Maskne can affect everyone.

‘Maskne’: What it is and how you can manage it simply and safely

Nature’s Pharmacy: Qualified homeopath Hanli Rautenbach gives advice on dealing with our skin’s latest problem – ‘maskne’.


Maskne can affect everyone.

Mask wearing has become so commonplace that many of us can’t remember a time before we needed to wear one out in public. Apart from the obvious irritation of wearing a mask, there is a common problem that has arisen in many mask-wearers – “maskne”.

Acne varies in severity, but has the power to make one feel ugly and depressed.

It most commonly affects teenagers due to hormonal changes that affect the sebaceous glands to enlarge and make more sebum. For most of us those days are thankfully over.

And 2020 arrived and mask-wearing changed the game.

Normal acne versus ‘maskne’

To understand why masks cause breakouts, what causes acne in the first place needs to be understood.

Acne typically appears on your face, forehead chest, shoulders and upper back, because that is the skin that has the most sebaceous (oil) glands.

The hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. Depending if the plug is closed or open, you may develop a whitehead or blackhead . If the blocked hair follicle becomes infected or inflamed, a pimple or cyst like acne can form.

So, similar to acne forming under protective gear in sport, the trapped moisture and bacteria growth can start acne in the areas that are covered by the mask.

This is of course much worse for those who already suffer with with acne.

The science behind it

The skin is our largest organ, with a microbiome of its own. These diverse bacteria are affected depending on where they are found on the skin and, of course are affected by the body’s state of health, and by environmental factors.

Research shows that the skin microbiome has an immune-educating action and resident skin bacteria are seen as highly diverse and variable.

Keep your skin beautiful. Image via Adobe Stock

The primary role of the skin is to act as a physical barrier, protecting the body from toxic substances and foreign organisms.

Multiple microorganisms live on the skin, often with a symbiotic relationship in which they can live on the skin and protect the body from more harmful organisms.

Seeing the skin as an ecosystem that can be disrupted by internal and external changes makes one understand it better. When wearing a mask the living environment of that part of the skin, changes in the eccrine glands (which aid in thermoregulation) are negatively impacted upon.

Therefore it makes sense that anti-bacterial hand wash can affect the skin microbiome, and that medication and foods, and temperature and humidity will affect the skin negatively.

So, how can you manage it?

Managing ‘maskne’

Obvious answers would be, to change your mask often, wearing cotton where possible and when washing or carefully microwaving (with a bowl of water and watching it so that it doesn’t catch fire), make sure it is thoroughly rinsed and dry before wearing.

Make sure that the skin barrier stays intact, so do not overly exfoliate or moisturise and use an ointment on dry flaky broken skin.

There have been links made between a diet full of processed starch and acne, so be mindful of that.

Wash your mask regularly. Image via Adobe Stock

Wash your hands in warm water when back at home as well as your face after removing the mask. For those who do suffer from acne, use a pimple patch over breakouts.

Blue (antimicrobial) and red (reduces scarring and improves healing) light therapy can be done via your dermatologist.

Food like sauerkraut that supports the gut biome is worth considering.

Herbs like witch hazel, calendula, lavender and rosemary can be used to manage oil levels on the skin and bacterial overgrowth, as well as speed up healing.

Supplements like zinc, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B5, omega3, magnesium and selenium all support skin health.

Supporting the skin microbiome with oxygen enhancing and immune modulating supplements could include spirulina, chlorella, cellfood and medicinal mushrooms. 

Essential oils are powerful substances so you should use with care and speak to your aromatherapist. Consider tea tree oil, rosemary oil, lavender oil and patchouli.

Homeopathic acne support like CalendulaPlus ointment and immune stimulating organo 1 and 2, and carno 1 and 2 by Natura are worth considering.

Be aware of how your body reacts as this will allow for early detection.

Visit Hanli Rautenbach’s Facebook page here to suggest health-related topics.