Maskne: What are the Causes and How to Prevent It

October 26, 2020
Written ByPocosmo Staff

The new normal requires us to wear masks for a prolonged period of time. While the mask is protecting us from COVID-19, it has presented with a new topic of concern- MASKNE.

If you wear masks and still don’t know what maskne is, consider yourself lucky! Maskne, as the name suggests, refers to acne caused by masks. Some people are experiencing acne in the area of the face covered by masks while others are struggling with irritation, itching, redness, dryness, or rashes- dermatologically known as Irritant Contact Dermatitis.



Wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time can disrupt your skin barrier due to the constant friction. A damaged skin-barrier makes your skin prone to acne and other skin-related issues. For people with acne, an aggravated skin barrier is a gateway to a flare of acne. Additionally, not washing your masks or disposing of them often is going to build up bacteria that end up going back on your skin.


If you’re using reusable cloth masks, the material of the mask can be the main reason behind those masknes. Using a polyester mask can cause acne because the sweat and oil can build up underneath, resulting in clogged pores and bacteria build-up. Using masks made of rough fabrics can be irritating and abrasive to the skin.


Moisturizers are essential for healthy and glowing skin. But when you put on a mask over a heavy moisturizer that contains oils, essential oils, and fragrance, it can do the exact opposite. Excess oil build-up underneath a mask can lead to clogged pores and bacteria buildup, resulting in a flare of acne. Dermatologists also recommend skipping serums and toners while wearing a mask to avoid potential irritation.


Putting on heavy makeup underneath a mask is not only unnecessary, but it can be a leading reason to maskne. Makeup combined with oil and sweat is a recipe for an acne flare. Even wearing lip products like lipsticks and lip balms underneath a mask causes the products to heat up and trickle onto the surrounding skin, resulting in irritation.



Dermatologists recommend using masks that are made of 100% cotton or at least the layer that is immediate to the skin to be made of cotton. Also, if you’re using reusable masks, wash your masks religiously like your underwear. Remember, this piece of a garment sits on your skin, so treat it with care. Use hypoallergenic detergent and warm water to get rid of all the bacteria build-up, sweat, and oil. If you’re wearing masks for long hours, take it off whenever you get a chance. While driving or staying outdoors within a safe distance, take your mask off, and let your skin breathe.


Using an air-tight moisturization routine will repair the skin-barrier and offer protection against irritation. Opt for using a moisturizer containing ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. Thick emollients like Aquaphor or Vaseline can be used to help with healing. Barrier creams with ingredients like dimethicone can also protect your skin effectively, including when you’re wearing the mask. Also, don’t forget your sunscreen! Avoid wearing makeup underneath masks. Opt for light makeup like a tinted moisturizer rather than a foundation, if you must.   


To avoid bacteria build up on the skin, cleanse your face thoroughly with a gentle cleanser and warm water before and after using a mask. Opt for a double-cleanse in the evening to make sure you are getting all the oil and sweat off your skin. Using a face-mask will deeply cleanse your skin and repair the damages done throughout the day. Choose a mask that has some active ingredients for treating acne and hydrators to soothe the skin.


If you have developed maskne use anti-acne products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, sulfur, and retinoids. Benzoyl peroxide is very good for acne but it can be irritating, so you can wash it off after 20-30 minutes (short contact) to cut down on irritation and dryness. However, if your skin is very irritated, you might find it helpful to cut down how much you use irritating active ingredients (like exfoliants and retinoids) during this time, or you can switch to gentler versions.


If you have a rash, a few dermatologists also recommended using an OTC 1% hydrocortisone cream. Doctors can also prescribe stronger steroid creams. These work to reduce itching, redness, and inflammation. Use a thin layer twice a day on the affected areas for about a week or two.

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