Normally when you start breaking out, you take a second to assess what could be happening. Is it a PMS pimple? Have you been eating more dairy? What is causing this chin acne? But these aren’t normal times and while there could be many reasons your skin looks less than great right now, one could be your cloth mask. The face coverings we’re all wearing in public right now are important—more important than a pimple. But there are some simple things you can do to clear up your skin while still complying with mask orders.
According to New York-based dermatological surgeon Patricia Wexler, breakouts on your chin are often caused by hormones. “You can see an increase in flare-ups around the time of your menstrual cycle,” says Dr. Wexler. “During this time your hormones vary from being estrogen heavy to progesterone heavy, and these higher levels of testosterone
are known to increase the size of our oil glands. [An] increase in sebum reacts with bacteria-creating papules and pustules and clogged pores.”
She notes that a change in birth control methods can also cause a change in hormones and an increase in breakouts. That and stress. And there’s a good chance you’re feeling a little (or a lot) more stressed than usual right now. “Stress is another factor that can contribute to chin acne, as cortisol, an inflammatory stress hormone, can produce excess oil and create
blemishes,” adds Dr. Wexler.
If nothing is new with your hormones, you don’t usually get PMS breakouts or you’re just seeing an increase in chin acne, it could be your cloth mask’s fault. “Wearing a mask all day creates heat and humidity, [which] can cause irritation, especially as the mask will cause friction against already sensitive skin,” says Dr. Wexler. “It is important to wash your face thoroughly, before and after wearing a mask.”
Dr. Wexler also recommends washing your mask daily (which the CDC also recommends) and skipping makeup—at least on the lower half of your face. “[Makeup] can harbor bacteria and increase the risk of bacteria growing in this warm humid environment, especially while wearing the mask all day,” she says. If you’re someone prone to chin acne, you can start fighting breakouts right away with a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide lotion, notes Dr. Wexler. She also recommends using a clay mask at night or even retinol for clearing out those clogged pores.
Using acne products can sometimes dry out your skin so you want to make sure you’re cleansing (twice a day if wearing a mask) and moisturizing well. “[Use] a non-comedogenic moisturizer to prevent worsening your concern and to prevent any dryness from the anti-acne product you are using,” says Dr. Wexler. That being said, don’t go too hard. This isn’t the time to be harsh on your skin. Use gentle, simple ingredients during this time.
If you’re changing your mask after every wear, washing your face, hydrating and treating the occasional pimple and you’re still breaking out, talk to your derm. If the acne is really bothersome or irritation from the mask cuts your skin, you may need an antibiotic. It looks like we’ll be wearing masks for the foreseeable future, but you don’t have to suffer with acne.