colors available, and Baggu offers masks with the more conventional loop design as well as masks with around-the-head ties. The adjustable tie design allows for increased comfort and personalization.
Two reasons why the Baggu mask is an environmentally conscious choice:
- As a machine washable mask made of high-quality material, the Baggu mask is designed to be worn again and again, thereby reducing pollution and limiting the need for new natural materials.
- Organic cotton may be better for the environment than regular cotton.
For keeping maskne at bay, the most significant advantage of this mask is its premium material. The mask’s high thread count organic quilter’s cotton reduces friction against the skin, and its breathability prevents occlusion. Since you can easily throw this mask in with the rest of your laundry, you are also more likely to stay on top of washing it regularly.
Filter inserts are not included with the Baggu mask, and the brand does not carry filters, so it is unclear which kind of filters would fit properly. There is also a higher upfront cost, but this might be worth it to you considering these masks are high-quality and come in packs of three.
2. Surgical Style Face Masks
- Wearing a new mask every time helps prevent buildup of acne-causing substances.
- Straps not adjustable
- Disposable masks are not environmentally friendly.
The familiar light blue surgical style face mask made it on our list because of its disposability, which is a massive advantage when it comes to fighting maskne. Without regular washing, a mask becomes a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. An unwashed mask is also covered in germs, some of which could be harmful to yourself or anyone else who touches your mask.
Be honest with yourself. If you do not realistically think you will wash your mask regularly (after wearing all day at work, for example), then it may be better for your overall health and skin health to choose a disposable mask such as the surgical mask.
Keep in mind, however, that straps on surgical masks are not adjustable, so if the mask is too tight or too loose, this may irritate the skin. Another factor to consider is the material of the surgical mask, which is typically a combination of paper and plastics. Those with particularly sensitive skin are more likely to experience irritation from this material as opposed to cotton.
The surgical mask’s greatest advantage with regard to maskne is also its greatest environmental disadvantage: disposability. Frequently repurchasing these masks creates a large amount of waste.
- Nanofiber, polypropylene layered filter inserts (included with purchase)
- Designed to hold its shape away from the face
- Cotton/polyester blend fabric
- On the more pricey side
- Sometimes out of stock
The Seri Face Mask was designed by PhD engineers with deep expertise in air quality and filtration, and delivers excellent breathability, comfort, and filtration efficiency. The nanofiber filtration media of the Seri face mask can filter out tiny droplets and particles invisible to the naked eye.
With a typical cloth mask, the only ways to improve filtration capability are to 1) increase the number of layers, or 2) increase the density of the cloth itself. Unfortunately, both of these approaches result in decreased breathability. By utilizing a nanofiber-based filter insert, it is possible to achieve excellent filtration performance while also maintaining the breathability of a lightweight fabric. With the mask’s top-of-the-line filtration technology, you can go to work, run errands, or even visit the gym with confidence. You do not have to sacrifice comfort and breathability for increased protection!
Sweating in a mask at the gym almost seems like asking for a breakout, but the Seri mask is designed for everyday and athletic use with several key maskne-fighting features:
- Ultra soft cotton body
- Adjustable straps
- Easy washability
- Breathable High-Flo inserts are held away from mouth
Reviewers of the Seri mask say it’s great to work out in because of its breathability. This high breathability also prevents acne-causing occlusion, and the Seri’s mask’s ability to maintain its shape slightly away from the face prevents irritation. These features make the Seri the best mask for easy breathing, talking, and maskne prevention. Whether you’re a gym rat, or want to breathe with ease on a short stroll, this mask has you covered.
Although the Seri is on the more pricey side, reviewers say it’s 100% worth it. The company also offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Learn more at www.colorfil.com/products/colorfil-facemask.