Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD says skin irritations and pimple breakouts are at an all-time high and, just as we do when something unfortunate happens in 2020, she blames it on COVID. “Facial masks are creating so much friction on the skin, which causes redness, while the humidity and germ disbalance clogs and upsets the pores,” she says. Although we can’t stop wearing a mask for the time being, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik has some tips and tricks for how to bring mask-induced breakouts to a screeching halt.
The Maskne Difference
“Regular acne is going to be throughout the face and maskne is going to be more concentrated in the area where your mask would typically sit,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. Although this may seem obvious, if you’re prone to acne in the lower face, it can be very difficult to differentiate maskne from its counterpart. But, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik has a tip: look out for symptoms of chafing. “If you see redness, swelling, or rough skin, that is an alert that your skin is extra irritated from the friction and pressure caused by the mask.
“When treating maskne, it’s really important to take a closer look at what you’re using on the skin. Stray away from products that include irritants in the formula—think fragrances, surfactants and parabens—and also tone down the number of heavy products you’re using on the skin,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. She also recommends cleaning your mask on a regular basis or using a disposable one that you can throw out and replace every day.
Treating this type of acne often comes down to cleansing, and Dr. Blyumin-Karasik recommends staying as far away as possible from an aggressive exfoliant. “Using a gentle cleanser with lactic acid and low-concentration salicylic acid will help calm your angry skin,” she says. Her favorite: Avene Clean-Ac Soothing Cleansing Cream ($21).
“A lot of acne-prone individuals are afraid to use a moisturizer because they think it’s going to clog the pores,” she says. “The problem with avoiding a moisturizer is that the skin will try and compensate for its dryness by producing excess oil and therefore cause more breakouts.” The moisturizer she often recommends to her patients? A lightweight, oil-free, noncomedogenic moisturizer such as PCA Skin Clearskin ($49), which she says provides protection during the day and repair at night in order to calm agitation.
“Another helpful skin-care ingredient that helps to minimize pore-clogging and skin marks due to maskne is glycolic acid,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. “It is an alpha-hydroxy acid from sugar cane that helps to cleanse and brighten skin. Using it too often, however, can be irritating for maksne-prone individuals, but using a face mask with glycolic acid a few times per week will help to restore the skin’s glow.”
If the cleanser and moisturizer isn’t calming enough, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik suggests an under-the-radar ingredient that typically comes in spray form: hypochlorous acid. “This is a molecule that’s naturally derived from our body. Our immune cells that fight bacteria and other microbes release this molecule in order to destroy them, so it really helps to detox, heal and protect our skin,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik, who advises her patients spray a hypochlorous acid mist on the face several times per day if they’re struggling with maskne.
Stay tuned for Stamina Cosmetics by DR MBK Maskne Remedy skin-care line carrying this unique ingredient (hypochlorous acid).
“Lasers are great for acne or maskne. The tricky thing is that you don’t want to create any significant agitation or resurfacing of the skin, so you want to use laser devices that are more calming,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. “I like the Pulsed Dye Laser or VBeam Laser for lighter skin and the PicoWay Laser for darker skin because they’re targeted towards reducing blemishes or dark pigmentation as consequence of acne.” But, in order to keep the pigmentation gone for good, she recommends applying a lightweight sunscreen every morning, such as Elta MD UV Clear ($36).
She also explains that these lasers are great to use alongside other preventative measures. “It’s important to have a great skin-care routine first and then intervene with lasers if the patient is still seeing an uptick in acne located in specific parts of their face,” she says. “But, if the patient has a significant amount of blemishes all over their face, especially the bright red pimples that often cause emotional distress, I will use a VBeam laser in conjunction with their updated skin care.”
Costing about $200 to $500 per treatment, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says that while lasers are an investment, they play a major role in reducing acne altogether. “It’s only a ten-minute procedure every month for about three to five months.” In regard to the downtime, she says that there is little to none, aside from the small amount of redness.
“If maskne is being caused by congestion such as blackheads and whiteheads, a great clarifying facial with a salicylic acid chemical peel by our medical aestheticians is a nice way to purify the skin and improve the complexion,” she says. “If the maskne is leaving behind acne scarring, the Picoway Resolve laser, Ematix Sublative or Microneedling (Exceed) with PRP (platelet rich plasma) are incredible devices to restore the skin’s smoothness in our practice.”
“As long as you’re using gentle skin care with safe ingredients, washing your mask, and visiting a board-certified dermatologist regularly, you’ll have a way out of the struggle we call maskne,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik.