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Remember back in March when Googling “How to make a mask” was a popular question among search engines? That gave way to stories like “Where to Buy Face Masks That are Stylish Online” and “16 Stylish Effective Fabric Face Masks,” among a slew of others.

But as of late, fashion companies aren’t the only ones crafting masks for brand devotees. Skin-care and wellness brands are following suit, many imbuing masks with treatment benefits to combat skin issues including acne and irritation — aka maskne — that have arisen from frequent mask wearing.

According to Trendalytics, masks and maskne are top of mind for consumers. The company reports that online searches for face masks over the last three months has increased about 1,000 percent and that the term maskne is also seeing accelerated growth — 2,317.4 percent to be exact — when it comes to average weekly searches.

“Conversations about acne has hit a five-year record high,” said Sarah Barnes, content marketing manager at Trendalytics. “Searches for acne are currently up 20 percent to last year.”

Barnes noted that when looking at the search curve for acne, it hit a sharp decline around the COVID-19 outbreak when people’s priorities may have been adjusted and they weren’t so concerned about skin care. But then Trendalytics saw a sharp increase. “The levels of searches for acne are currently higher than they’ve ever been,” she said. “The issue of maskne is real. The acne conversation was already popular, and it’s just going to continue to grow with the current cultural climate.”

That impact is starting to be seen in sales. The NPD Group reports that year-to-date through June 2020, anti-acne prestige skin care has grown by 6 percent. In the mass market, Nielsen’s measurement of grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries, shows in the 21-week period ending July 25, acne facial treatment sales increased by 3.7 percent.

Aestheticians and dermatologists are witnessing the acne aftermath of frequent mask wearing firsthand. “Clients who have never broken out in the lower jawline and around the mouth area are experiencing acne, which comes from wearing a mask,” said Camille Fields, a Los Angeles-based aesthetician. “Sweat and bacteria are getting trapped between the mask and your skin, which creates that break out.”

Fields has been donning a silver ion mask from BioTherapeutics and suggests them to her clients. “Silver is very antimicrobial and antibacterial, so this is more protective against bacteria and viruses,” she said.

New York-based dermatologist Dr. Rose Ingleton, who’s seen an increase in acne, contact dermatitis and rosacea in patients, recommends wearing a mask with a natural fabric that’s breathable in lightweight cotton or silk. “I would avoid synthetic fabrics,” Ingleton said. “Also, it is safer to choose white fabrics as some people have allergies to fabric dyes in the more colorful masks.

Like BioTherapeautics, a slew of beauty brands have pivoted from their core business to develop masks that won’t irritate the skin.

The Light Salon, which is based in London, is launching its Anti-Viral Mask in September for its customer base and skin therapists to wear while performing facials. “The masks are made from lightweight, biodegradable organic bamboo viscose and are treated with ViralOff virus reducing technology, a treatment of textiles that stops viral activity through interaction with key proteins,” said Laura Ferguson, cofounder of The Light Salon.

According to the brand, the polygenie coating, which is made of titanium dioxide and silver chloride, has been tested against influenza A, bird flu, norovirus and SARS over the years, and has achieved 99 percent levels of reduction.

“We have seen an increase in blemishes and acne across our therapists and customers, due to the prolonged wearing of masks,” Ferguson said. “The Anti-Viral Mask has an antimicrobial effect, which means the mask is self-cleaning, so less washing prevents the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. Also, the technology does not interfere with the skin’s natural bacteria flora, which offers another level of protection.”

Similarly, Night, a wellness brand that prioritizes sleep, launched a face mask in its signature mulberry silk textile. “We’re making fabrications that are for long use for skin and hair, so there’s not much of a jump from making a pillowcase that is going to spend all night with your face versus a mask that’s going to spend all day,” said the brand’s founder, Kalle Simpson.

But the brand got into the business of face coverings by happenstance. As a New York-based company, Night used its resources to help supply health-care workers in New York City with PPE thanks to their overseas manufacturer. Their first venture was a donation to Memorial Sloan Kettering, but they started to receive feedback about how irritating the masks were on the skin.

“Very quickly, the conversation became about how can we do this in relation to our core business,” Simpson said. “Silk is super compatible with the skin, it’s naturally hypoallergenic, and it’s going to automatically mitigate breakouts because it’s so gentle.”

But Simpson didn’t stop at silk. She had access to the melt blown material used in N95 masks and decided to create a disposable filter that can be added to her non-surgical silk masks. “Melt blown creates a filtration effect,” she says. “It protects against 95 percent of bacteria particles. If you’re using materials like cotton, that’s a super abrasive fabric. It’s a fabric that can pick up dust mites and irritants and then redeposit them into your skin. We do not market ourselves as hospital-grade, but health-care workers are asking if they can wear the silk mask underneath their normal mask to protect their skin, and we’ve seen good results from that.”

The brand has also partnered with the U.S. Postal Office and is the official manufacturer and supplier of their bamboo masks. According to industry sources, Night has done $4 million in mask sales with $750,000 in silk masks since April, the bulk of which came from their USPS deal.

Meanwhile, Slip launched its silk face mask about a month ago and even though they had been prototyping the idea for awhile, they pulled the trigger when retailers started asking for it. “We just launched with Revolve and sold out within two days,” says Fiona Stewart, cofounder and chief executive officer of Slip. “Nordstrom has taken them, Cult Beauty, Selfridges, and Sephora in Australia, too. Most of our major retailers are taking them because they see the need for the face covering.”

A silk face mask was a natural progression for Slip. The company employs the same fabrication as their best-selling pillowcases and scrunchies due to the gentle nature it has on the skin. Each mask is outfitted with three layers (two silk and one cotton sandwiched in between) per CDC recommendations. It also has an adjustable nose wire to mold to the face and its machine washable. “The mask sales have gone crazy because this need is so high,” Stewart adds. “Time will tell if they outsell our hero products like the silk pillowcase and scrunchies, but it’s doing extremely well.”

Even Sephora has its own washable cloth face mask, which is exclusive to all U.S. stores. The mask, $10, is sold out in most locations and 50 percent of proceeds benefit the Stronger Together Fund through Tides.

Asia, who has always accepted masks as a cultural norm, has a slew of innovations in the works. For example, in South Korea, electronics company LG developed a mask equipped with miniature fans that draw in fresh air. Air pressure sensors on the mask activate the fans, which bring in air through the filter each time the user inhales.

Also thinking ahead is apparel company, Cox, which is within the Aeon group, Japan’s largest supermarket company. They are planning to release a mask made with synthetic fabric that has a cooling sensation and another iteration that uses natural xylitol based in the fabric. When the ingredient reacts with sweat, it cools the fabric temperature down.

Top Three Takeaways:

1. The irritation is real. Online searches relating to masks and maskne are up 1,000 percent over the last three months.

2. Facial coverings are becoming a beauty category, with benefits that look to eradicate common complaints like skin irritation and acne, while protecting against airborne pathogens.

3. Emerging technologies include fabric coatings that do everything from cool the skin to kill bacteria, disposable filters and air pressure sensors to regulate the amount of air coming in and out.

Mask Force

An increasing number of beauty-related brands are launching face masks with built-in benefits to combat the irritation caused by frequent wearing. Here, Beauty Inc rounds up the most innovative options on the market. — Jayme Cyk

Night, $55

Night’s 100 percent mulberry silk mask consists of three layers, including a filter made from the same material as an N95 surgical mask to block out dust, bacteria and allergens. For every silk mask purchased, Night donates five surgical masks to health-care workers.

Disccovernight.com

Rituel de Fille, $14.50

In collaboration with Los Angeles-based Bomme Studio, makeup brand Rituel de Fille has created a reusable and sanitizable cloth face mask constructed from high-quality densely woven, breathable dual-ply cotton fabric made to CDC and Kaiser Permanente’s guidelines.

Ritueldefille.com

Slip, $39

Slip’s machine washable mask iteration is made with three layers (two 100 percent mulberry silk and one cotton sandwiched in between) per the CDC recommendations. The wellness brand will be donating 5 percent of sales from each face-covering in the U.S to Baby2Baby between June 18 to Sept. 18, with a minimum donation of $75,000.

Slip.com

Kitsch, three for $12.

Kitsch Cotton Face Masks are made of three 100 percent cotton layers. Both washable and reusable, Kitsch used a sustainably sourced natural material (also used for their scrunchies) that is breathable and easy to clean.

Mykitsch.com

The Light Salon, $50

Launching in September, The Light Salon’s Anti-Viral Mask is said to protect against airborne diseases without interfering with the skin’s natural bacterial flora. In collaboration with ViralOff Polygenie Technology, a mix of titanium dioxide and silver chloride, this mask is made from organic bamboo viscose and coated with polygenie.

Thelight-salon.com

EmerginC, $20

EmerginC’s Raw Cloth Mask is both reusable and biodegradable. Wanting to maintain an eco-friendly product, this face-covering includes six layers of protection and has a viscose layer made from waste wood.

Emerginc.com

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