Dealing with Maskne

By: Jennifer Lonergan

Portmanteau words.

Does anyone remember these from school?

Here are some examples:

Brunch (breakfast + lunch)

Smog (smoke + fog)

Chortle (chuckle + snort)

Spork (spoon + fork)

Labradoodle (labrador + poodle)

They are more commonly known as “blend” words. Two words, or parts of words, that are blended together to form a new one. 

Portmanteau is French for suitcase. 

Porter meaning to carry, and manteau for mantle, or cloak. 

Therefore what you carry your clothes in and thus portmanteau is born.

(In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass,” he was the first to use a portmanteau. Alice recites a stanza to Humpty Dumpty and uses the word “slithy”, a combination of lithe + slimy. Ok, English lesson done for the day, now back to the matter at hand.)

Thanks to current times we have a new one:

Maskne (mask + acne )

Definitely not as delightful as brunch. 

This word has been coined to describe the various skin irritations that people have been experiencing since regular mask use has started.

Face irritation is more common among sufferers of rosacea, acne, eczema and allergies. Now with mask wearing to protect ourselves and others from the spread of Covid-19, symptoms of facial breakouts are more commonplace.

According to an article from John Hopkins Medicine by Anna Lien-Lun Chien, M.D., she highlights preventatives measures and other factors to look out for in preventing breakouts, bumps, and any other unforeseen issues.

Mask Material 

What your mask is made of and treated with might be causing some skin irritations. Commercially made masks are known to be pre-treated with chemicals and could be the cause of breakouts. Chien states that masks made up of cotton or polyester blends are not only also the most protective against COVID-19 but are also the most gentle on your skin. 

Proper Fit

For safety, the mask should cover from the top of your nose to over mouth to bottom of chin. It may take some time to make sure it it covering all those areas while not chafing any area of skin the mask is protecting.

A Clean Mask

I don’t think I need to get into the gory details of what is happening under your mask while wearing it, (hello coughing and sneezing), so cleaning your mask is imperative to keeping your face clean and germ free. Wash your masks with a gentle cleanser and you can either tumble dry on a high setting or air dry. Clean masks should be kept in a sealed bag. 

Skin Care Routine

Daily cleansing is a must. A gentle, unscented and non-antibacterial mild soap is best. If you’re already experiencing irritations, Chien recommends “barrier creams or sprays,” such as petroleum jelly and zinc oxide. But her top recommendation, which makes sense when you really think about it, is diaper cream. Both areas are covered and dealing with the same issues.

*Even better, let’s take away a step to your morning routine–makeup! No one is seeing half of your face, so take advantage. No need to add anything that may clog pores; and if you have acne or any other skin issues, no need to cover up with foundation.

When all else fails…

Call your doctor. If a problem is persistent and not healing, like all other health issues, call your doctor. Since some skin issues can be diagnosed visually, you could probably get a diagnosis and course of treatment through a tele-health call. Care from your couch!


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