Maskne: How to stop breaking out under your face mask

In light of COVID-19, wearing a face mask has become a top-priority safety measure for ourselves and our neighbors, but what can this mean for your skin? You may find that frequent mask wearing is creating or worsening a new skin problem — acne under the mask, or “maskne.”

Follow along for some dermatologist-approved tips and tricks to banish the blemishes and feel your most confident, mask on or mask off. 

What’s causing your breakout?

There are a few contributing factors to the worsening of acne due to wearing masks. The moist, humid environment under the mask created by our own breath creates a breeding ground for all types of organisms — bacteria, fungi and demodex mites — that can cause acne-like breakouts. Additionally, the irritation from the mask rubbing on your skin can worsen breakouts, especially in those prone to rosacea. 

Related: Why you still need to wear a face mask (and how to wear it properly)

The solution to clear skin 

Here’s the good news: you can simultaneously do your part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask and still have clear skin. How, you might ask? Below are some step-by-step tips and ways to help keep your skin clear and glowing: 

  • Wash your cloth masks after each use with an unscented laundry detergent.
  • Discard of disposable masks after one day of use. 
  • Wash your face after removal of your mask for the day. You may consider an acne wash containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. 
  • Apply a light, non-comedogenic sunscreen in the morning and a light non-comedogenic moisturizer in the evening to help prevent irritation from the mask. 
  • Avoid the application of heavy makeup under the mask as this can contribute to the clogging of your pores. (And while you’re giving your makeup brushes a break, it might also be time to give them a good clean — they are likely harboring more germs than you think.)
  • Focus on eating a healthy diet with minimal sugar and low-fat dairy as these foods have been proven to be associated with triggering acne breakouts.
  • If you are still getting breakouts, see a dermatologist, either in person or via a video visit, to discuss other treatment options such as prescriptions topical creams, pills and chemical peels. 

Related: 5 ways to take better care of your skin

The bottom line is, face masks are going to be around for a while — but your maskne doesn’t have to be. Find a dermatologist near you who can recommend a personalized skincare routine.

About the author

More articles

This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.

Maskne: How to stop breaking out under your face mask