When face masks were first mandated in several states in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, their use caused an unlikely but wide-spread side effect: maskne, an increase in blemishes caused by the friction and humidity created by the covering.
But months after experts and beauty brands shared tips and tricks on how to battle any pimples caused by masks, a celebrity skincare guru has revealed that the face coverings are actually leading some to develop another painful skin condition: maskitis.
According to Dr. Dennis Gross, who counts the likes of Zoe Kravitz and Selena Gomez among his clientele, the condition can often be confused with maskne – however the symptoms and treatments are very different, with the maskitis presenting as a dry and flaky rash that can spread across the face if left unchecked.
Warning: Celebrity skincare expert Dr. Dennis Gross has warned of another condition caused by face masks – ‘maskitis’ – a flaky, dry rash that is often confused with maskne
Watch out: Unlike maskne, which causes blemishes in the area covered by a face mask, maskitis results in a dry, red rash that can quickly spread if left untreated
‘Maskitis is a skin rash, marked by small bumps, redness, inflammation and dry, flaky skin – it is often confused with maskne,’ Dr. Gross explained.
‘Knowing the difference is important because misdiagnosis can lead to further skin irritation.’
The skincare expert went on to explain that some people are more likely to suffer from maskitis than maskne, based on the kind of skin they have – and their genetic predispositions that may make them more susceptible to rashes and dry skin.
‘Genetic predispositions determine whether you are more likely to develop maskne or maskitis,’ he said, noting that anyone who struggles with conditions like eczema and dermatitis will be more likely to develop maskitis.
Similarly, people who have naturally oily or blemish-prone skin are more prone to maskne.
The issue, Dr. Gross warned, is that many people who suffer from maskitis assume that they have maskne and begin tacking the condition in the wrong way – pointing out the two skin issues have very different treatments.
To add insult to injury, anyone who is trying to treat their maskitis with products aimed at acne prevention may actually find themselves making the condition worse.
‘Maskitis requires products with anti-inflammatory ingredients such as superfoods and adaptogens with niacinamide while acne treatments are best for maskne,’ he said.
‘I have seen countless patients come into my practice thinking they have maskne when they actually have maskitis. For treatment, they are reaching for acne products which is causing further irritation and inflammation.
‘Instead, they need a product that is soothing, decreases inflammation and rebalances skin.’
Maskne v. maskitis: The differences between the conditions and how to treat them
Symptoms: Increase in blemishes on the skin that is covered by the face mask, and the areas around it
Causes: Friction of the mask against the skin, humidity in the mask, bacteria inside the mask
Who is at risk? People with oily or acne-prone skin are most likely to suffer from maskne, but it can affect everyone
Treatment: Use products that target acne, focusing on acids like salicylic acid, and at-home LED light therapy, which will help to target bacteria and inflammation caused by blemishes
Symptoms: Skin rash, marked by small bumps, redness, inflammation and dry, flaky skin
Causes: Friction of the mask against the skin, humidity in the mask, bacteria inside the mask
Who is at risk? Those who struggle with eczema and dermatitis are more likely to struggle from maskitis, however it can also affect others
Treatment: Products with anti-inflammatory ingredients such as superfoods and adaptogens with niacinamide. Avoid using detergent with fragrance, which causes irritation
When it comes to dealing with maskitis, Dr. Gross recommends focusing on hydrating products that are gentle on the skin, while adding in any formulas that are full of superfoods.
He recommends implementing an effective but gentle morning and evening regimen that will hydrate and soothe the skin, explaining that maskitis sufferers should cleanse their face in the morning and evening with a ‘gentle hydrating cleanser’, like his own Dr. Dennis Gross Hyluronic Meltaway Cleanser.
In the morning, follow up your cleanser with serum, eye cream, moisturizer, and SPF – however he warns to avoid applying any product on the area of your face that is covered by the mask.
‘Same rule as with maskne: leave the skin under the mask completely clean – no makeup, sunscreen or skincare products,’ he said.
While the morning routine is important for maintaining consistency, and for ensuring healthy, clean skin, Dr. Gross says that the evening regimen is the most important for treating maskitis.
Much like your AM line-up, start the routine with a gentle and hydrating cleanser, using lukewarm water rather than hot, which can aggravate the complexion.
‘Follow with a hydrating serum chock full of superfoods and adaptogens that specifically target inflammation,’ he said, recommending the Dr. Dennis Gross B3 Adaptive SuperFood Stress Rescue SuperSerum.
‘It has niacinamide which helps balance skin and reduce redness,’ he explained.
After that, follow up with a hydrating moisturizer – avoiding any harsh ingredients that might strip or dry out the skin.
The one thing that maskne and maskitis treatments share is the importance of a clean mask: ‘Ensure that your mask is washed with a fragrance-free detergent,’ Dr. Gross warned. ‘Fragrances can cause further irritation.’
How to treat maskitis – and the products that will help to soothe it
Amplify your eye cream: Put on the Dieux Forever Eye Mask ($25) over your cream to help the formula really sink into the skin, leaving you with brighter, de-puffed eyes
Use a gentle, soothing moisturizer like the Renee Rouleau Hydraboost Rescue Cream (top, $74.50), the Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Dew Cream (center, $26), the Bliss Rose Gold Rescue Gentle Moisture Cream For Sensitive Skin (bottom left, $19.99), or the Ever Hydralift Oil-Free Moisture Injection Gel (bottom right, $70)
Do you have ‘maskne’? Skincare experts reveal how face masks are leaving people with horrendous acne – and explain what you can do to prevent it
Dr. Gross’s warnings about maskitis come just a few months after mask wearers first started complaining about how wearing face coverings was causing their skin to breakout in a condition that was quickly coined ‘maskne’.
In May, DailyMail.com spoke to a number of skin experts who offered advice on how to tackle mask-induced blemishes…
WHAT IS ‘MASKNE’?
Maskne is a term that was coined to describe an increase of blemishes and zits that is caused by wearing a face mask, and tends to only affect the parts of the face that are covered by the protective gear.
According to celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau – who counts Lili Reinhart and Demi Lovato among her clientele – the type of blemishes that are caused by mask wear are known as acne mechanica.
‘The only difference between acne mechanica and regular acne is the cause; while regular breakouts tend to be hormonally-driven, acne mechanica is caused by friction (a physical disruption to the skin),’ she explained to DailyMail.com
‘When something is constantly rubbing up against your skin, the combination of friction, heat, and pressure can be a trigger for breakouts.’
Dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler added that those who are naturally prone to acne are much more likely to suffer from ‘maskne’ – and in some cases wearing a face mask may precipitate the onset of adult acne.
On the rise: In April, people began complaining about ‘maskne’ – blemishes and pimples that are caused by wearing a face mask
New term on the block: Social media users coined the term ‘maskne’ to describe the mask-induced skincare problems
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee – AKA Dr. Pimple Popper – explained that ‘occlusion’ is the main cause of maskne. In other words the humidity and the heat that occurs under the mask while you are wearing it blocks your pores and increases the chances of a breakout.
‘The mask, the humidity under there, the oil produced on your skin, also compounded by the fact that you’re wearing makeup under there will promote the blocking / occlusion of your pores and increase the chances of a breakout,’ she said.
‘Also the actual mask pushing on your skin is physically occluding your skin directly. Perfect storm for a pimple. If you already have pretty oily skin you’re probably halfway there.’
Renee added that the friction caused between the mask and your skin is also to blame for increased breakouts, noting: ‘The friction responsible for acne mechanica is also the culprit behind most irritation caused by protective face masks.
‘In fact, red, bumpy, rashy skin is a common precursor to acne mechanica. All of these are also signs of inflammation, which can wake up your skin’s pigment cells and cause lingering pigmentation long after the erythema (redness) has subsided.
‘When an object is consistently being rubbed across your skin, it can also disrupt your protective moisture barrier. If something is rubbing against your skin all day, it can create tiny blemishes.’
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT AND TREAT ‘MASKNE’?
Avoid wearing makeup under your mask
One of the main things that Dr. Lee recommends is to avoid wearing makeup under your mask at all costs. She explains that you can still apply cosmetic products above the mask line, but any skin that is covered by the material should be left free from any makeup.
‘This may be weird at first as it was for me to get accustomed to, since it’s not usual for you to only put foundation on your upper part of your face, and likely there’s such a routine like applying blush and lipstick – you should do away with this while you are wearing a mask,’ she said.
‘Also this soils the inside of your mask, and will certainly necessitate you cleaning it more often.’
Problem solvers: Dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee explained that the humidity and heat under the face mask aggravates the skin and causes more blemishes
Take care: Celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau urged people to wash their face covering as regularly as possible in order to prevent ‘maskne’
Cleanse on the go: Dr. Lee added that you should clean your skin as soon as you remove your face mask, even if you just use a wipe while out and about before getting home
Clean your face as soon as your take off your mask – and prioritize chemical exfoliants
Even if you can’t wash your face immediately, Dr. Lee suggests using something ‘easy and convenient’ to cleanse the skin when you remove your mask.
She explained that you can use wipes to clean your skin on-the-go before you are able to get to a sink and wash your face.
Dr. Lee added that focusing on products that contain chemical exfoliants will help to tackle any existing blemishes, while also preventing any additional spots.
‘Use a resurfacing wipe like my SLMD Skincare Resurfacing Acne Swipes ($35) which contain glycolic and salicylic acid, effective exfoliants to keep the skin clean and importantly keep the pores clear of excess oil, dead skin, and debris,’ she said.
‘Chemical exfoliants like glycolic, salicylic, lactic acid are key during these moments.’
Renee agrees about the importance of acids when it comes to treating ‘maskne’, saying: ‘Work a serum with salicylic acid into your routine two to three nights a week. Salicylic acid is unique in that it has the ability to cut through oil and really get into your pore lining.’
Dr. Wexler added that you should be careful not to strip your skin of its natural oils when washing it, explaining that the best thing to use is a ‘gentle cleanser’.
She also chimed in: ‘Use a lightweight or oil-free moisturizer (something with hyaluronic acid) before you put your mask on to serve as a barrier protecting as that can be cooling and prevent your skin from getting too inflamed from the heat and humidity that the mask causes.’
Implement a proper nighttime skincare routine
Renee explains that cleansing and treating your skin properly every evening is incredibly important.
She urges anyone suffering with ‘maskne’ to cleanse their face before bed, and also consider using a face mask that specifically targets blemishes and clogged skin.
‘Properly cleansing your face before bed is always important,’ she said.
‘Start by cleansing your skin with a gentle, antimicrobial face wash that contains ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree extract.
‘After cleansing, use a face masque like the Rapid Response Detox Masque ($65.50). Its antimicrobial properties kick in after just five minutes while hydrating ingredients soothe the skin to counteract friction caused by wearing a face mask.’
Use natural antibacterial ingredients
Renee added that you should also look for products that contain natural antibacterials.
‘Wipe an antibacterial toner like the Rapid Response Detox Toner ($41.50) over the affected area once or twice a day,’ she said. ‘Look for ingredients like salicyclic acid, lactic acid, tea tree oil, and manuka leaf extract.’
Wash your face covering as often as possible
‘If you’re wearing a bandana, scarf, or reusable cloth mask when you go out, be sure to wash it regularly,’ Renee urged.
‘Not only is this the best practice for good hygiene, but it will also prevent oil and dirt from being reintroduced onto the skin.’
Superb products to help treat your maskne
Get a real routine in place
Take control of your complexion: Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Kit ($132.50)
Banish blemishes: SLMD Acne System ($50)
All-in-one: Drunk Elephant Bare With Us Kit ($100)
Treat yourself to a face mask
Slather it on: Image Skincare Purifying Probiotic Mask ($45)
Revitalize your skin with an at-home peel
Perfect peel: Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($88.50)
Stock up on serums
Soothing: Heraux Molecular Anti-Inflammaging Serum ($250)
Banish those blemishes with on-the-spot treatments
Care for your skin from the inside out