June is Acne Awareness Month! Formulating an effective acne regimen is a topic that comes through my inbox often. While acne is a medical condition best treated by a Dermatology Provider, there are a few things you can try at home first for mild acne (occasional breakouts with blackheads and whiteheads in the absence of cystic acne, scarring or significant inflammation). As many of us get used to wearing facial coverings daily, we are noticing an increase in acne due to the occlusive nature of these masks. So, I've highlighted a few things you can be doing to help prevent and treat mask-associated acne!
- Choose the right cleanser. Cleansers are a very important part of your regimen as they prep the skin for what's to come next. They can also contain treatment ingredients of their own! AHAs and BHA are great acne fighting ingredients often found in cleansers. BHA or salicylic acid is my top choice for those with acne and oily skin, although it can be too drying for those with dry skin. In those cases I prefer a cleanser with glycolic acid and other AHAs!
Active acids are not a good choice if your skin has visible cuts, scrapes or openings from mask use. Also, keep in mind that you may want to start incorporating these products slowly to avoid irritation underneath your mask! *These cleansers may be too much for you to use twice daily, so you can alternate with a gentle cleanser. For more information on my favorite gentle cleansers you can check out this blog post: How to Choose the Right Cleanser.
Below are some of my favorite AHA and BHA cleansers for different skin types!
~ SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser for Oily, non-sensitive skin.
- Ditch the Makeup. Now is the time to let your skin breath as much as possible and avoid adding makeup especially on areas underneath your mask! Wearing these facial coverings for hours a day will further push makeup into the pores. Instead, opt for a tinted sunscreen only. Sunscreen is important for many reasons but if you're actively breaking out it helps protect acne lesions from UV and HEV light exposure which can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. My favorites are linked below!
- Incorporate a retinoid at night (carefully). Regular use of retinoids is one of the best ways to prevent breakouts. Again, you'll want to be extra careful during this time to avoid any irritation which can lead to abrasion from your mask. Opt for a formulation with soothing ingredients during this time especially! Here are a few of my favorites for starting out. Retinoids should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding.
For more information on how to safely incorporate retinoids while minimizing irritation, check out my blog post about Retinoids!
~ SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.25: Also great for anti-aging.
- Take mask breaks when you can. The more time you can (SAFELY) be without your mask the better for your skin. For instance after seeing a patient, removing my PPE, and thoroughly washing my hands I go into my office and shut the door. Then I take my mask off to let my skin breathe. The staff knocks at my door if they need me to give me time to put my mask back on before they enter. IF this is an option for you, try to take advantage.
- Spot Treat as needed. Despite all the above steps to prevent acne, you'll likely still experience a blemish or two as a result of your facial covering. In that case be careful not to punish your skin by using harsh scrubs or cleansers that leave you feeling extra "clean". This can do more harm than good. Instead opt for a spot treatment to encourage that little stinker to deflate a little! I prefer spot treating with a small amount of Benzoyl Peroxide on the pimple at night.
All in all acne is a seemingly small price to pay for keeping ourselves and those around us safe. However, it can be so discouraging and an added stressor during an already stressful time. So, I hope these tips help you fight your way back to clear skin!
Amy is a Cosmetic Dermatology PA and skin care enthusiast living and practicing in Miami, FL. To connect with her or to see her in office or virtually for a consultation, contact her via her instagram @the_skinthusiast or on her blog www.theskinthusiastblog.com