How to Avoid Maskne (Mask Acne) Breakouts

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / Honayst

If you develop breakouts from wearing a mask, you’re not alone. This condition, known as “maskne” (mask acne), is a common side effect of using a mask. Maskne doesn’t simply cause pimples, though. It may also result in skin issues including redness, bumpiness, and irritation. If you’re concerned about maskne, read on. We’ll explore the potential causes, as well as ways to treat and prevent it.

What to know about maskne skin conditions

Generally, “maskne” is an umbrella term for several skin conditions that can be caused by wearing a face mask or covering. It can include:

  • Acne. Acne happens when your pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and dirt. It can cause pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads.
  • Rosacea. If you have rosacea, wearing a mask may cause flare-ups. This can lead to pimples and redness.
  • Contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs when you’re allergic or sensitive to the material of your mask. It can result in a red rash, along with irritation and blisters.
  • Folliculitis. Folliculitis, or an infection of your hair follicles, causes bumps that look like an acne breakout. You might also experience itchiness or pain.

If you already have one of these conditions, you may be more prone to developing maskne.

What causes it?

Because maskne can involve various skin conditions, the exact cause of your symptoms may vary.

In most cases, maskne is the result of clogged pores. You already have oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells on your skin. But when you wear a mask, these substances can build up more and block your pores.

A mask also traps humidity due to your breathing and sweating, which may increase the risk of acne. Another possible cause is friction. The material of a face covering can rub against your skin, leading to chafing and irritation.

Or you may be sensitive or allergic to the material of your face covering. Some masks are pretreated with chemicals or feel rough on the skin. Similarly, wearing a mask that’s been washed in a scented detergent may cause irritation.

How to treat maskne

It’s essential to keep wearing a face mask, even if you have maskne. Keeping your mouth and nose covered is one of the best ways to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19. There are several ways to treat maskne symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at each step.

Wash your face regularly

During the pandemic, continue following your regular skin care routine to keep your skin healthy. This includes washing your face:

  • once in the morning
  • once at night, before going to bed
  • after sweating or wearing a mask

When washing your face, use lukewarm water. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing your skin as this may cause irritation.

Use a gentle cleanser

A gentle cleanser can help remove excess oil, sweat, and bacteria. Avoid cleansers that contain alcohol or perfume. These ingredients can cause irritation and make it harder for your symptoms to heal.

If your maskne is more severe, try a medicated cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If you have sensitive skin, ask your doctor or dermatologist about the best type of medicated cleanser for your skin.

Use a noncomedogenic moisturizer

After washing your face, apply a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. Use a noncomedogenic product, which likely won’t block your pores.

Apply cortisone cream and moisturizer with ceramides

If your maskne mostly involves irritation and raw skin, you may want to apply a mild cortisone cream to the area together with a moisturizer that contains ceramides. This can help protect your skin and relieve itching and irritation.

Take a break from makeup

Skip the makeup while you’re treating maskne. Beauty products such as foundation, concealer, and blush can clog your pores and prolong healing.

Maskne prevention tips

Since you’ll likely need to continue wearing a face mask in public for the foreseeable future, it might help to follow these maskne prevention tips.

Wash fabric masks after every use

Never reuse a cloth mask without first washing it. Use unscented hypoallergenic laundry detergent, then let it dry completely.

Apply a topical antibiotic cream

It’s not uncommon for bacteria to build up under a mask, which can lead to acne. To prevent this, dermatologists often recommend applying a topical antibiotic cream or gel on your skin before putting on your face mask.

Toss disposable masks after each use

After wearing a disposable mask, throw it away. Consider keeping several face masks on hand in case you need a fresh one.

Remove your mask every 4 hours

The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends removing your mask for 15 minutes every 4 hours. This will help give your skin a break. You should remove your face mask only when you can practice physical distancing with people who aren’t in your household. It’s also important to wash your hands before taking a mask break.

Apply moisturizer before wearing a mask

If your skin tends to be dry, a mask may cause irritation. Applying a noncomedogenic moisturizer can help hydrate your skin. A moisturizer can also serve as a barrier between your skin and the mask.

Choose the right mask

To avoid skin issues, be mindful of the type of mask you wear. Try to wear a face mask that:

  • fits snugly, but not too tight
  • has two or more layers of fabric
  • is made of natural, soft fabric (like cotton)

Avoid masks made of synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or rayon. These materials can irritate the skin.

Wash your face after wearing a mask

Once you’re back at home, wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Follow with a moisturizer to protect your skin. Washing your face is especially important after sweating while wearing a mask.

The bottom line

Maskne, or mask acne, involves acne breakouts from wearing a face mask. Symptoms may include chafing and irritation, along with pimple-like bumps if you have rosacea or dermatitis. Although maskne can be frustrating, it’s important to keep wearing face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Regular face-washing, moisturizing, and wearing the right type of mask may help prevent skin problems. If your maskne is more severe, or if it still persists after trying these recommendations, be sure to follow up with your dermatologist or healthcare provider.