Is your face mask causing breakouts?

One of the best ways to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19 is to wear a face mask when outside the home. But you may have noticed you’re breaking out more frequently than normal where your mask rests against your face. Well, you’re not alone. Maskne, a word that began trending due to the COVID-19 pandemic, describes acne caused by your face mask.

The scientific name for maskne is acne mechanica, a type of skin irritation that is caused by excess heat, pressure and rubbing against the skin. Masks can cause debris, sweat and saliva to be trapped on the skin, which can result in a breakout. Maskne is particularly prevalent in people who are already prone to acne.

The Chief Medical Officer of Urgent Team Family of Urgent Care & Walk-in Centers, Matthew Browning, M.D., says it is not unusual to experience breakouts – even as an adult, because wearing a mask is a perfect place for bacteria to grow.

“Athletes who wear helmets will often have breakouts where the chin strap rubs against the face and masks cause the same issue,” says Dr. Browning. “The pressure causes sweat and moisture to become trapped in the mask which clogs the pores resulting in acne.”

Wearing a mask is still critically important as COVID-19 persists. There are, however, ways to prevent and treat breakouts:

  1. During this time of mask wearing, take extra care of your skin. Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser and use a mild moisturizer.
  2. For continued breakouts switch to a cleanser that contains salicylic acid twice a day. This will help to lightly exfoliate the skin and prevent acne breakouts.
  3. Wear sunscreen every day. Zinc-based or titanium sunscreens can help your skin by serving as a barrier against any friction or irritation that develops from mask wearing.
  4. Go light on the makeup. Thick, oil-based makeup products are going to make acne worse. Opt instead for a tinted mineral sunscreen if you must wear something.
  5. Wash your cloth mask regularly using fragrance free laundry detergent or change your disposable mask every day.
  6. Be gentle with your skin. Don’t rub and scratch your face as this will make acne worse and be careful about introducing really harsh products.