If you’ve been searching online for how to get rid of maskne – or mask acne – then you’ll know that it is a real skin issue, not just a buzzword of the pandemic. It is a known, documented skin condition that can have both physical and psychological affects on sufferers, just as regular acne can.
In this post, we are offering three natural, organic skincare formulations to help combat maskne by reducing its visible signs and to provide relief for mask acne sufferers. First, what exactly is mask acne?
What is maskne?
Maskne, or mask acne, is more common now that swathes of the world’s population are wearing face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. Breakouts of acne-type spots, skin sensitivity, sore skin and even small lesions due to irritation caused by friction, heat, pressure, stretching and squeezing of the skin can all come under the medical name of Acne mechanica.
People working in sectors that have always needed to wear face masks or close-fitting PPE, such as health workers and medics, as well less obvious groups such as sports people and students, can be prone to acne-like outbreaks. Snug sports’ headgear and idle hands resting on chins in lecture halls tend to trap sebum in a hot, moist atmosphere on the skin. This upsets the skin’s biome and the equilibrium of its acid mantle, reducing its barrier function as well as prompting topical outbreaks such as temporary acne.
Typically, people are seeing outbreaks on the T-zone area from nose to chin and on the sides of their cheeks from mask wearing. However, it is still early days in the full clinical assessment of maskne, but the cosmetics’ industry is not slow to have maskne in its sights.
How to treat mask acne
While masks made of more natural fibres such as cotton or silk are of course better at allowing the skin to breathe, we need to wear masks that are tested as fit for purpose. It is critical that those working in sectors like health, hospitality and education who wear masks for long hours, come into contact with a lot of people on a daily basis and work in indoors environments are using the PPE recommended by their relevant public health and industry bodies.
Mask wearing has exacerbated Acne mechanica to the extent that we are now seeing cosmetics targeted at alleviating mask acne. Maskne cosmetics are an interesting development in a makeup industry that has faced a downturn in the pandemic; there have of course been winners such as eye makeup, losers such as lipsticks and newcomers like maskne cosmetics.
Also, mask wearing is predicted to be here to stay as we’ve become more aware of the airborne transmission of infectious diseases, even the common cold. So, maskne cosmetics are likely to be around for a long time, especially if large beauty brands are investing R&D in them.
What is Maskne skincare?
Maskne skincare is aimed at reducing the visible signs of and alleviating discomfort caused by Acne mechanica. It generally works on:
- Open pores
- Post-spot indentations where maskne skincare may be aimed at providing hydration or ‘filler effects’ to plump up the skin.
- Post-maskne hyperpigmentation caused by spots
As you can see, there are multiple maskne skincare issues requiring different products to deal with them. Add to that the fact that individuals have different underlying skin health and wear masks in a host of climates and conditions and you can see why a single product might not be enough to help prevent nor get rid of maskne.
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3 Skincare Products to Help Get Rid of Maskne
We have created three formulations for you to have a choice of products to help prevent and ease the effects of maskne. Our formulations are for: a gentle foaming cleanser; a light, soothing, oil-in-water moisturiser; and a protective balm. Make one or all of our formulations to use together as a routine to help combat maskne. We’d be interested to find out which you make and why, so do leave us a comment below.
They all within the capabilities of the new to intermediate-level natural formulator and use ingredients that should be quite easy to find.
A Key ingredient
Willow Bark extract
Willow Bark extract is a natural alternative to Beta hydroxy acid or salicylic acid. As the name suggests, it is obtained from the bark of the willow tree. You can find willow bark extracts that are sourced from either the white willow (Salix alba) or the black willow (Salix nigra) tree. In this formula, we are using white willow bark extract.
Willow bark has been used for centuries as part of herbal medicine. Apparently, native Americans found use for most of the tree components; for example, the bark was charred and powdered to be used as gunpowder and the roots were used to obtain various dyes.
Willow bark contains a component called salicin which is a glucoside of salicylic acid but you need to remember it is not the same as salicylic acid. When taken internally, the salicin is converted to salicylic acid by the liver, a process that would not happen via topical application.
Nonetheless, while not a true salicylic acid (as we know it), willow bark extract can be useful in maskne products.
This botanical is full of tannins which are astringent and salicin is said to have anti-inflammatory effects (similar to Aspirin) that can be useful in products aimed at irritated skin. A study on 30 participants concluded that salicin can also be superb in anti-ageing products as it helped improve pore size, skin roughness and overall skin appearance.
This formula is for a super simple foam cleanser. It has a watery consistency and it needs to be packaged in a foamer bottle in order to get that foaming action.
Formula for 50g foaming cleanser
|A||Willow Bark extract (at 10%)||2.50|
|C||Lactic acid/ Citric acid||as needed|
Plantapon SF (by BASF): Sodium Cocoamphoacetate (and) Glycerin (and) Lauryl Glucoside (and) Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (and) Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate. Euxyl K712 ( by Shulke): Sodium Benzoate (and) Potassium Sorbate.
Method of Manufacture:
- Blend all phase A ingredients.
- Add phase B.
- Check & adjust pH to pH 5.
- Add phase C and recheck the pH. Aim for pH 4.5-5.
- Decant into a foamer bottle.
- Check the salicylate content of your willow bark extract. We used a 10% but you can also find extract with 20% salicylate content.
- Replace rose hydrosol with one of your choice. Lavender and chamomile could be good choices.
- Plantapon SF is a blend of surfactants and it is very mild. You can use a single surfactant or a blend surfactant of your choice.
- Euxyl K712 is a water-soluble preservative and is effective at pH 5.5 or lower. If you use your own preservative, adjust the pH and use the amount suggested by the manufacturer.
- If you want to add essential oils, you may need an additional solubiliser. This is to make sure no oil particles will be floating on the top of the cleanser.
This formula is an oil-in-water emulsion that is suitable for pump or airless bottles.
We used ingredients that are widely available and are beneficial for irritated skin without making your face greasy. We chose oils that are excellent for maskne products and are soothing the skin. This product can be used in the morning or in the evening, after cleansing. Use it as a sole moisturiser or follow it by a nourishing oil or balm.
Formula for 50g emulsion:
|C||St John’s Wort oil||2.50g|
|C||Evening primrose CO2 extract||0.25g|
|D||Dermosoft 1388 Eco||1.75g|
|E||Jasmine essential oil (5% dilute)||0.30g|
|E||Helichrysum essential oil||0.05g|
|E||Frankincense essential oil||0.05g|
Ecomulse (by RITA Corporation): Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate.
Other names: Natramulse / Ritamulse SCG / Emulsimulse.
Method of Manufacture:
- Prepare Phase A and Phase B and heat to 75C.
- Add Phase B to A while stirring. If you have a homogeniser, you can homoginse the blend for 1-2 mins.
- Under 40C, add Phase C. Homogenise again using short bursts.
- Check and adjust the pH to pH 5-5.3
- Add Phase C and check the pH. This preservative is very pH dependent.
- Add Phase E.
- Transfer it into an airless jar.
- Hazelnut oil has a “dry” skin feel and can help rebalance the skin.
- Instead of glycerine, you can use some amazing botanical glycerites such as pomegranate glycerite.
- Create your own essential oil blends to really make this moisturiser your own.
- ECOmulse is a lovely emulsifier. It can create elegant lotions to thick creams and it really doesn’t have that dreaded soaping effect.
- It can have different trading names so look for it using the INCI listing.
- Instead of Evening Primrose CO2, you can also add Rosehip CO2 and/or Calendula CO2 extracts.
- If you are a more advanced formulator, you can use other actives such as allantoin, bisabolol or betain, all of which are excellent in skin soothing moisturisers.
This balm can be used to help reduce friction between the skin and the mask. Use it as your daytime protective skincare product or use it on top of your usual moisturiser. For a balm, it is best to blend waxes to achieve a great synergy. In this formula, we used vegan-friendly waxes and ingredients but if you are not following that niche, you can use beeswax and lanolin, both of which are great ingredients in soothing and protective products.
Formula for 50g balm
|A||Berry fruit wax||4.00g|
|B||Papaya seed oil||10.00g|
|C||Sweet orange essential oil||0.20g|
|C||Geranium essential oil||0.08g|
|C||Yarrow essential oil||0.04g|
|C||Myrrh essential oil||0.03g|
Method of Manufacture:
- Prepare and melt Phase A.
- Remove from the heat and add Phase B.
- When cooler but still liquid, add Phase C.
- Pour into a wide neck jar while still liquid and place it into the fridge for 12 hours.
- Bring it back to room temperature before closing the jar.
- You can make this formula more exciting by macerating some herbs and flowers in the sunflower oil. Choose dried lavender, chickweed or calendula.
- Blend your own essential oils. This balm is also great for men or even kids but then omit the essential oils (unless you are knowledgeable in essential oil safety).
- Tune it up by adding some botanical power: choose CO2 extracts, oil-soluble actives such as Coenzyme Q10, bisabolol and Vitamin A.
- This balm is not greasy, has a lovely shine and spreads well. By swapping the oils, you can make it richer, by altering the waxes and/ or their amount, you can make it harder.
FAQs on Maskne
Maskne is a short form of mask acne know by its medical term as Acne mechanica. Its signs are acne-type spots, skin sensitivity, sore skin and even small lesions due to irritation caused by friction, heat, pressure, stretching and squeezing of the skin. It has become more widely known during the Covid-19 pandemic through the prolonged wearing of PPE and face masks.
There is no single, topical cosmetic product that can claim to get rid of nor prevent maskne, or mask acne. However using a combination of skincare products such as natural, gentle facial cleansers, light soothing emulsions and soothing barrier balms can help relieve symptoms such as soreness and soreness.
Maskne or mask acne skincare and cosmetics are an interesting development in the beauty industry. Large beauty brands are investing R&D in maskne skincare. Products that claim to treat mask acne – or acne mechanica – would need to be scientifically proven to uphold any medical treatment claims they make. However, maskne cosmetics can help alleviate, mask or mitigate visible signs of mask acne.
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Timi was a key member of the Formula Botanica team from 2015 to 2020; first as our Education Manager and then as Head of Formulation & Research. You can find out more about the Formula Botanica team here.