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Maskne is No Joke—How to Fight Breakouts Under Your Mask

Businesswoman removing protective mask off her face while looking at the camera.

Over the last twelve months, the wearing of face masks has become the rule rather than the exception in most places around the world. In an effort to stop the spread of the pandemic, people all over the globe have adopted the mask habit without question, accepting the minor irritation as a necessary inconvenience in order to defeat Covid-19. For some, though, wearing a mask is more of a problem. For them, maskne is the price they must pay for playing their part. In this article, we examine what maskne is and what you can do to alleviate it.

What is Maskne?

Maskne is a word that encapsulates several skin conditions that are caused by wearing a face mask. These include acne, rosacea, contact dermatitis, and folliculitis. The root cause of most of these problems is clogged pores.

Woman suffering with maskne on her chin after wearing protective face mask.
Humidity Contributes To Facial Acne (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Wearing a mask accelerates the clogging of your pores. The pores on our facial skin are constantly secreting oils, dead skin cells, and bacteria. When the face is free and clear, these can get removed by the atmosphere. However, when we wear a mask, these secretions tend to build up on the cheeks, chin, around the lips, and on the neck. 

Masks also trap humidity around your lower face. This contributes to facial acne. In addition, some mask wearers may, without even realizing it, have an allergy to the material the face mask is made out of or, more likely, the chemicals with which it has been treated. 

The symptoms of the effects of maskne may include itchiness, dryness, and raw skin. Pimples or acne cysts may also develop.

Medical professionals refer to maskne as acne mechanica. It has been a problem for hospital workers and others whose jobs require prolonged mask wearing for decades. However, the massive increase in the wearing of facial masks as a result of the pandemic has brought the issue to the forefront. 

How to Prevent Maskne

If you suffer from maskne, your immediate impulse is most likely to stop wearing a face mask. However, in the current environment that is not an option. Mask wearing is clearly a key strategy in preventing the spread of Covid-19. That means that people who are affected by masks need to find ways to minimize the effects of the condition while still complying with the mask-wearing requirement.

How To Prevent Maskne With Dr. Pimple Popper – SLMD Skincare

Here are five proven ways to minimize the effects of Maskne:

Face Washing

We hear a lot about hand washing in connection with the pandemic. While that is obviously still of vital importance, those who suffer from Maskne need to give equal attention to washing their face. Thoroughly washing your face before you apply your mask will remove any built up dead skin, oils, and bacteria that have accumulated on your skin. 

Use lukewarm water and a gentle, fragrance and alcohol free cleanser to wash your face. When you’re done, pat down your cheeks, chin, and neck with a dry towel. As well as washing your face before applying the mask, you should do so as a matter of course at least three times per day. 

If you are prone to severe acne, apply a medical cleanser, such as benzoyl peroxide.


Using a moisturizer as part of your skin care routine will go a long way toward countering the humidity effects of wearing a face mask. In effect, the moisturizer will serve as a barrier between the mask and your skin. This will reduce friction, which is a significant cause of humidity and irritation. 

Man looking in mirror at bathroom applying moisturizer.
Shop For Moisturizer That Contains Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, Or Dimethicone (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Harry Dao, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist for Loma Linda University Health, recommends shopping for a moisturizer that contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or dimethicone. All of these compounds will fortify your skin against the negative effects of mask-wearing. Avoiding these compounds as a matter of course is also one of the best tips for clear skin

Avoid Makeup

You may feel naked when you leave your home without makeup but there is no getting over the fact that it will make maskne worse. So, if you are prone to getting acne, pimples, or a rash when you wear a face mask, you are smart to ditch the makeup. Makeup will clog up the pores on your facial skin, exacerbating the negative effects of mask-wearing. 

Check out our makeup free beauty tips

Keep Your Mask Clean

If you are using a disposable mask, throw it away after every use. Reusable masks should be washed every day to remove skin and exfoliants that have built up on them. Bacteria from your nose and mouth will also build up on the surface of the mask. Make sure that the mask is thoroughly dried before putting it back on your face.

Fabric masks are soaked in blue plastic basin that water is overflowing ready for washing and rinse.
Reusable Masks Should Be Washed Every Day To Remove Skin And Exfoliants That Have Built Up On Them (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Regular Mask Removal

Keeping a mask on your face all day long is not healthy for anyone. As a result, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends removing your mask every four hours. Keep it off for fifteen minutes to give your face time to  breath and cool off. During this time, give your face a thorough wash, being sure to thoroughly dry it before putting the mask back on. 

Make sure that during the fifteen-minute mask wearing respite period you act socially responsibly. If you are in a mask mandated area, try to stay isolated during that time. 

Best Face Mask for Acne

The best face mask for acne or any other facial skin condition is one that will allow you to fit it smugly on your face. It should be constructed of a soft, comfortable, and natural fabric such as cotton. Do not use a mask that is made from synthetic materials as this is likely to aggravate any pre-existing skin condition you may have. 

Group of young happy friends wearing face mask during Covid pandemic smiling at the camera.
Face Masks Should Be Constructed Of A Soft, Comfortable, And Natural Fabric Such As Cotton (Image Source: Shutterstock)

If you are a person who wears glasses, you should buy a face mask that includes tie strings. This will allow you to ensure that the mask sits tightly across your nose, lessening the glass steaming effect.

What if it Becomes Unbearable?

If, after applying each of the treatment tips recommended here, your maskne doesn’t get any better, you should make an appointment to see a dermatologist. Nobody knows how long the mask-wearing requirement will persist, so you will be far better off getting some professional help early rather than simply putting up with the pain.