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Beauty Look to try: how to heal those pesky mask-induced breakouts

Aug. 31, 2020
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I think we can all agree that wearing a mask is a Good Thing. Caring about other people is the sign of true beauty, right? But masks also seem to come with a beauty disadvantage. Many of us who are diligently doing our civic duty are noticing a nasty side effect. Mask-ne (mask-related acne) is a thing—and it seems many are suffering.

Well, don’t fear—and please, please, don’t let it stop you wearing your mask. Clearing up your mask-induced breakouts doesn’t need to be a total headache. A few switches in your skincare routine plus a few extra zit-busting additions should solve the problem quickly and effectively. Now, if only the global pandemic were that easy!

Many acne-targeting cleansers have a bad rep. And it’s true, the “teenage skin” face washes of youth do tend to feel drying, tightening, and irritating. But things don’t need to be this way! There are acne cleansers on the market that can target zits without creating new issues with the rest of your complexion. The Tula Acne Foam Cleanser feels gentle and soothing but has that slight tea-tree tingle that you just know is getting into your pores. And the Mario Badescu Acne Cleanser deeply cleanses without leaving skin feeling stripped or (heaven forbid) squeaky clean. 

If even these sound too harsh for you, though, a surprisingly great acne solution is actually the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. While it doesn’t target breakouts, per se, it does deeply cleanse the skin, which after a sweaty day spent wearing a mask, can only help the breakout situation. It’s also incredibly affordable and suits basically every skin type.

I use a microfiber pad like the Sunday Ivy Magic Eraser. Not only does this help a little bit of cleanser go a longer way (thus saving you cash in the long term) but it also helps your cleanser work better. Any foaming cleanser will instantly become more luxuriously frothy, helping to provide a deeper clean. They’re also a great environmental alternative to wipes.

Masks are a not-so-secret weapon in the fight against acne. For the type of spots a face mask causes (more bacterial than cystic) I tend to like a clay mask with a bit of exfoliating grit to it. An all-time favorite has to be the Gallinee Prebiotic Face Mask & Scrub. I love how this carefully walks the balance between gentle and effective. I’ve never noticed any irritation after using this mask, but my skin always looks noticeably better.

For a more intense take on the Gallinee, I adore the Lush Mask of Magnaminty. For this time of year, it’s a total godsend—giving that instantly cooling, mentholated tingle that’s just irresistible. Aside from the initial satisfaction, though, I genuinely find this impressive in terms of speeding up the life cycle of pimples. It helps soothe and shrink active breakouts, while also sucking impurities out of pores to prevent future ones.

If you fancy something super bougie, another secret weapon of mine is the Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant. This is unlike any skincare product I’ve ever tried—a thick, brown, sticky goo that smells like yeast and soy sauce. It’s not what you’d describe as pleasant to use, but the proof is in the pudding. Skin looks instantly clearer and brighter, plus feels smooth after using. To maximize efficacy, I like to mix it with a spoonful of baking soda, which also gives it a more exfoliating feel, too.

But, of course, the acne mask OG has to be the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. If you’re in a moment of total despair with your mask-ne, mixing a sprinkling of this with some apple cider vinegar is basically a panacea. It can halt acne in its tracks and restore your face to normal in a matter of days. Again, though, it’s not what you’d call a luxurious skincare experience. It makes your heart feel as though it’s beating in your face, basically completely freezes all facial expressions, plus smells like salad dressing. Only its magical results would be worth this feeling.

Another great acne-beating tip is introducing a toner to your skincare routine. Many acid toners can help exfoliate dead skin cells without irritating the sensitive surface of any active acne. A current favorite is the Ole Henriksen Glow 2OH Dark Spot Toner, which smooths, brightens, and unclogs pores instantly. A long time favorite—and particularly great for those struggling with blackheads—is the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. And if you’re getting persistent and painful jawline zits that throb deep beneath the surface, the Mario Badescu Special Cleansing Lotion “C” is incredible. It has a layer of power sulfur within the bottle (shake before use) which helps heal even the most painful of cystic zits.

Having a good spot treatment on hand is also key to getting acne under control. The minute you feel the first signs of a pimple brewing, you can stop it in its tracks. Overnight, I love the Kate Somerville Eradikate. You apply the powder using a q-tip and leave it to dry—subtle, it is not. But by morning, you’ll notice an immediate difference in the size and redness of any under-the-skin pimple. 

If you’re a picker—and let’s face it, who isn’t—something like the Made by Sunday Spot Gun Turmeric Stick may be more up your alley. This coats the affected area in a layer of protective soy wax to help allow it to heal, while the turmeric root powder gets to work on disinfecting the area. This also is less than invisible on the skin but can work wonders overnight.

However, if you want to treat a zit in a way that doesn’t look so obvious, I point you toward the Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion. This applies as a clear liquid, but the sulfur again gets to shrinking any burgeoning blemishes. Keep this in your purse to dab on on the go if you’re in the midst of a mask-ne episode.

And, of course, where would any pimple recommendation list be without patches? The CosRX Acne Pimple Master Patches are my absolute favorites for moments of total emergency. Applied on clean skin, these work by sucking out the inside of a spot, leaving it flatter and less irritated. They’re also basically unnoticeable, so they can be worn by day if you’re feeling brave.

It’s important to keep looking after your skin even if you’re in the middle of a breakout. One product I find absolutely amazing is the Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum. It’s uber expensive (get it on sale if you can) but the results speak for themselves. It’s particularly fabulous if you’re someone who suffers from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or dark marks left behind by zits. Apply a half-pump to the affected areas at night and you’ll notice a more even complexion in a matter of days.

While it can be tempting to skip out on moisturizer during times of acne, it’s never a good idea. You want to treat your skin nicely so it can heal from the trauma of your zits, and drying it out tends to only make the condition worse. If you’re terrified your moisturizer may break you out, try the Tula Breakout Star Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer. This contains 2% salicylic acid, which helps clear your pores but also has soothing and healing ingredients like aloe. 

I’m also a huge fan of the CeraVe Moisturizing Facial Lotion during times of facial strife. It’s absolutely no-frills (in fact, the bottle basically looks like a medical item) but it helps soothe and moisturize the skin without ever clogging pores.

Many of the acne treatments described above can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so SPF is more important than ever. The Neutrogena Clear Skin Sunscreen Lotion SPF 55 is ideal for skin in the midst of a breakout, as it won’t cause any more. Wearing SPF can also help prevent future acne scars, and thus save you plenty of stress in the long run.

My final recommendation? Good old laundry detergent. Are you washing your masks enough? Are you washing them hot enough? Get into a good routine with this, and I promise your skin will thank you.