Skip to main content

The Angle may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to treat and prevent maskne, mask acne from face masks

The year 2020 is one for the books, right? As we navigate the last few months of this tough year, one thing’s for sure — we have to stay safe. And what better way to protect ourselves and others than with a face mask? While these are a requirement in most places, most people are choosing to wear them anyway, but they come with a bit of a catch — a skincare catch that is. By now you’ve seen the term “maskne” floating around the web, and you might even be dealing with it yourself. Sudden breakouts, redness, and flare-ups after wearing a face covering? Yep, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on our lives in general and for some that involves some major skin woes and concerns. Those of you who are dealing with mask-related acne will want to listen to this.

What is maskne?

Mask acne, aka maskne, is the occurrence of breakouts and flare-ups as a result of wearing a face covering. This usually can happen when humid and hot temperatures arise. The thing about maskne is that even those with a regular skincare routine are susceptible to these skin woes. Rather than allowing your skincare products to do their job, a face mask can clog the pores. Depending on your lifestyle, having to wear a mask for hours at work leaves room for bacteria to grow and oil to build up — thus the potential for bumps and irritation.

How to treat maskne

If you’ve noticed an increase in bumps, irritation, whiteheads, or blackheads upon wearing a face mask, it’s time to take a look into your current routine. If you’re cleansing, moisturizing, and treating as you usually would, a simple switch may be the answer to all of your troubles. On the other hand, if you don’t have a skincare routine set in stone, it’s time to find one that’s tailored to your needs (and maskne!) ASAP. The key to keeping your skin healthy beneath a face covering is to keep things simple. While you’d assume that abrasive exfoliants and cleansing tools are the answer, these can do more damage than good in some cases. Ahead, you’ll find skincare steps to take for combatting maskne.


Again, the keyword here is gentle. We would advise against using foaming cleansers as they tend to dry out the skin, causing discomfort, imbalance, and irritation. Lean towards a gel-like or cream cleanser, especially if you’re dealing with open wounds, redness, and inflammation. Dermatologists often recommend CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser to anyone dealing with deep, cystic acne. For mild breakouts, it’s safe to use a cleanser formulated with acne-fighting salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide for a faster fix without causing any irritation. Versed Skin’s Keep the Peace Acne-Calming Cream Cleanser is great for whiteheads, pimples, and blackheads.

  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser — $16
  • Keep the Peace Acne-Calming Cream Cleanser — $17

Moisturizer + SPF

Once your skin is squeaky clean, you’ll want to be sure to keep it moisturized, and moisturized well. It doesn’t matter how much you sweat underneath a face mask, your skin must be moisturized. The better the moisture, the more protected your skin’s barrier will be. With that being said, your moisturizer (and all other skincare products) should be fragrance-free and noncomedogenic. One of the best moisturizers for anyone dealing with acne is CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream ($16) because it’s both gentle and effective. Remember, you only want to help your skin’s moisture barrier as you wear a face covering, which is why you’ll also need SPF. The sun’s UV rays can make skin issues worse, especially if your skin is already dealing with irritation and inflammation (plus you’ll avoid face mask tan lines!). If you don’t want to use sunscreen outside of your daytime moisturizer, CeraVe’s AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30 is a great bang for your buck and comes highly recommended.

  • CeraVe’s AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30 — $13


If acne is already present, it obviously shouldn’t be ignored. A spot treatment is definitely necessary before throwing on your face mask. This creates a protective barrier between your skin and the mask, especially if you’re worried about active acne making contact with the mask. For larger, visible bumps, try wearing pimple patches to help reduce the bump size and avoid touching the mask. Hydrocolloid helps visibly flatten bumps in a short amount of time and is present in The Mighty Patch. However, if you don’t prefer patches, then spot treatment creams, gels, or acne sprays are just as effective. Users across social media have grown fond of Versed Skin’s Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist ($18) for spraying directly onto the inside of their masks, and not directly onto their skin.

  • The Mighty Patch — $13

Be mindful of materials

Not all masks are created equal. In fact, some are more irritating than others and can be the real culprits behind maskne. We totally get it, you want to wear a cute mask, but this might be doing a lot more damage than good. You can still protect yourself and others from the coronavirus while helping your skin with a more mindful face mask. The MD Acne Anti-Acne Face Mask ($30 for three) lives up to its name with anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.

Go Makeup-Free

We understand that not everyone likes going the au natural route, but in this case, it’s probably necessary. It’s a much safer bet to make by ditching the foundation and heavy concealers for a bit. While wearing them looks great, the poor-clogging ingredients found in many can lead to plenty of future breakouts and irritation. One plus-side about wearing masks? No one needs to know you’re not wearing makeup if you don’t want them to.

Preventing Future Breakouts

If you’re following the above routine, and are not seeing any changes, it’s time to consult a dermatologist to help further guide you. While products and over-the-counter treatments are great, they don’t work for everyone. Those with very deep, cystic, recurring pimples likely have a hormonal issue lying beneath wearing a mask. A dermatologist can prescribe you with an oral medication that helps fight this type of acne or a topical retinoid that you can’t grab at the nearest store. It’s always good to ask, better than to assume. If your breakouts aren’t going away and seem to be getting worse, the issue likely can’t be solved at home. Oh, and of course, please wash your re-usable masks frequently to rid them of any and all bacteria!

Editors' Recommendations