Education, Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

The one skincare ingredient you need to fight maskne

words by: Alee Kwong
Dec 23, 2020

This might not be the most popular opinion, but I have started to enjoy wearing a mask everywhere. Apart from keeping everyone safe, there have been a handful of benefits that have convinced me to roll this good practice over past the pandemic, whenever that will be. I’ve been able to go out with just skincare on my face, learned how to become more expressive with my eyes/sharpened my listening skills (hearing someone talk through a mask is not easy), and started treating masks like another accessory to go with my outfits.


Although one issue that a lot of us have been experiencing is mask acne, also known as maskne.


What causes maskne? It’s simple. Under your mask is a greenhouse of oil, sweat, and bacteria. All of that is being trapped for hours at a time and that’s just the cherry on top of the friction and irritation your mask causes on your face. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, at least 83% of healthcare workers in Hubei, China experienced skin problems. Doctors have also noted that they saw an increase in mask-related skin problems in their patients. Wearing a mask has become a new reality for us, so it’s time to make ourselves a checklist of new habits and start using BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), the zit-killing superstar ingredient you need to combat maskne.


There are two popular types of acids, AHAs and BHAs. Today we are going to focus on BHA, an oil-soluble acid that penetrates deeper into your pores to unclog and break up any blackheads and whiteheads you have forming under the surface of your skin. Found naturally in willow tree bark, wintergreen leaves, and sweet birch bark, BHAs work both on the skin and in the skin. Acne is generally due to hyperkeratinization, which basically means you are shedding skin cells too quickly. BHAs help slow down hyperkeratinization and regulates it so that the cells that you’ve shed don’t pile up and clog your pores.


The strongest and most popular BHA in the game is salicylic acid. You might remember it from your teenage acne days. While it is the strongest BHA, it is a gentler option compared to its AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) counterpart, glycolic acid. This is because salicylic acid has a larger molecule size and doesn’t penetrate as deeply as glycolic acid. The gentleness of BHA is great during the height of maskne because the friction our skin experiences while wearing a mask can further skin irritation when combined with using exfoliating acids.


Here are three fan-favorite BHA products that can get you started on banishing maskne for good.

  1. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant 
  2. COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
  3. The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum 


By the way, if you are currently using benzoyl peroxide or retinol, make sure you are skipping the BHA step in your routine on those days. Certain ingredients don’t work when combined and they cancel each other out!


Photo via Atoms