Health authorities worldwide recommend people wear face masks to slow the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. While face coverings help keep individuals safe, they may also irritate the skin. Regularly washing masks and following a skin care routine may help reduce “maskne.”
Many places may require people to wear face masks in public, including restaurants, bars, and grocery stores. Although face masks help keep individuals safe from the novel coronavirus, they can cause a condition known as maskne.
The humid and occlusive environment inside the mask, in combination with friction, can trap moisture from breathing, talking, or sweating. These factors may also lead to the skin becoming irritated. This can then result in
This article explores maskne and its potential causes. It also suggests how individuals may treat and prevent possible skin irritation.
The term “maskne” was originally a reference to the development of acne after wearing a face covering or mask. Previously, people may have used the term “acne mechanica” to describe acne due to friction and pressure on the skin, such as from wearing a mask.
- Acne: If the pores become clogged with dirt, dead skin cells, and oil, acne can develop. It is a painful skin condition that can cause blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts. Individuals of all ages may develop acne.
- Rosacea: This widespread skin condition affects more than 14 million people in the United States. It results in redness, swelling, and acne-like breakouts.
- Folliculitis: Folliculitis refers to an infection of the hair follicles. It causes bumps that may resemble acne, which can also be itchy and painful.
- Atopic dermatitis: This is the most common type of eczema. People will typically experience patches of dry, itchy skin that may crack, bleed, or become infected.
- Contact dermatitis: If an individual is sensitive to the mask’s material, they may develop contact dermatitis. This is another type of eczema and may cause irritation and blistering.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: This is an inflammatory skin condition that can cause red, flaky, itchy skin.
- Perioral dermatitis: Sometimes known as periorificial dermatitis, this is a skin condition that causes a rash around the mouth.
In addition to irritating the skin and potentially causing skin conditions, people who are already living with skin conditions may find that wearing a mask worsens symptoms.
Various causes can lead to an individual developing maskne. Acne or facial rashes can occur due to a mask trapping sweat and humid moisture, in addition to friction from the mask repeatedly rubbing against the skin.
The occlusive environment can trap moisture and sebum, which can aggravate existing acne or cause new breakouts by clogging pores. Heat and sweat may also cause the skin to become dry, itchy, and raw.
Friction may also lead to chafing, redness, flaking, and peeling skin. In some cases, it can also cause sores.
Additionally, if an individual is allergic to the material in certain masks, this can also cause skin irritation or an allergic outbreak. Using a scented detergent to wash the mask may also trigger skin issues.
Although people may find maskne uncomfortable, they must still protect themselves and others from SARS-CoV-2 infections by wearing a mask. Some ways that individuals may try to treat their maskne symptoms include:
People can follow a gentle skin care routine to prevent skin irritation. Dermatologists recommended limiting face washing to twice a day and after sweating.
Use a mild, fragrance-free facial cleanser to wash the face, and do not use hot water. Instead of rubbing the skin, a person can pat the skin dry gently using a clean towel.
Using a gentle cleanser can help individuals remove dirt, germs, oil, and sweat from the skin, which can trigger maskne. If people have sensitive skin, they can consult with a dermatologist about suitable cleansers.
Dry skin commonly causes problems with face masks, such as irritation and raw skin. People can apply moisturizers to the skin after washing to protect against dryness and irritation.
Dermatologists may recommend choosing a moisturizer that contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or dimethicone.
A person can also consider choosing a skin moisturizer that is formulated for their skin type to prevent breakouts.
Individuals with oily skin, or those experiencing hot and humid weather, may wish to choose a gel moisturizer. People with normal or combination skin can opt for a lotion, while those with dry skin can choose a cream.
Continue with treatment
If a person is receiving treatment for an existing skin condition, such as acne, rosacea, or eczema, they should continue following the treatment their doctor recommends. Typically, this may include using certain creams or antibiotics to treat and relieve symptoms.
Masks are likely to be part of daily life for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, following the below prevention tips may help prevent maskne.
Washing fabric masks
Healthcare organizations typically recommend that people wash their cloth masks after using them to remove pathogens, oils, and skin cells that can cause maskne.
Individuals can choose a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent and allow the mask to dry completely before use. Additionally, ensure that after washing, the covering still fits well.
Wearing the right mask
Individuals should select a snug, comfortable mask that does not rub and irritate the skin. A poorly fitting mask is unlikely to protect the wearer and may lead to maskne symptoms.
People should also avoid masks containing materials that can cause an allergic reaction or those that may be harsh and cause excessive friction.
Removing the mask every 4 hours
Individuals should remove their masks for 15 minutes after every 4 hours of use. Healthcare workers have found this method is a reliable way of reducing the risk of maskne.
However, a person should only remove their masks when safe to do so, such as at home, alone inside their car, or outdoors at least 6 feet away from others.
People should also wash their hands before removing masks to avoid spreading germs from their hands to their faces.
Avoiding or wearing less makeup
If an individual uses makeup, such as a foundation or concealer, beneath their mask, this can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Recommendations state that people avoid makeup while wearing a mask or choose products labeled “noncomedogenic,” meaning they will not clog pores.
Avoiding new or harsh products
Wearing a mask, even for a short while, can make skin more sensitive. To reduce potential skin problems, a person can avoid new or harsh products that may irritate their skin, including exfoliants, chemical peels, retinoids, or aftershave.
Washing and moisturizing
A suitable skin care routine may treat potential skin conditions and also help prevent them. With this in mind, regularly wash skin with a gentle cleanser and apply a moisturizer to help maintain skin health.
People may also consider applying petroleum jelly to prevent dry and chapped lips. However, to prevent breakouts, individuals should take care to apply petroleum jelly to the lips only.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association provides a list of general skin care tips, including:
- Matching products to skin type: Individuals should research their skin type and use appropriate products.
- Using sunscreen: Wear an SPF 30 or higher to protect against skin aging, sunburn, and cancer.
- Covering the lips: Protect the lips with an SPF lip balm.
- Avoiding tanning beds: Even one session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
- Minimizing product use: Simplify the skin care routine and do not use too many products, which can lead to skin irritation.
- Not touching the face: Avoid touching the face, which transfers dirt and germs and can lead to spots.
- Checking skin regularly: With early diagnosis, skin cancer is highly treatable. People should check their skin for signs of any issues and contact a doctor if they have any concerning symptoms.
“Maskne” is a term that people may use to describe acne or facial irritation that occurs while wearing a face covering. Individuals may experience symptoms including pimples, blackheads, bumps, redness, and irritation.
Recommendations advise on the below tips that may help treat and prevent maskne:
- following a suitable skin care routine
- avoiding irritating products
- regularly washing masks
- using well-fitting face coverings
Anyone with concerns about skin irritation should seek a doctor or dermatologist’s advice.