12 Tips to Prevent COVID-19 Mask Acne (Maskne)

The coronavirus outbreak has increased the use of surgical and non-medical protective masks when leaving home. Unfortunately, the improper use of face masks is a frequent cause for acne breakouts for people with sensitive and/or acne prone skin. As an integral part of our lives in the present and near future, it is important that we find ways to incorporate them successfully.

How Can Protective Masks Cause More Acne?

Breathing in and out under a mask increases the temperature and humidity of the covered areas of the face, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to breed. Wearing a mask causes constant friction against the skin, damaging the outer protective layer. The resulting vulnerable and damaged skin allows the bacteria on its surface to easily enter deep into clogged oil glands, causing increased inflammation and acne breakouts.

12 Tips to Prevent Acne When Wearing Protective Masks ("Maskne")

  1. Cleanse and moisturize your skin immediately after you remove the mask. Gel-based and water-based moisturizers are lightweight and can prevent clogged pores. Look for a moisturizer with aloe vera and tea tree oil to help calm your skin and heal marks from friction and irritation.
  2. If you are using a disposable mask, discard it after use and wear a fresh one every day. If you are using a reusable mask, wash it every day.
  3. Touch the mask with your hands as little as possible. Always wash your hands immediately after if you do touch your protective mask.
  4. Do not use masks that are very tight. You want the mask to be close enough to your skin to stay in place without being too constricting.
  5. Wash your face 2-3x a day with a gentle cleanser. If you have acne, look for a mild medicated cream-based cleanser with salicylic acid to effectively remove oil.
  6. If your skin is oily, you can use oil-free wipes or blotting papers to remove excess oil and sweat that can accumulate under your mask throughout the day.
  7. Elastic cloth masks may look better, but not only are they usually unpleasant to wear, they can cause more damage to your skin than the simpler disposable surgical masks. This is because these masks create a more moist, hotter environment for your skin, as your breathing is more constricted. The accumulation of sweat and oil underneath the mask can cause inflammation, rashes, and acne breakouts.
  8. Wear minimal or no makeup under your mask. Try to avoid thick foundations and concealers in particular, which can lead to a clogged pores and increased breakouts.

The Best COVID-19 Masks for People with Acne-Prone Skin

The best masks for people with acne-prone skin are regular disposable surgical masks. These masks are made of non-woven fabric and created using a melt blowing process. They are light, loose-fitting, cause minimal friction the skin, and, most importantly, are disposable. The tight elastic cloth masks, as shown below, cause more friction, increasing the humidity and temperature of the skin.

Tips for Wearing a Protective Mask During Acne Treatment

The thorough removal of oil, dirt, and bacteria from the skin before and after wearing a mask is the best way to reduce the risk for mask-related increased acne breakouts. Adding an oil-free moisturizer prevents over-drying of the skin and makes the skin more resilient to bacteria and inflammation.

  1. Cleanse Gently. Wash your face with a very gentle acne cleanser. The best choice is a cleanser with AHA (salicylic acid) to penetrate the skin glands and provide an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.
  2. Use oil-free wipes. If you feel that your face is getting too hot or sweaty under your mask, you can use oil-free wipes to freshen up.
  3. Treat your acne. If you already have active acne, it is more important now than ever that you stick your acne treatment routine, as good anti-acne skincare will help treat your current active pimples and prevent future mask-related acne breakouts. The best choice would be an acne treatment cream with a low percentage of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Try to avoid adapalene (Differin) as it is much more irritating than benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.
  4. Moisturize your skin.An oil-free moisturizer helps to protect and repair your skin without clogging your pores. Apply a thin layer of a light, water-based moisturizer underneath your mask. The best time to moisturize is after you wash your face in the morning. As for makeup, it's best to apply a lighter foundation (preferably mineral-based) than what you would typically use to prevent clogged pores.
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