The rise and rise of Maskne – is the new skincare problem set to be a fleeting trend or a marketing staple?

The rise and rise of Maskne – is the new skincare problem set to be a fleeting trend or a marketing staple?

While the grip of the pandemic has reached its peak for many countries, with lockdowns across the globe tentatively being loosened, preventative measures to reduce the risk of a second peak are being implemented by governments. Hand washing, two-metre rules and, of course, the not-a-political-statement health precaution of mask wearing. And who could have predicted that the wearing of masks would be to lipsticks downfall, but, it seems, create a lucrative marketing angle for skincare manufacturers? Indeed, there were many fallouts from the COVID-19 pandemic that could have been predicted early on – an economic crash, job losses, travel limitations – but the onslaught of ‘Maskne’, the latest skincare problem caused by masks, and a potential industry money spinner, was not one of them. 

According to the New York Times, Maskne is the acne, and is caused by skin irritation as a result of mask wearing, with the most common form being acne mechanica. Such is the seriousness of the new skin ailment, that the American Academy of Dermatology (A.A.D.) released data on it. Consultant dermatologist and acne specialist Dr Faheem​ Latheef told The Standard, “With the COVID-19 pandemic stress levels have certainly resulted in flare ups of pre-existing acne and other related skin conditions but in addition to this a new type of acne, dubbed ‘maskne’ – these are little pimples that appear at sites occluded by face masks worn during the pandemic.” So, what causes it? Well, according to Latheef, “We refer to this as acne mechanica, as a result of the masks causing friction on the skin surface and breakdown of the skin barrier resulting in the clogging of the pores which can result in spots, but also contact dermatitis (dry skin).”

Yet while we media folks may just be leaping on the new skincare term, it’s been a serious problem for some since the Great Virus Crisis (GVC) began, and no more so than for the heroes of the pandemic. You guessed it, the frontline workers putting themselves at risk to save lives day in day out, also have the added suffering of Maskne from the mandatory PPE equipment. 

Of course, mask wearing has been popular in Asia long before Miss Rona reared her ugly head, so in this area, skincare solutions for the problem are commonplace. However, according to an online survey by Shiseido, concerns are increasing. Indeed, the survey showed that as many as 99% of respondents expressed concerns about mask wearing, which are expected to become more severe as temperatures and humidity rise. Meanwhile over in the West, where mask wearing is a new and decidedly unwelcome development, Google searches for ‘mask acne’ have skyrocketed since the pandemic began, with consumers and frontline workers looking for solutions. Likewise, Dr. Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist in Manhattan, told the New York Times, “Conversations about acne have hit a record high in my practice and in my direct message box on Instagram.” And the industry has been listening. 

As ever, brands have been quick to evolve to a new trend, and it seems that education is the means by which many are looking to capitalize, in turn promoting their products to treat it. Shiseido responded to its survey by releasing its top tips on wearing a mask comfortably in summer, while, as highlighted by Glossy, there has been a plethora of skincare companies upping their marketing game during the GVC. K Beauty brand Peach & Lily noted that by April, 10% of all online skin consultations related to Maskne, and as a result it curated a list of 18 products called the “Maskne Essentials,” which are, of course, sold through its website. In a clever marketing move, the brand has since evolved to offering online advice, with CEO Alice Yoon stating, “Once we share our messaging more widely with consumers, rather than answering [one-off] inbound questions, we forecast that more people will look at the Maskne Essentials page.”

BalmLabs has also invested in social media education in relation to coronavirus, Dr Jart+ has curated a collection of ‘Maskne Essentials’ on its website, while Hero Cosmetics recently posted a blog entry on the subject, according to the New York Times. 

The question, of course, is whether this is a trend to stay, or one that will fizzle out as quickly as it began? According to Glossy, while brands have been keen to engage in product-promoting tutoring online and promote/develop products, investment into advertising and influencer marketing campaigns have been lacking, indicating a lack of commitment to the financial benefit from Maskne long term. That said, with the dreaded pandemic looking to be around for the immediate future, it may be something that brands want to reconsider. While some in the U.S. may deem mask wearing to be a political statement, most consumers are keen to wear the new face accessory as a preventative health measure, protecting themselves and others. And as lockdowns continue to be lifted, global mask wearing will inevitably grow, seemingly making it a trend not to be missed by savvy skincare brands.