Is My Face Mask Causing Me To Break Out and How Do I Stop It?

Editorial Team
January 12, 2021
3 Mins


You’re doing your part to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, ensuring that you practice social distancing and that you wear a face mask that covers your mouth and nose when you’re in a public place.

However, you’re beginning to notice that your face has gotten a lot more red and irritated, and you’re definitely experiencing more acne breakouts than usual. It’s not just you, right?

Fortunately (and unfortunately), you’re not alone as this problem affects many others as well.

This condition is called Mask Acne (or “Maskne”) and is the result of wearing a face mask for hours on end. Besides causing acne breakouts, mask acne can also cause the skin to be itchy, irritated, inflamed and bumpy.

What Causes Mask Acne or Maskne?

Wearing a mask for an extended period of time can cause skin conditions and exacerbate pre-existing ones such as acne, rosacea, folliculitis and contact dermatitis; all of which falls under the umbrella term of “maskne”. 

While the exact root cause will depend on the skin condition, in most instances, maskne is caused by clogged pores. Dead skin cells, oil and bacteria all naturally build up on your face, however when you wear a  face mask for an extended period of time, these substances are given a longer opportunity to build up and block your pores even more. 

Masks are also very humid places, as you both breathe and sweat in them. This in turn increases the likelihood of an acne breakout. 

The friction caused by both the mask’s material and the continued wearing and removal of the mask can also lead to rosacea flare ups due to the chafing and irritation. 

Irritation of the skin can also occur should you be allergic or sensitive to the material that your face mask is made out of, as they could be chemically-treated. Scented detergent used to wash fabric masks could also be a cause of skin irritation as well. 

How Do I Treat My Mask Acne?

It is important that you continue to keep wearing a face mask that covers your mouth and nose as it is an effective way to protect not just you but others around you from spreading and contracting COVID-19. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you should let maskne wreak havoc on your face. Here are some ways to treat maskne: 

1. Regular Face Washes

Given the increased buildup of dead skin cells, oil and bacteria on your face, it is even more important that you regularly wash your face. It is recommended that you wash your face in the morning, before going to bed, and after wearing a mask (especially if you’ve perspired in them). 

Remember to apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer after washing your face to ensure that your skin is hydrated. 

2. Using a Gentle Cleanser

Be sure to use a gentle cleaner to get rid of all the dirt, sweat, excess oil and bacteria that builds up on your face. If you have sensitive skin, it is important to avoid cleansers that are scented or contain alcohol as it could further irritate your skin and prolong the healing process. 

If you find that your case of mask acne is getting more severe, consider using a medicated cleanser that contains ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.  

3. Take a Break From Using Makeup

Makeup products like foundation, blush and concealer can clog up your pores. To speed up the healing process, it is advisable to skip the makeup routine until your face has recovered. 

4. Use Moisturizers with Ceramides and Cortisone Cream

If your mask causes your skin to be irritated and raw, it is suggested that you use a moisturizer with ceramides, along with a cortisone cream. Both skincare products help to relieve irritation and itchiness, and also helps to keep your skin protected and moisturized.

How Do I Stop Getting Mask Acne?

Again, we stress the importance of wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose in public to help curb and prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is likely that you will need to wear face masks for the foreseeable future, so here are some ways to minimize and prevent maskne from occurring: 

1. Throw Away Disposable Mask After Use

After using a disposable face mask, it is important to throw them away properly. It might be worth carrying several new disposable face masks on you, should you find the one you are wearing is getting too moist from sweat and your breath. 

2. Wash Fabric Mask After Use

After using a cloth mask, it is important that they not be reused again until they’ve been put in the wash when you return home. It is recommended that fabric masks should be washed with a hypoallergenic detergent, before being let to dry completely. 

3. Apply A Topical Antibiotic Cream Before Wearing A Mask 

Wearing a face mask for an extended period of time can allow bacteria to build up, which in turn leads to acne. To prevent future acne breakouts, it is recommended that you apply a topical antibiotic gel or cream on your face before putting on your mask. 



The Takeaway

While having to deal with an onslaught of skin issues and acne breakouts due to prolonged mask-wearing can be annoying and frustrating, it is vital that you continue to keep wearing face masks to curb and prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you regularly wash your face, continue to moisturize and keep up with hygienic practices regarding your face masks, mask acne can be tamed and controlled. 

Should your mask acne get more severe, it is advisable that you consult a doctor. Here at Zoey, our doctors are best equipped with the knowledge to help ascertain the root cause of your skin issues. They will be able to advise you on the best treatment suited for you, and can also prescribe you the right medication should you need it.

Articles featured on Zoey are for informational purposes only and should not be constituted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. If you're looking for a healthcare provider, click here.