Maskne is Real, Part II

We talked about the fact that “maskne” is real in Part I of this two-part blog series. The good news is, if wearing a mask is irritating your skin or causing breakouts, there are things you can do to prevent and treat it.

The best mask for your skin

First things first– choose the right mask. The type of mask you wear will affect how your skin responds to being covered for long periods of time. While certain jobs, especially medical or front-line service positions, will require a certain type of personal protective equipment, the majority of mask wearers should choose a mask that has:

  • A comfortable fit (snug against the nose, cheeks and chin, but not so tight that it rubs)
  • Natural, breathable fabric, such as cotton (synthetics tend to irritate skin and cause more breakouts)
  • Cotton material inside for oily or acne-prone skin

Wash your mask

Masks become contaminated with microbes, skin care products, makeup and more as you wear them. If you leave your mask in a hot car until the next use, for example, it becomes a petri dish for bacteria.

The best way to combat this is to keep your mask clean and dry. Wash cloth masks regularly following the instructions on the packaging. If the mask is homemade, machine or hand wash it in hot water. Use a dye-free, fragrance-free detergent (chemicals can cause or worsen skin irritation). In a perfect scenario, you would wash your mask after each use.

Use a gentle skin care routine

If you are experiencing mask-related breakouts, wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser using just your hands (no washcloth or abrasive sponges). Apply a moisturizer to protect the skin barrier. If you have acne-prone skin, use a moisturizer designed for oily skin.

Choose products that are labeled “fragrance-free.” Pat, don’t rub, the skin dry.

Sometimes masks can cause skin to dry out or become inflamed through abrasion. If you have red, dry irritated areas of skin, avoid the following until the skin has healed:

  • Acne treatments containing salicylic acid
  • Anti-aging products
  • Peels or scrubs
  • At home light therapy


Patches of irritated skin can be treated with a barrier cream such as zinc oxide (found in diaper rash cream) or petroleum jelly.

Beware of certain ingredients

Trapping products against the skin with a mask allows them to penetrate deeper into skin layers, which can lead to irritation and breakouts. Even if you have used the same products for years, wearing a mask over them may still create problems. Even products that are labeled “natural” can lead to breakouts. For example, compounds like essential oils and botanicals can cause inflammation when trapped against your skin, just like harsh chemicals.

You may choose to forego makeup under your mask altogether. For a little color, a non-comedogenic tinted moisturizer is an option that may be less likely to cause breakouts.

What if it doesn’t get better?

Making the adjustments above, you should notice an improvement in your skin in just a few days. If you don’t, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Here at Arizona Dermatology, we’ve been able to help clear up “maskne” with minor treatments so our patients can maintain healthy, clear skin while also keeping themselves and others safe.

If you have acne, rosacea or another skin condition that is being exacerbated by wearing a mask, see your dermatologist. We can adjust your skin care and medication regimen in a way that makes the most sense for your skin type.