Maskne caused by facemask

[fusion_dropcap class="fusion-content-tb-dropcap"]T[/fusion_dropcap]he CDC recommends that we all wear masks in public settings to lessen the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues, more places require the use of a face mask because studies have shown the effectiveness of doing so.

If you’re prone to breakouts, sometimes masks can make it worse. For others, masks can cause rashes and other skin issues on the face.

This new phenomenon, called “maskne” (a play on mask+acne), isn’t only related to acne. You might notice random facial breakouts, thanks to face mask use.

Keep reading to learn about how you can treat common facial skin problems while wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.

How Does a Face Mask Cause Acne and Skin Damage?

Skin damage due to wearing a mask has been an ongoing complaint of healthcare workers. But now that most of us are wearing masks in public, we’re all at risk for these conditions.

The most common issues that arise from face masks are acne, raw, irritated skin, and sore skin behind your ears.

There are three main ways masks cause these issues: rubbing, irritation, and occlusion.


When worn for too long, masks irritate your skin through friction and chafing. The effect is similar to rug burn. The bridge of the nose and behind your ears are the most at-risk areas.

Over time, a mask that fits too tightly will put too much pressure on your skin, breaking it down in the process.


Masks are usually made of cotton, a material that absorbs your skin’s natural oils. For people with sensitive skin, this can lead to dryness and more sensitivity.

If you’re wearing a reusable mask, washing it with detergent and fabric softener can also irritate, as the chemicals can get stuck underneath the mask.

This irritation can turn into inflammation, characterized by dry patches, redness, peeling, and dark marks.


Face masks can also cause occlusion to occur, which clogs your pores and leads to acne cysts or pimples. Think about it: your breath is trapped under your mask, creating a moist environment.

This warm, moist environment can cause folliculitis, which occurs when yeast or bacteria infect hair follicles.

Who Is More Prone to Maskne?

Some people wearing masks are more likely to experience irritation and acne than others. Your risk increases if you are already living with skin issues, including:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Atopic dermatitis (or eczema)
  • Allergies
  • Sensitivity to humid or dry air

It’s important to remember that the skin around your mouth, chin, and nose is super delicate. You can develop a condition called perioral dermatitis, similar to rosacea, leading to recurring bouts of bumpy, red rash around your mouth and chin.

In some cases, perioral dermatitis will appear around your eyes, as well. This is more likely in women between the ages of 20 and 60.

Preventing Common Skin Problems While Wearing a Mask

Some of the issues we’ve discussed can be solved by wearing a properly fitted mask, while others may require an adjustment to your skincare routine.

Let’s discuss several ways you can prevent or treat skin issues while wearing a face mask.

Ensure Proper Fit

It’s vital to make sure your mask fits properly. It should fit your face and cover both your mouth and your nose. If it gaps excessively, your mask can chafe your skin, but it also shouldn’t be too tight.

Masks with ties are often easier to adjust to the size and shape of your face. Keep this in mind when making a DIY face mask. A bendable piece of metal or plastic at the bridge of your nose can ensure proper fit and keep your mask from fogging up your eyeglasses.

To reduce skin issues, look for masks that provide the following:

  • A comfortable, snug fit. If the mask is too tight or slides around your face, it will irritate your skin. You’re also more likely to reach up and adjust a mask that doesn’t fit properly. This increases the risk of transferring germs from your hands to your face.
  • Natural, soft, breathable fabric, such as cotton. If you have sensitive skin, search for masks with cloth that is soft in the inside. Ensure it’s a cotton material on the inside if you have oily skin or are prone to acne.
  • Avoid synthetic fabrics. Polyester, nylon, and rayon are more likely to cause breakouts from skin irritation.

Take Breaks When Possible

If you’re required to wear a mask all day because of work, make sure to take a 15-minute break from wearing a mask every four hours.

Of course, only remove your mask when you’re not in a public area and it’s safe to do so—and only after washing your hands. The safest places for a “mask break” include outdoors and away from people, inside your car, or at home.

Keep Them Clean

Think about everything that touches your face. That sweat, mucus, and saliva will live on your face mask until you rewash it.

It’s recommended to wash your face mask after each time you wear it. Not only does this kill any bacteria, but it removes dead skin cells and oils that collect inside of your mask, which can cause skin issues.

You can wash your masks by hand or in the washing machine. Just:

  • Follow the washing instructions provided on each mask
  • Use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent
  • Wash masks in hot water unless the instructions say differently
  • Check its shape after washing, as some masks may shrink or stretch

Treat and Protect Your Skin

How you choose to treat and protect your skin depends on the skin problems you’re experiencing.

If you’re suffering from acne: Wash your face after taking off your mask. Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer afterward. If you still see new acne or your acne is getting worse, you should talk to your skin care speciaist to determine the best way to approach your skin type.

If you have raw, irritated skin: Protect your raw skin by applying petroleum jelly to the sore spots on your face before bed. The jelly will protect raw areas so that they can heal.

If the skin behind your ears is sore: If you can choose what type of mask to wear, look for ones with different kinds of ear loops and ties. If you wear a different kind of mask each day, you won’t irritate the same areas repeatedly.

You can also visit a medical spa for acne treatment and maintenance. Laser treatments, chemical peels, and other facial treatments are options if all else fails when searching for a solution. Your dermatologist may be able to offer you medical-grade skincare products or create an at-home regimen for you to follow.

Face Washing and Moisturizing 101

Above all else, it’s essential to cleanse and moisturize your face daily.

It’s vital to use a fragrance-free, mild cleanser on your face. Ensure that it doesn’t contain alcohol.

First, wet your face with warm water and apply cleanser with your fingertips. Using a mesh sponge, washcloth, or something other than your bare fingertips can also irritate your skin. Rinse off remaining cleanser with warm water and pat dry using a soft towel.

If your skin is dry or itchy, apply moisturizer. Don’t pull too hard on the skin around your eyes as you apply cream—that’s a sensitive area.

You can prevent breakouts from using moisturizer by using one that’s formulated for your skin type. If you have oily skin, stick with a gel moisturizer. Those with normal or combination skin should use lotion and dry skin calls for cream.

Limit your face washing to twice a day, and always after sweating. Washing your face once in the morning and once at night ensures that you’re not overwashing your face, causing more irritation.

Also, keep in mind that sweat from wearing a hat, helmet, or ask irritates the skin. That’s why you should again wash your face after sweating.

When to Visit Your Skin Care Specialist

Any skin breakdown or face mask irritation that doesn’t heal, despite your efforts at treatment, warrants a visit.

You should also call your doctor if you have a rash that’s spreading or worsening or notice signs of an infection. It’s essential to get a professional opinion, especially if your job or daily routine involves wearing a face mask for hours.

Facials can be an effective way to treat maskne. They provide corrective benefits for your skin while providing relief from stress and deep relaxation.

If you would like to learn more or schedule an appointment for a medical spa service, call 727-577-9250 or click here.

About the Author: Cosette Saba Saliba, APRN

Avatar of Cosette Saba Saliba, APRN
Cosette Saba, ARNP, is the dedicated owner of Indulgence Medical Day Spa since 2012. With her expertise as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, Cosette ensures personalized skincare and advanced medical aesthetics for every client. She is committed to health, wellness, and delivering transformative results as a premier destination for beauty and rejuvenation.

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