COVID-19: Preventing Face-Mask Skin Problems

Masks play a vital role in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. But according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), masks can also be hard on your skin, causing problems that range from acne and peeling skin to rashes and itchiness. To help prevent skin problems from developing under your mask, board-certified dermatologists suggest the following:

  1. Cleanse and moisturize your face daily. Gentle skin care can prevent skin problems. When washing your face, use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser.

Dry skin is a common face-mask skin problem. Applying moisturizer adds a protective layer that can reduce dryness. You want to apply moisturizer immediately after washing your face. To get the most benefit from a moisturizer, board-certified dermatologist Carrie L. Kovarik, MD, FAAD, recommends using a moisturizer with one of the following ingredients:


Hyaluronic acid

Dimethicone (which can also create a barrier that helps reduce irritated skin)

You can prevent breakouts from your moisturizer by using a moisturizer formulated for your skin type. When selecting moisturizer, follow this guide:

Oily skin (or when weather is hot, humid): Gel moisturizer

Normal or combination skin: Lotion

Dry to very dry skin: Cream

If you have acne or tend to break out, you can still use a gel moisturizer.

Moisturizer can prevent problems, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin.

  1. Protect your lips by applying petroleum jelly. Dry skin and chapped lips are common face-mask skin problems. You can prevent chapped lips by applying petroleum jelly to your lips:

After washing your face

Before you put on your mask

Before bed

To prevent breakouts, take care to apply the petroleum jelly only to your lips.

  1. Skip the makeup when wearing a mask. Beneath a mask, makeup is more likely to clog your pores and lead to breakouts. If makeup is necessary, use only products labeled “non-comedogenic” or “oil free.”
  2. Avoid trying new skin care products that can irritate your skin. Wearing a mask for even a short time can make your skin more sensitive. To reduce skin problems, avoid trying harsh products, such as a chemical peel, exfoliant, or retinoid, for the first time, says board-certified dermatologist Daniela Kroshinsky, MD, MPH, FAAD.
  3. Use less of certain skin care products if your face becomes irritated. When you cover your face with a mask, some skin care products that you’ve used in the past may irritate your skin. If this happens, Kroshinsky recommends cutting back on products that can irritate your skin, such as:

Leave-on salicylic acid

Retinoid you apply to your face



  1. Wear the right mask. To reduce skin problems, look for masks that offer the following:

A snug but comfortable fit

Soft, natural, and breathable fabric, such as cotton

Fabric on the inside that feels soft if you have sensitive skin

Cotton material inside if you have acne or oily skin

Wearing a mask that offers a snug but comfortable fit helps to protect you and others from the coronavirus. A snug, comfortable fit also reduces skin problems. If the mask feels too tight or slides around on your face, it can irritate your skin. You’re also more likely to adjust a poorly fitting mask. When you touch your mask, you can transfer germs to your mask and your face.

The fabric is also important. Avoid synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, and rayon. These are more likely to irritate your skin and cause breakouts.

  1. Take a 15-minute mask break every 4 hours. Health care workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic have found that this helps save their skin. Of course, only remove your mask when it’s safe to do so and after washing your hands.

Safe places to remove your mask include:

Outdoors, when you can stay at least six feet away from people

Inside your car when you’re alone

At home

It’s important to continue wearing a mask, even when it causes skin irritation.

  1. Wash your cloth masks. Many health care organizations now recommend that you wash a cloth mask after each use. Washing it also removes oils and skin cells that collect inside the mask, which could lead to a skin problem.

You can wash a cloth mask in a washing machine or by hand. Both ways remove germs and other particles. Just be sure to:

Follow the washing instructions on each mask.

Wash the masks in hot water unless the instructions say otherwise.

Use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent.

After washing your mask, check its shape. If a mask no longer fits snugly (and comfortably), it is less protective.

  1. If you have a skin condition, such as acne or rosacea, it’s especially important to follow your treatment plan. This can help keep the condition under control.

For more advice about skin problems, click here to visit the American Academy of Dermatology website.



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