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How to fight maskne on a college budget

| Monday, November 2, 2020

Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored and all products listed are recommendations. Always check the ingredients listed before use.

Let’s face it, this year has been wild and completely stressful. It has also taken a toll on my skin! In an effort to fight the pandemic, and stay on campus, everyone is wearing a mask. However effective this may be to fight a virus, it is not effective in fighting acne.

Wearing a mask causes heat, friction and blockage on the skin. It is combined with a moist environment from sweating, talking and even breakouts. This, my friend, is the definition of maskne.


For starters, if you currently have maskne, don’t fret! Focus on soothing and healing the skin first. The acne can’t heal until the skin is completely nourished. Use an over the counter benzoyl peroxide with a 2.5-5% concentration only on the blemishes. This ingredient works to get rid of dead skin cells, excessive oil and bacteria that may be trapped underneath. The skin may be sensitive in its current condition, so I don’t recommend using a higher concentration.

Before getting into skin care itself, it is important to know what your skin type is. Depending on your pH, you will have different product needs. Skin pH is typically around 5.5. When it deviates from that number, inflammation can occur.

Skin Quiz

I recommend using a skin quiz to help you figure out what you’re working with and help you know what is best for your skin. I like this one by HeyDay! The test asks questions about what you would most like to improve or what your skin is like throughout the day. Once you’re done, it offers skincare product suggestions that would best help fight your main concerns.

Daytime Routine

After you’ve taken a skin quiz, it’s time to find products for a skin care routine. A huge takeaway from this is that simple is okay. You don’t have to use every product, but here is the order of a daytime routine, from first to last: cleanser, toner, serum, eye cream, spot treatment, moisturizer and sunscreen.

If you want to keep it simple, stick with cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. Why? For right now, these are going to be the best for your skin while wearing a mask.

A cleanser will clear any leftover dirt or makeup from your face. The cleanser you use will depend on your skin type, but they will all get the job done. On a budget, you may want to stick with a micellar cleansing water. Since a cleanser can be used both in the morning and at night, this is a great product to invest in. If you are willing to spend a bit more, I suggest my favorite, Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser from Drunk Elephant. It is the best for my sensitive skin. Another great option — especially if you want to do a double cleanse — is the Glossier milky oil, which is only $12.

A moisturizer should be your new best friend — seriously. Besides keeping your skin hydrated, it also acts as a barrier between your skin and a mask — it reduces friction. During the age of maskne, look for a moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid and no fragrances. Hyaluronic acid is a sugar found in our skin that holds water and helps keep our skin hydrated. Moisturizer is one product that truly varies depending on how much you want it to do. If your skin is super dry, you are going to want a completely different moisturizer than someone who has oily skin.

Sunscreen is an everyday must! Even on cloudy, rainy days, the UVA and UVB rays can still penetrate your skin! There are many to choose from, which is great if you have ingredient preferences. If you’re looking for one that is more inexpensive but has clean ingredients, I recommend picking up SunBum face sunscreen on your next trip to the store. I’ve used it for years and it works great!

Other Products

You may be wondering, “So that’s it? What do the other products do?” They do what you want! A toner can shrink pores, restore pH balance, add protection, can act as a moisturizer and refreshes the skin. That’s a lot! Toners are especially helpful for those with oily or acne-prone skin. Some toners work to unclog pores and remove oil and dirt, similar to a cleanser. Toners do lean towards the acidic side — so if you are using products that are more alkaline, a toner can help balance the skin.

Then there are serums. A serum is made up of smaller molecules that can penetrate the skin and deliver a high concentration of ingredients. These are a great tool for targeting a specific concern. For example, there are serums that deliver vitamins to the skin like vitamin B or C — a serum with vitamin C will firm and brighten your skin, while a serum with vitamin B will improve the look of skin texture and tone.

A morning routine can be easy, but at night there are even more options. During the day, a simple routine is fine. You don’t want to overload the skin under the mask with harsh ingredients. At night, this is a great time to introduce other products like essences, treatments, night creams or skin treats.

An essence is similar to a serum, but it is more watery and fluid. The Korean beauty product was designed to be a primer for your moisturizer while also providing benefits to the skin. The formula penetrates the skin deeper than an average moisturizer and can give your skin extra hydration. To apply the product, and make it as effective as possible, pump some of the product into the palm of your hand and press the product gently into your skin.

Using a treatment is completely up to you and your target goal. This can be a product for blemishes, anti-aging, dryness, dullness, pores, redness or evening skin tone. For example, I use the Arbonne Mattifying Acne Treatment Lotion. The product targets blemishes and oil control.

Myth: Night creams are just a marketing ploy. Night creams have a thick consistency and are packed with ingredients to prevent aging and hydrate your skin. They contain ingredients that nourish the skin and help with wrinkles and fine lines.


Lastly: skin treats! These are fun products like a face mask or healing dots. You can make these yourself! The product I’d recommend to anyone struggling with acne is the Peace Out Acne Healing Dots. The dots have salicylic acid, vitamin A and aloe. It is recommended to put them on at night, but they’re also easy to hide under masks! An alternative is applying honey with a Q-tip and placing a circular band aid over a blemish that is red or deep rooted. You can also just let the honey sit on your skin for about 10 minutes and rinse off.

Facial masks are another great option and should be used 1-3 times a week. Face masks are similar to moisturizers and serums — delivering a high concentration of vitamins and nutrients to the skin — but face masks are different in that they create a barrier to lock in specific ingredients and allow them to fully absorb. Depending on the base ingredient, the purpose is different. For instance, there are clay, gel and cream masks. Some may target acne, while another may be for locking in moisture. Sheet masks are also helpful when on a budget, but make sure to check out the ingredients list.

Remember to give your skin a break and know that contributing factors like water intake, sleep and stress can also affect your beautiful face! The number one takeaway, do what is best for your skin … and remember to moisturize!

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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