Acne & Face Masks Part I: The MASKPERIMENT

Nightmare scenario – I tried a new mask a couple weeks ago and my entire face broke out! I thought it was stress or the changing of the seasons. However, I noticed that when I switched masks, the acne went away.

This prompted me to ask the question
was it my mask?

As a mask designer, I am constantly creating and testing mask materials and styles; wearing new masks for a week at a time and sometimes longer. As a graduate of design school, I am also aware that different fabrics can cause skin conditions such as allergic reactions, chafing, and what the internet has come to refer to as “Mask-ne,” acne from wearing a mask. This dreaded “mask-ne” got me good! 

It is hard to look at acne on my face as a lucky thing, but I suppose as a mask designer subjecting my face to various mask-related experiments is a sacrifice I am willing to make. With 9 months of designing masks behind me, I’m in a uniquely qualified position to perform this experiment. My current mask designs are light years away from my 1st proto-type, deeply rooted in CDC recommendations, health research, studies, client feedback, and quality natural fabrics. And now with my breakout, I had a willing subject and all the evidence I needed to perform my “Maskperiment“. 

After ruling out environmental and circumstantial factors, I took a hard look at the masks I’d worn leading up to my big breakout. Was it the fabric? They were a mix of Cotton, Mulberry Silk, and Wool. Was I not cleaning them diligently? I feel embarrassed to say this, but even I do not wash my masks after every wear. Instead I drench them with alcohol and let them dry in a mask case. Not perfect, but let’s be real, I prefer to use my masks like the average person so I can create them for the average person.

I suddenly found myself asking a question I didn’t consider until now; what is the best fabric & mask hygiene to keep my skin clear?

Welcome to My R&D Studio: THE MASKPERIMENT

First and foremost, I needed to establish a “Baseline,” which means minimizing the factors that could affect this experiment. I decided that to do this I would first stay home to give my face a break from wearing a mask all together. What about the masks? Well, because I am always putting them in my pocket, purse, backpack, etc., I wanted to make sure there was nothing on the masks. To reset them, I washed ALL of my masks by hand with hypoallergenic laundry detergent that has never irritated my skin.

Second, I needed to establish my “Research” parameters. Basically, this is the best effort at standardizing the experiments so that you can compare the results side by side. For example, sometimes I run and sometimes I do other workouts. It would not be fair to test one mask on a week where I run and sweat into it, and test another mask on a week I don’t run. So, the actual stuff I was doing in the masks had to be identical too, besides several other factors.

Fabrics being tested: 100% Woven Cotton & 100% Woven Silk Charmeuse
I used these fabrics exclusively for my mask designs. 

Fabric NOT being tested: Knits, T-shirts Materials, Bandanas & Synthetic Fabrics
There are many fabrics not suitable for masks that spend a lot of time on your face or for protecting you from airborne nasty stuff. For that reason, I will not be testing these fabrics as I do not use them in mask production and you probably wouldn’t want to use them either.

Why? After reading study after study from the CDC and other internationally recognized medical authorities, I produced an article detailing all the information I learned about different fabrics. You can read about it in this article, Do Not Wear Masks Made of This Fabric!

The Plan
In order to perform the “Maskperiment”, I decided to wear each kind of mask exclusively for 1 week or until signs of telltale mask-ne appear. To avoid any problems like a mask being made from a different material than advertised (sometimes polyester is used to simulate silk!), I will exclusively wear masks I’ve handmade with materials I’ve hand selected from reliable sources. This is also helpful to avoid any perception of bias against other brands. In addition, I will continue my skin care routine and mask care routine as usual so as not to skew any results.  

While I’m on this continual quest to improve my mask’s wear-ability and health benefits, I must add that I have great friends and colleagues with their own companies that produce beautiful face masks, many of which I personally wear.  While I have no idea what the outcome of this experiment will be, this is all in the spirit of exploration and research for my face masks, which I think helps everyone!  As you read the results below, please know that everyone’s skin is different and my personal experience can and will be different from others. 

What do you predict?

What’s your prediction, how will these fare on my fair skin? Which do you think could potentially cause Maskne? Why?

For my results and more information on this topic check out Acne & Face Masks Part II: What Fabric Is Best For Your Skin?