“Maskne”: the skin condition of 2020 that we didn’t see coming

“Maskne”: the skin condition of 2020 that we didn’t see coming

As we’ve watched the world adjust to a new everyday accessory – the mask – the focus has been on their safety and, unsurprisingly, the way they look when paired with our favourite outfits.

What we didn’t see coming was the fact that our skin is now having to deal with a new environment beneath the masks which happens to be the perfect environment for breakouts. How long will it be before the first “Maskne” combatting products hit our retail stores?

The Tokyo Weekender, a popular English beauty magazine in Japan, has declared maskne “one of 2020’s most widespread skincare problems,” and sufferers have taken to Twitter and Instagram to gripe about their new crops of pimples popping up. Even if you’ve been spared so far, the summer’s sweat-inducing temperatures and increasing humidity are poised to make many complexions worse.

So what’s causing it? The scientific term is “acne mechanica,” meaning the mechanical friction of the mask fabric rubbing against your skin is causing breakouts. “It’s creating a warm, moist environment for extra skin oils to proliferate, and for bacteria to become trapped, thus clogging pores.”

The good news is we are lucky to have some beautiful natural ingredients to help with this new predicament.

Think natural or naturally-inspired ingredients that are proven to support stressed and challenged skin. And formulations to prep the skin and provide a healthy barrier to the skin. I hope that if we see products coming into market to combat this condition that they’ll be using the best of what’s available to extend some kindness to our skin.

Here are my picks of some favourite ingredients:

  • Light nourishing plant oils such as Rosehip Oil, Bakuchiol – aka the New Plant-Based Retinol alternative – Macadamia Oil, Chia Seed Oil, Jojoba Oil and Almond Oil.
  • Natural extracts and actives to soothe and calm – Turmeric, Echinacea, Calendula, Chamomile (Bisabolol), Pre- and Pro- Biotics (BIODINE V), Cucumber extract, Aloe Vera, Colloidal Oatmeal and Allantoin.
  • Gentle effective cleansing antibacterial and exfoliating actives: Salicylic Acid, Citrus Fruit enzymes, Tea Tree Oil, Mānuka Oil, Kombucha, Activated Charcoal and Witch Hazel.

During my time with Trilogy International I worked with one of my all-time favourite ingredient blends which I used for formulations as part of a full calming skin range, which always received fantastic reviews.

SyriCalm™ CLR (PC)

SyriCalm™ is a natural product derived from Poria cocos and Phragmites. It effectively reduces inflammation and strongly supports skin in dealing with external stresses. Additionally, SyriCalm™ is designed to give effective support where the skin is challenged by environmental stress, e.g. shaving, depilation or daily hygiene. It helps the skin recover its natural balance.

Available as SyriCalm™ CLR (PC) and SyriCalm™ CLR.

INCI Name :

SyriCalm™ CLR (PC): Water, Phragmites Communis Extract, Poria Cocos Extract

SyriCalm™ CLR: Water, Phragmites Karka Extract, Poria Cocos Extract

Dosage :

3.0 %

pH range :

3.0 – 8.0

Solubility :


Preservation :

sodium benzoate

In conformity with the Ecocert Standard for Natural and Organic Cosmetics available at http://cosmetics.ecocert.com;

COSMOS approved raw material. NATRUE-certified. Halal-certified.  CLR Certificates


These are some of my favourite natural skincare brands which could inspire natural “Maskne” brands:

Pure Peony Root Skin Clarifying Face Mask – to cleanse and brighten.

With healing properties of New Zealand organically-grown white peony root, essential oils of bergamot and mandarin, aqua, avocado oil, cocoa butter, emulsifiers and natural preservative GeoGuard.


Carbon White Gentle Foaming Jelly Face Cleanser – to deeply clean, detoxify and help clear impurities from the skin.

With New Zealand native Kawakawa extract to clarify and tone, angelica root extract to soften and soothe – leaving skin refreshed and energised, skin-boosting jojoba oil to infuse the skin with potent vitamins of A, D & E, skin conditioning and skin brightening licorice root extract providing anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe irritated skin.


Having the best ingredients and good formulations is one thing, but it’s also important to adopt a skincare routine that fits your lifestyle – especially as our skin is facing additional stress – to give your skin the best chance of maintaining its natural beauty.

  • Skin prep – clean your skin thoroughly before and after wearing a mask. If you’re wearing one for a long period of time, don’t hesitate to wipe your skin down with a micellar water and give it a spritz with a face mist every so often
  • Create a barrier – layering your skincare can also help create a barrier between your skin and what’s going on outside of it – whether it’s in a mask or not
  • Treat rashes and breakouts ASAP – use a healing ointment or balm overnight to calm down stressed skin
  • Wash your hands or use a sanitiser before you touch your face. Every time.
  • Wear a fresh mask – whenever available, or wear a washable fabric mask – and make sure that you wash it after each wearing

It’s safe to say that none of us expected such a change to affect details such as our daily skincare routine, but there’s no reason for the health of our skin, and our outward beauty to suffer just because we adjust to a new normal. Despite the strange times we find ourselves in, we can also consider this an opportunity for new innovation using the wonderful natural ingredients that we’re lucky to be able to use.

Want to know more about new ingredient launches? Check out our latest personal care ingredients round-up.

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In my role as a Design Practice Teaching Fellow at the University of Canterbury's School of Product Design, I leverage my extensive background in entrepreneurial ventures and industry experience spanning cosmetic chemistry, marketing, design, and brand management. My mission is to empower and guide the upcoming generation of product designers. With over three years in this position, I have supported numerous students in honing their abilities, fostering their creativity, and building their confidence to craft innovative and impactful personal care products and brands. My dedication lies in bridging innovation, curiosity, and creative expression to produce formulations, products, and brands that truly differentiate themselves. Holding a Diploma of Personal Care Formulation from the Institute of Personal Care Science, my involvement has stretched across various initiatives and bodies within the cosmetic sector, including Cosmetics New Zealand and NZSCC New Zealand. I am perpetually in pursuit of fresh challenges and avenues for personal and professional development, finding my deepest fulfillment in witnessing the achievements of others.

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