2020 has been reported as "one for the books." Mm-hmm. Roger that!
We could go on (and on) about the various upheavals we are experiencing as a global community regarding COVID. Today, I want to talk about one in particular that is directly affecting the industry I know most about: the beauty industry.
It seems we have quite a few new terms that weren't in our dictionary before COVID: more common ones like "social distancing" and "flatten the curve," and then some funnier, personal favourites of mine like "quarantini" (partaking in a little martini action during quarantine), or "doomscrolling" (referring to being sucked into the black hole of never-ending awful news on social media surrounding the virus). Perhaps you have come across the relatively new and creative term known as "maskne"? It is a made-up word combining the two words "mask" and "acne" and is described as acne caused by wearing a face mask.
Let me begin by stating that I was a bit suspicious of the term "maskne" when I first heard it. My spidey senses told me that the beauty industry probably invented the word and couldn't wait to pounce on this golden opportunity to reap millions of dollars. How?, you ask. It's the classic commerce move: create a new "problem" in order to offer you a new "solution" (in which you have to pay for, of course). Clever, no?
However, upon research, it appears the term is authentic (albeit still prone to exploiting!). It was first coined by hard-working health care staff (bless 'em) who found themselves having to wear facemasks constantly at work, and therefore, began experiencing increased acne.
And here we are: wherever the term originated, and regardless of any potential monetary motives, it seems we have a genuine problem on our hands, or more aptly, our faces. And while I think it's still wise to be cautious of companies making lofty "maskne" cure-all claims, it seems the general population does need help. Let's start with some straightforward (and free!) steps you can take to decrease your chance of experiencing "maskne."
- When possible, choose a face mask made of natural materials like cotton or silk over synthetic counterparts like rayon or polyester. Cotton is a lightweight fabric that allows your skin to breathe, minimizing humidity and the buildup of moisture that can breed bacteria and lead to acne. Bonus points for choosing organic cotton if you can find it! Traditional cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and I would assume these chemicals linger on the fabric. In my mind, it stands to reason that this could exacerbate skin conditions, especially for sensitive skin types. Note: please understand that these suggestions are based purely on minimizing acne, and I have not thoroughly researched the most effective materials at reducing your chances of contracting COVID. That's a whole 'nother ballgame!
- Ensure that your face mask fits you correctly. According to dermatologists, ill-fitting face masks lead to increased friction on the skin. This continual rubbing of the fabric on the skin causes inflammation and irritation, which causes breakouts.
- Wash your face mask frequently to cleanse it of residual oil buildup, dirt, and bacteria. Be sure to use nontoxic laundry detergent, and avoid fabric softeners and synthetic fragrances, all of which contribute to increased chemical exposure on your skin (not to mention the hazards of breathing those chemicals into the respiratory system all day!). Change your face mask frequently.
- If you are prone to dry, sensitive skin (and even if you are not), be sure to adequately moisturize your skin. By creating a protective barrier on the skin, you can reduce the face mask's damaging effects on the skin's delicate tissues. This is because your skin naturally produces protective oils on its surface that are rubbed off during mask-wearing (especially if the mask does not fit well), which leads to skin that is less protected and less hydrated. You may need to experiment in striking that balance between finding a suitable moisturizer that will create a protective barrier and moisturize the skin while taking care not to clog the pores or be too heavy, promoting sweating (and you guessed it - more acne!)
- Take a break from wearing makeup; after all, nobody sees the skin underneath your mask! Now is the time to clean up your beauty routine and eliminate unnecessary products that may be clogging your pores or further exacerbating any skin issues.
- Now more than ever, choose gentle products in your daily skincare routine that will not further irritate or alter the delicate balance that your skin is so desperately trying to hold onto! After a long, hard day of mask-wearing, the last thing your skin wants is to be "finished off" at home with harsh, chemical-laden products that strip the skin and cause further disruption. Avoid products with alcohol, unnecessary preservatives, chemicals, harsh cleansers and toners, etc. Stripping the skin of its natural oils leads to inflammation, which leads to more breakouts. I think the old adage of "less is more" rings true here. Give that skin a break!
- My personal hunch is that you should explore the subtle yet magical properties of pure hydrosols as a simple yet powerfully gentle way to cleanse or tone the skin. Hydrosols, in my opinion, are WAY underrated as gentle face tonics, and I think more people need to jump on the hydrosol bandwagon. Start with small, gentle steps towards correcting your skin (like hydrosols), and if you find you need something "stronger", consider introducing essential oils renowned for fighting bacteria (like tea tree), and/or skin-healing oils like lavender, frankincense, and helichrysum. They can be incorporated into a simple toner, cleanser, face mask, spot treatment, or various DIY concoctions. Just be sure to always dilute essential oils safely and adequately, especially for the delicate skin on the face! Again - less is more.
To recommend a few simple, inexpensive things beyond the basics above, I have learned that zinc oxide (the common active ingredient in diaper salve) is highly recommended for treating "maskne". This comes as no surprise to me. The idea here is that the same conditions that cause diaper rash (humid, warm, wet conditions that lack proper air circulation) are replicated when wearing a mask, and therefore, they can be treated in the same way. Using a zinc product (diaper salve, for example) could prove very useful in creating a protective barrier on the skin and providing anti-inflammatory relief to red and irritated skin, just as it does on babies' bottoms. My recommendation is to read ingredient labels before purchasing a product. Understand what you are putting on your skin! Not all products are created equally, and if you want to avoid toxic chemicals, you must read the ingredient list. I have seen some pretty scary diaper salves on the market! If you need a truly clean, nontoxic, affordable, and highly effective diaper salve, then look no further than our very own Demeter's Touch Diaper Salve. A bestseller with raving reviews, it comes in at only $16.50. I honestly believe it could make a perfect choice for "maskne".
Another gentle giant worth mentioning in The Green Goddess lineup is our "Enchanted Garden" Hydrosol (a face toner, which I mentioned above), which is actually a steam-distillation of the organic herb, Lemon Thyme. Lemon Thyme is a powerful yet gentle cleanser that makes the perfect choice for oily and acne-prone skin of all ages, especially for children and teens, thanks to its mild nature. It comes with a misting top at $23.00 for a 60ml bottle, making it easy to use and easy on the wallet. Simply spritz the skin after cleansing both morning and night, and use as needed throughout the day. It would be perfect for your child to take to school in their backpack or leave in a locker and quickly spritz on the face as needed between classes.
I believe that activated charcoal could also make an excellent addition to your skincare routine, thanks to its deep cleansing yet gentle properties. Activated charcoal's fantastic ability to draw out impurities in the skin can prevent clogged pores that lead to acne. Try an activated charcoal face soap (we make that, too!), a cleanser, or facemask to give the skin a helping hand. And most importantly - observe the skin - it will communicate with you what is working and what is not!
I would also be willing to host a workshop where we make "maskne" related products: an activated charcoal face cleanser or face masks, customized toners for your skin type, protective moisturizers with healing oils, zit sticks, etc. Let me know if you are interested!
So those are my thoughts on "maskne". And now, I would love to hear from you! Are you suffering from "maskne"? If so, what has helped you? Tell me in the comments below! Together, we can figure this out by sharing our collective wisdom and experiences with one another and help our community through these challenging times.
Above all, remember that you are still beautiful and worthy even if a little "maskne" is getting you down. "Maskne" (or anything else COVID has to throw at us) can never take away your beautiful heart or your purpose to do good in the world. And in times like these, when the world is feelin' a bit too cray, what we really need is authentic beauty - the kind that only comes from deep within.
Wishing you clear skin and cool Autumn breezes,