Face Masks, Trapped Perspiration, And Acne: A Survival Guide

Photo Credit: Kimberly Zhang

You’ve been masked up for over a year, and the evidence is written all over your face. Let’s assess the damage and get on the road to clear skin.

One look in the mirror, and you’re immediately distracted by the sprinkling of blackheads across your nose. The yellow-tinged whiteheads on your cheeks call for your attention. And you just can’t stop reaching for that mountain of a zit on your chin.

You’ve got maskne, and bad.

Acne, clogged pores, and stagnant sweat have left their mark, and it’s time to kick them to the curb. We’ve put together a plan of attack that’ll have you seeing clear skin in your reflection in just five steps.

1. Assess the Damage

Like it or not, it’s time to get up close and personal with your sad skin situation. With a clean face and good lighting, take photos from the front and sides of your face. Document the true status of your skin to give you a benchmark for your acne treatment plan.

Once you’ve taken your photos, write down what you see. Crack open a new notebook and date the first page with your overall assessment. Take note of patches of dry skin, pimples, blackheads, and other clear skin offenders before you begin your assault.

2. Commit to Behavioral Change

Now that you know what you’re working with, determine what best practices you’ll need to unleash. Starting with positive changes to your routine will put you on the path to lasting complexion improvements.

We all know that staying healthy starts with what we eat. Have you been eating a balanced diet with skin-nourishing foods? Vitamin-rich leafy greens, fish full of omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidant powerhouses like berries are key to a skin-loving diet. Prioritize foods that nourish you and drink plenty of water to hydrate your skin and aid in digestion.

What if we told you that one of the secrets to clear skin lies between your sheets? A great night’s sleep could be the jump-start you need on your quest for clear skin. Your skin goes into repair mode as you explore dreamland. Lack of sleep can also increase your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can further exacerbate your skin woes. Experts suggest aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

3. Develop a Skincare Routine That You Love

Whether you’re a skincare addict or a newbie, creating a routine is essential for caring for your body’s largest organ. Even if the beauty angle isn’t your priority, working toward clearing your acne is important for overall skin health.

Breakouts are one of the ways your body is telling you something isn’t quite right. Pimples are tiny traps of dirt, oil, and bacteria; they should be given the same attention as a wound. For optimal skin health, smoother texture, and fresh appearance, a strategic skincare routine is worth your time.

Skincare gurus preach that there is a method to the madness behind skincare product selection, order, and timing. Consider the following product lineups and sequences for both your morning and evening routines.

  • Morning: Cleanser, toner, serum, eye cream, spot treatment, moisturizer, sunscreen
  • Evening: Dual cleansers (oil cleanser then traditional cleanser), toner or booster, eye cream, treatments (e.g., serums, peels), moisturizer, night cream

In addition to over-the-counter skincare, your breakouts may be stubborn enough that you may need to consider prescription treatment.

4. Implement Your Plan and Track Your Progress

Now that you’ve got your skin care plan, it’s time to do the work. Stay on top of your routine and log your progress daily with photos and notes. If treated and un-picked, pimples typically clear up in a week.

With unnecessary intervention, picked pimples can stick around for weeks longer — and could leave a scar. Save yourself the pain both in the moment and later. Keep your hands off of your face unless you’re cleansing or applying a treatment.

In a few weeks, your breakout is gone, and you couldn’t be more relieved. But don’t stop now. Review your progress photos and document how long it took for your treatment to work. Was there anything you’d do differently?

Take notes now while your memory is fresh. Identify the products and approach you liked and determine what you can likely skip when an inevitable breakout returns. Masks or not, acne happens.

5. Prevent future breakouts

Your skin is clear, and life is great. It’ll be this way forever, right? We wish. You’ve earned great results because of your intentional efforts. To keep your skin looking fresh and clear, you’ve got to stay on top of your routine. Once you’ve dialed in your product lineup, continue prioritizing nutrient-rich foods in your diet, staying hydrated, and getting adequate sleep.

If you’ve added prescription medications to your treatment plan, take them consistently. Faithfully follow the dosing and food pairing recommendations provided by your healthcare provider.

Always keep the things that touch your face clean. Those acne-inducing masks should be replaced daily. If you’re using disposables, keep backups in your car or bag so you’re not tempted to reuse a dirty one. If you prefer cloth, make sure you have enough so you can switch out for a fresh one each morning.

The cleaning doesn’t start and end with masks, though. Change your pillowcase weekly, wipe your phone screen regularly, and keep your hands off of your face.

Makeup and their brushes can be a sneaky source of breakouts, too. Wash your brushes weekly and keep an eye on the age of your products. Bacteria can build up over time, and using expired makeup can be risky. Product labels are marked with the number of months the item is good for after opening. Review your makeup bag and replace items past their prime.

With an honest assessment, intentional plan, and consistent effort, you’ll be on your way to clear skin. If you’re feeling brave, consider sharing your skincare journey with your friends and on social media. You may just inspire others to tackle their skincare concerns. And with you in their corner, they’ll have a proven toolkit and a trusted, clear-skinned confidant to rely on.


Kimberly Zhang is an entrepreneur that leads the editorial team at Under30CEO, a publication and community focused on educating the next generation of leaders. She’s written for numerous major publications and has a column at Entrepreneur Magazine.

Written In Partnership With Kimberly Zhang