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Back before COVID-19 hit, we never could have imagined that masks would become a must, but here we are. And while we’re grateful for this protective accessory, it’s got an unwelcome side effect: maskne. As if pandemic stress wasn’t triggering enough, the mask-induced sweat, bacteria, and humidity of your breath can provoke breakouts. We asked Jennifer Black, an L.A.-based licensed acupuncturist and board-certified herbalist who specializes in dermatology, how to deal. Here are her tips plus some of her favorite prods. –ILANA KAPLAN

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Wash your face.
Black recommends washing your face as soon as you take off your mask. “You want to remove that bacteria that’s accumulated over the course of a day topically so that you don’t allow the glands to get infected,” she says. Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Liquid Castile Soap, $7.29, desertessence.com

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Exfoliate. Exfoliate. Exfoliate.
To get that under-mask surface clean, Black recommends using an exfoliant. How often will depend on your skin type, but in general aim to exfoliate after every time you wear a mask for eight-plus hours (like for a work shift), or after exercising. If you wear your mask less than a few hours at a time, exfoliate every few days. For a DIY scrub, mix honey and cornmeal: “Just stick it in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds,” Black says. Zi Zai Dermatology HoneyHerb Facial Scrub, $16, zizaidermatologyproducts.com

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Stay hydrated and eat cooling foods.
It sounds simple, but water is everything when it comes to your skin. “The basics have so much to do with what your skin is doing,” Black says. Proper nutrition is key, and that means loading up on veggies, cutting down on dairy, and nixing greasy and spicy foods. “Because Chinese medicine looks at acne as a manifestation of toxic heat, you want to be focusing on cooling foods like watermelon, cucumber, mint, and things like that, unless you live in a cold climate,” Black says. She adds that for those dealing with breakouts in below-freezing temperatures, chai spices can be helpful.

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Trade your face mask for a clay mask.
Because of the humidity masks create, Black recommends a clay mask for drawing out toxins. If you tend to deal with dryness despite wearing a mask, skip the clay and use a gentle astringent like witch hazel. Dermatology M Xiao Cuo Mian Mo Cleanse & Clear Face Mask $40, us.dermatology-m.com

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Choose your mask wisely.
Obviously, protection is the number-one priority. But your skin’s happiness can be a close second. Black recommends natural fabric masks: “Anything that’s got a polyester blend is going to be more problematic.”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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Tags: Maskne , acne , pandemic , pimples

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