Maskne: Avoiding breakouts and acne from wearing face masks

What is 'Maskne' and what causes it?

"Maskne” is a term used to describe skin breakouts that happen after wearing a mask, especially if it’s being worn long-term. 


The continual rubbing of a mask against your face can lead to chafing and redness.

Dirt & Bacteria

Wearing a mask traps dirt, oil and bacteria against your skin and clogs your pores. Reusing a dirty mask will increase the amount of dirt and bacteria in contact with your skin


Wearing a mask traps dirt, oil and bacteria against your skin and clogs your pores. Reusing a dirty mask will increase the amount of dirt and bacteria in contact with your skin

So how do you combat skin breakouts?

Don’t worry! There are some simple ways to improve your skin health and reduce blemishes under your mask

  1. Before putting on your mask use an oil-free and fragrance-free cleanser. Any dirt or oil on your skin will get trapped under the mask and can cause breakouts.

  2. Use a good moisturiser that can keep your skin hydrated and provide a barrier to friction from your mask. Again choose one that is fragrance-free and oil-free.

  3. Harsh, medicated products like retinol or benzoyl peroxide are amplified under a mask. If you’re wearing a mask for long periods, either use less of them or stop using them altogether.

  4. When experiencing a breakout or skin irritation apply a clay mask. They are great for soothing pimples and removing impurities.

  5. Patch open pimples to create a santised space which treats them throughout the day. It’ll also act as a barrier between your mask and the acne to avoid further irritation.

  6. Avoid wearing makeup under your mask where possible. A light layer of clean makeup in oil-free or non-comedegenic formulas are best for avoiding breakouts.

  7. Don’t touch your mask or your face. Keep your hands clean and away from your face to minimise any additional breakout-causing bacteria.

  8. Save your rich skin care products for the evening, once you're finished with your mask for the day.

  9. Wash your mask after every use. Dirt, oil and dead skin cells along with bacteria from your mouth and nose ends up on your cloth mask.

  10. Consider buying masks treated with an anti-microbial coating which can help to stop the growth of bacteria, mould and mildew in your mask.

  11. Change your mask frequently throughout the day (4 hourly for disposable masks or when wet for both disposable and fabric masks).

  12. Wash your face when you get home after wearing a mask. This will wash away excess sweat, oil, and bacteria and let your skin breathe.


How to treat 4 different kinds of skin issues from face masks

Dryness & skin peeling

This is often the first signs of mask irritation. Over time, your skin can become prone to sensitivity, redness, dark marks, and breakdown. To combat this, always apply moisturiser before wearing your mask. After taking it off, apply a pure petrolatum ointment, such as vaseline.

Redness & swelling

If you experience redness and swelling after taking off your mask, cooling the skin with ice can help. You can use ice packs, ice cubes in a bag or a bag of frozen peas. Wrap it in paper towel and apply to the skin for a few minutes at a time. Follow up with a small amount of hydrocortisone 1% cream, available over-the-counter at most chemists. Use the hydrocortisone sparingly, only as needed after you are done with your mask for the day.

Skin breakdown

If you have fissures or breaks in the skin, protect them with a hydrocolloid dressing before putting your mask on. After removing the mask and washing your face, apply pure petrolatum ointment, such as vaseline, wherever you need it. Prescription barrier cream like EpiCeram, Hylatopic, or Eletone may help if the case is severe.

Acne & breakouts

If you’re getting pimples under your mask, change your moisturiser. Choose one that is “non-comedogenic.” This means it won’t clog your pores. You can try adding a glycolic acid wash or a sulfur soap to your cleansing routine. Avoid leave-on products as they will end up intensified, trapped under the mask. If your breakouts are severe or don’t improve, you may need prescription medications.

Other factors that could be causing skin irritation

Be aware that while it may look like acne, you may be experiencing another form of irritation from your mask.

  • if you have sensitive skin or allergies, be aware of the material that your mask is made of and the detergents you are cleaning it with. You may need to change to a more breathable fabric or a fragrance-free washing detergent.
  • make sure your mask is fitted correctly, too tight or too loose and it may rub uncomfortably on your skin

Should you see a doctor?

If you have skin damage or breakouts that don’t respond to skin care changes, and you have ruled out sensitivity to the fabric and detergents, you should contact a dermatologist.

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