Why Do Masks Cause Acne? 1

As if the threat of contracting a potentially deadly virus during a global pandemic isn’t enough, there’s maskne. It’s that acne, and other skin issues are caused by wearing face coverings. Of course, wearing them is a necessary practice to keep yourself and those around you safe.

Making is a genuine concern for those in healthcare and other jobs where wearing masks is required (or just brilliant). Acne breakouts, rosacea flare-ups, dermatitis, eczema, even infected hairs can be caused by wearing them if you’re wondering why there are explanations and possible solutions to the problem.

When you understand what causes maskne, you can prevent it. That will put a smile on your face — even if no one else can see it. Don’t skip the mask and risk your health and the health of others.


Acne Is as Acne Does

Oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria cause acne by clogging pores. However, not all acne is the same. Whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, papules, nodules, and cysts.

If acne is a new thing for you, you may be wondering what to do about it. If you suffered from acne before wearing masks for an extended period, you recognize the signs. You’re going to need to add some oomph to your regular skincare routine.

Fortunately, there are several viable options for acne treatment based on what’s causing your pores to clog. More than likely, the primary culprit is the heat and humidity that builds up behind the mask. Humidity causes sweat to evaporate slowly, and the oil glands ramp up production due to the heat.

If acne is a masking side effect, you might notice it’s worse at certain times, linked to your hormonal cycle. If you already had acne spurred by the hormonal overproduction of oil, the heat and humidity will worsen. Oral contraceptives anti-androgens like spironolactone and retinoids can help.

Hydroxy acids and thorough skin cleansing will help slough off dead skin cells. To address acne-causing bacteria, those retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, especially in combination, can be the solution.

There should be no need to relive those awkward teenage years just because you have to wear a face covering. Talk to a healthcare professional about ramping up your acne treatment if you already had such a regimen pre-pandemic. If you didn’t, consult a dermatologist or try some over-the-counter acne treatments to see whether they help control your maskne.

Maximum Protection With Occasional Breaks

Maintaining the protective value of the mask while addressing the various maskne issues is paramount. The heat and humidity that build up behind your mask are not the only factors causing trouble. There’s also chafing and skin irritation around the border of the mask.

Not all masks are created the same, so you should understand the differences. Masks should completely cover your mouth, nose, and chin, or they are fairly useless. They should also snug up to your face all around, forming a seal while not being too tight.

It is recommended that healthcare workers and the severely immunocompromised wear N95 respirator masks. These provide the most excellent protection from the aerosol transmission. However, they’re also made of synthetic materials, which increase the likelihood of maskne.

Since the onset of more transmissible variants of COVID-19, wearing a KN95 mask has become highly recommended for everyone. Although such masks lack the respirator, they are made of synthetic material that boosts protection. Unfortunately, it also increases the likelihood of maskne.

When you can, take 15-minute “mask breaks” in a safe space throughout the day. Give your skin a chance to breathe every time the coast is clear.

The Moisture Paradox

If you have dry skin, you moisturize it. If you have oily skin, watering it can seem counterintuitive. But moisture is the secret to healthy skin and is essential when wearing masks.

The skin’s natural response to arid conditions is more excellent oil production, which in turn causes acne. Therefore, keeping skin moist is the key to reducing irritation and acne. Masks suck the moisture from your skin, particularly along their edges.

Cleansing your face in the morning, after you get home from work, and before bed will help. Swap out any fragrance-heavy cleansers with gentle ones to reduce maskne. Then, apply an oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer while your skin is still damp to seal in some of that moisture.

You’ll especially need to add moisturizer if you’re using benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid as part of your acne treatment. Remember to skip formulations containing scents and oils or other comedogenic ingredients.

Conventional COVID wisdom states that you should avoid touching your face with your fingers. Although that guidance is intended to prevent you from infecting yourself with the virus, it offers maskne-fighting benefits, too. By keeping your hands off your face, you will avoid transferring acne-causing bacteria onto your skin.

Whatever you can do to keep your skin clean and moisturized will be beneficial, including not wearing makeup. You might even want to sleep on silk pillowcases to help retain moisture and shun bacteria. A better night’s sleep will enable your skin to repair itself as well.

Maskne is an unfortunate side effect of one of the best protection against COVID-19 transmission. However unpleasant maskne is, unlike COVID, it isn’t potentially deadly. That means shunning masks isn’t a viable approach to eliminating blemishes and irritation.

Fortunately, prescription and OTC acne treatments, moisturizers, and cleansers will help. Since it appears that masks may be around for the foreseeable future, don’t delay finding solutions that work for you. Mask up maskne-free, and don’t forget to smile … with your eyes.