Many of you have followed my advice to treat adult acne – or hormonal acne – and I thank you for your trust.
Today, I’m going to give you some tips and a complete routine to treat the famous “masked”, mask contraction and acne, which we see more and more in people since the obligation to wear the mask as soon as we step outside. Hormonal acne is often the cause of pimples on the cheeks and jawline. And so is the masked one, so people don’t get away with it because they don’t know the real cause.
After a long period without hormonal pimples, I found myself, after having criss-crossed France, masked and in the middle of a heat wave, with a horrible acne outbreak. When I arrived in Italy, I had to send my favorite products via UPS and Colissimo to get a human face.
I waited a long time to make sure that the masked doesn’t come back again before writing this article. Before recommending anything, I test it on myself first.
How do I know if I have mask?
Hormonal acne is detected through the appearance of pimples before and/or during menstruation and is caused by excess sebum during these periods.
The maskne is continuous (every time you wear a mask), or you have a flare-up as soon as you wear a mask for a long time.
It can also be a more sensitive area than usual, the impression of having rosacea, or having thinner skin than usual, when you’ve never had it before.
Origin of the maskné
If hormonal acne is related to fluctuating hormones, maskne is caused by an imbalance in the skin microbiome.
The skin is a system that also contains microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi. Inside but also on the surface. There are “bad” as well as “good bacteria” that live happily together. The skin microbiome acts as a shield protecting the skin against daily aggressions. Like all ecosystems, if there is an unfavorable factor that unbalances this ecosystem, there is no more harmony.
Wearing a mask creates a more humid environment than usual, encouraging the proliferation of bad bacteria and destroying this harmonious ecosystem. If the mask is not clean, then rubbing it with a dirty cloth (on the cheeks for example) will also contribute to the appearance of pimples. The microbiome is unbalanced, one can even speak of a damaged skin barrier.
Thus, treating the maskné by drying the skin as if you were facing an excess of sebum is counterintuitive.
In addition, friction with the mask can create micro-micro lesions, especially where the mask touches the skin. Many caregivers have found themselves with “burned” skin around the nose and below the eye area because of this rubbing.
The idea is not to wash one’s face with hydroalcoholic gel, but to restore the balance of our cutaneous microbiome, rebuild the cutaneous barrier and minimize friction.
1: Choosing a suitable mask
It is difficult to find a suitable mask because fabric masks are more breathable but provide little viral protection, while surgical masks keep absolutely all the moisture inside (this is its principle a priori). So I advise :
- for those who wear a fabric mask
- wear a cotton or silk mask that does not touch the cheeks too much: the 3D shape is preferable to the AFNOR shape (with folds)
- change your mask regularly: as soon as it’s wet, take another one
- for those who must absolutely wear a surgical mask:
- wear a cotton or silk mask underneath the surgical mask
Wash masks regularly and dry in the tumble dryer.
I wore a surgical mask for only 2 hours (my cloth masks were in the dirt) and that same evening, I saw two cystic pimples appear that took several days to heal. As a result, when I had to take the plane (surgical mask mandatory), I learned my lesson by putting a cloth mask underneath. In spite of the 4 hour trip, thanks to my fabric mask that absorbed all the humidity and limited friction, I didn’t get any new pimples.
My friend Lien makes masks called “3D” with a compartment where you can put a paper towel or a cotton make-up remover. At first, it was to add an extra protective filter, but then I discovered that this compartment was too good to put a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture;)
Warning : For silk masks, don’t believe the Instagram or Facebook ads, most of the websites do dropshipping (i.e. they buy cheap products in China for 1€ and resell you 30€). Real silk is expensive, and you won’t be able to tell the difference between silk and satin (which looks quite similar on the pictures). Always read the general terms and conditions of sale on these unknown sites. If there is no VAT/SIRET number or postal address, you know that your silk mask “made in France” is bullshit.
2: To have a top oral hygiene
When you speak, you project micro-droplets (that’s why we all wear masks). Usually, it doesn’t bother you at all, but with masks, you know what, those droplets stay inside the mask. That’s right! So if your oral hygiene isn’t tip-top, there’s a cloud of bacteria that will eventually settle on your face. Many people will tell you about oral solution that you can buy at any drugstore, but I’m against it. In our mouth too, there is an ecosystem of bacteria, and we must preserve the good bacteria at all costs (it’s the same for our intestines too, antibiotics must always be taken with caution because it destroys part of our intestinal flora)
The natural solution I found, and it is recommended by many dentists with a heart, is to rinse your mouth with salt water. For best results, keep the salt water in your mouth for several minutes before spitting out. My grandmother used to do it 30 minutes every night before going to bed and until her last day, she didn’t lose a single tooth. For laziness, I use Quinton water, ready to use, it is isotonic sea water with lots of minerals, but you can just mix your cooking salt with a little water and that’s it.
3 : Rebalance the skin microbiome
The difficulty is to know which “bad” bacteria are creating this imbalance. Bacteria cannot be analyzed under a microscope but there are products that have proven their effectiveness in (1) reducing bad bacteria (2) bringing in the good bacteria
(1) reduce bad bacteria: sulphur is very well known for this. We don’t know exactly how it works, but it’s a proven ingredient. Another more radical ingredient: salicylic acid, contained in Neutrogena’s cleaner. Both ingredients are drying, so you’ll need to moisturize a lot afterwards. Between the two ingredients, I have a preference for sulfur, especially the cleanser from chez Rosette (a Japanese brand) Amazon link (family size), YesStyle link (blue color) with a very soft creamy texture (even the smell isn’t terrible, it doesn’t stay on the skin, don’t worry). Sulfur, with its disinfectant action, effectively eliminates p.acne bacteria, responsible for the proliferation of pimples on the skin.
(2) bring the right bacteria thanks to probiotics: there are plenty of products with fermented ingredients. Fermented ingredients contain good bacteria (lactobacilli), very yummy for the skin. Moreover, this is the new trend in skincare, as we all find ourselves with damaged skin barrier (not only the face but also the hands by spreading hydroalcoholic gel), there are more and more products with probiotics available on the market.
- i have a weakness for Rich Deep Toner at Whamisa (Amazon link), one of the few Korean organic brands. Just the smell alone, it’s very “herbalist”. The good bacteria, aloe vera, argan oil, it’s all good! I rediscovered it recently and I don’t understand why I stopped using it (ah, because of the price surely, but the miniature version in 20ml also exists). For those who don’t know anything about Korean toner/lotion, you can put some on a cotton pad and rub it on your face. This one, specifically, can be applied as a serum on the skin (I prefer). It can be applied using the 7-skin method (another Korean invention): you put a layer on the skin by tapping, then another layer, then another layer… We can go up to 7 layers, but this one is quite concentrated so 3 layers are enough to have an extremely well hydrated and supple skin.
- survival 0 from Niod (Niod link, Lookfantastic link (-20% at the moment), FeelUnique link), a powerful antioxidant that not only protects against pollution, blue lights … but also provides a prebiotic complex, protecting the “good bacteria” against attacks. Since the use of this product, as I mentioned a few months ago in this article, my mask has disappeared. NIOD is a high end brand of DECIEM, the company behind The Ordinary. They are known to use high tech ingredients. One pump is enough for the whole face but it’s so light that I abuse it and use 2 pumps each time. I am extremely enthusiastic about this product, like most products at Niod because you can see a real difference before/after. It’s advisable to mix S0 with another active ingredient or moisturizer. Personally, I use it mixed with my moisturizer.
- you can simply make yourself a yoghurt mask. Be careful, so that it doesn’t run, mix some yoghurt with honey (from manuka or thyme) and leave for 20 to 30 minutes. Honey is superb for the skin, and manuka and thyme honeys are the best in the world for their healing power. I met a farmer from New Zealand on our road trip and she told me that she could even heal a (very ugly) wound on a horse with just manuka honey. But hey, thyme honey (Amazon link) is just as good and cheaper.
4 : Repairing the skin barrier
Thanks to ceramides, panthenol or copper peptides :
- ceramides are an essential component of the skin barrier and you can repair it simply by providing what the skin needs. During the first confinement, Cerave’s famous moisturizing cream, which contains ceramides (and hyaluronic acid, a humectant), was very quickly out of stock. So I couldn’t get my hands on it to test it. Last year I used a Japanese ceramide serum at Tunemakers, which is unfortunately out of stock too. But note this ingredient down somewhere!
- you can also trust panthenol (B5) for its restorative power. B5 exists in serum, at The Ordinary (prefer the Amino Acids + B5 version (link The Ordinary, link Sephora, link Feelunique), more pleasant and moisturizing) or from Skinceuticals ( Hydrating B 5 GelThe SkinCeuticals link is very expensive but the effectiveness is proven). I know that La Roche Posay also has a cream with B5 but it clogs the pores terribly and creates more pimples. Be careful! You can also opt for a simple pharmacy cream from Greece, to be spread generously in the evening on damaged skin Rona Ross D-Panthenol (Amazon link)
- since i discovered copper peptides, i must admit i love it! copper peptides are able to repair damaged collagen. My skin, which was very fragile because of the mask, healed badly, so I had to spread myself with copper peptides, present at The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides 1% (detailed opinion, The Ordinary link, Lookfantastic link) and Niod CAIS 2 (detailed opinion, NIOD link, Lookfantastic link). Egyptian Cream (based on honey, pollen, royal jelly, Sephora link) as a night mask helped me enormously to repair the skin as well.
Thanks to light therapy
It’s no joke, specific wave lights help stimulate collagen production and repair the skin. Be careful not to use just any machine because the wavelength used must be correct (otherwise it is the opposite effect: more fine lines and damaged skin). These machines are based on very serious NASA studies of the effect of certain wavelengths on the skin and the health of astronauts. Trust well-known brands such as Neutrogena (Amazon link) and Talika(Amazon link, Sephora link). It only takes 7 days to see a real effect.
Bring a lot of softness and moisture : damaged skin needs a lot of softness and moisture to gently repair itself because it has become too sensitive. When my skin was damaged, all I had to do was scratch and my skin would bleed or scab, it was very alarming. So you can use all the moisturizers I talked about in the other article on hormonal acne
- Do not cleanse your skin twice a day! Once in the evening is enough. Use Uriage thermal spring water (the best of the best) to refresh you in the morning, and to remove the hard water from your face after each cleansing. Once the tap water has been removed, you can reapply a pscchit of Uriage water (without removing the excess) and pat the skin to enjoy the benefits of the thermal water. This water is isotonic, I quote “The word “isotonic” means that it is in perfect osmosis with the skin and mucous membranes. It respects the integrity of the skin cells. As well tolerated as a physiological serum, it alters neither the size nor the volume of the cells” The 300ml format, more economical, is recommended (Amazon link). Currently in Montenegro, I had to search all the pharmacies in Kotor to find some. It’s good to travel, but it can be frustrating sometimes not to find your favorite cosmetics.
- As a moisturizer, I still love Benton’s Steam Cream (Yesstyle link, Amazon link, lookfantastic link, Jolse link) with snail slime, with an incredible repairing power, but also moisturizing. I like it very much. In winter, this cream doesn’t moisturize enough so don’t hesitate to abuse the 7 skin method with the Whamisa lotion just before.
- Moisturization also comes through the use of masks: I really like the Aura d’Antipodes mask based on manuka honey (very reputed, particularly antibacterial and repairing, to be used without moderation) (Sephora link, Marionnaud link, Lookfantastic link, Amazon link, FeelUnique link, Antipodes link), it is very moisturizing and calming, to be rinsed off after 15 minutes.
5 : Limit friction
Rather, this section is intended for caregivers or individuals who must wear the surgical/N95 masks all day long. You can use Egyptian Magic (Sephora link) on rubbing areas. This cream is very moisturizing without clogging the pores without causing acne because it contains honey, royal jelly, pollen. You can also stick hydrocolloic patches on it. The hydrocolloic patches still let the skin breathe and are moisturizing so they will work as a protective barrier against the friction of the mask.
Since 2020, my favorite in local treatment of pimples is Etude House AC Clean Up (Amazon link), because pimples due to masked skin generally don’t have a stink and it’s very difficult to treat them
To treat blemishes, I refer you to my adult acne article that listed all the ingredients imaginable
And finally, here is the recommended routine. The good news is that there are quite a few products in common with all the routines I’ve recommended so far.
We have moved on to winter. I don’t offer sunscreen or makeup remover here because your face will be covered by the mask, it rains all the time, so there’s no point in applying sunscreen or makeup on your complexion. You can always use my other routine for the proven skin barrier. But this one is more suitable for winter.
|THE MORNING||THE EVENING|
|Cleaning: Uriage Thermal Water|| Sulfur cleaner at Rosette|
followed by a Uriage Thermal Water
|Moisturizing toner : Rich Deep Toner from Whamisa (7-skin method recommended)||Mask (2 to 3 times a week): Yoghurt & Thyme Honey|
or Aura of Antipodes with Manuka Honey
|Anti-oxidant : S0 from Niod||Moisturizing toner : Rich Deep Toner from Whamisa (7-skin method recommended)|
|Moisturizing cream : Steam Cream from Benton||Anti-oxidant : S0 from Niod|
|Moisturizing cream : Steam Cream from Benton|
|Local treatment on pimples: House AC Clean Up|
I hope you enjoyed this article. I will motivate myself to do an article on body acne too when I have some time.