Skin Health

Facial Coverings and Skin Problems

If you find that wearing a face mask is causing a skin problem like a rash, acne, or other irritation, you may be able to treat it yourself. To help, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) gathered expert advice from dermatologists, wound care nurses, and doctors on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what you can do to treat skin problems from a face mask at home.

Follow a gentle skin care routine. Skin care plays a vital role in healing your skin. If you’ve developed a skin problem from wearing a mask, follow this daily routine, Face washing 101.

Treat your skin. How you treat your skin varies with the skin problem. Here’s what dermatologists recommend:

Acne: Wash your face after wearing a mask, being sure to use a non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores) moisturizer after washing. If your face mask causes new acne or makes your acne worse, talk to a board-certified dermatologist for the best way to treat your skin type.

Raw, irritated skin: Apply petroleum jelly to irritated spots on your face before bed. This product is designed to protect the skin so that it can heal.

Sore skin behind your ears: You have a few options. If you can, alternate the types of mask you wear. Find masks with different types of ties and ear loops. Wear a different type of mask each day. Many masks have cotton attachment that you can adjust for the most comfortable fit.

If you need to wear the same type of mask each day, try wearing a ball cap or headband that comes with buttons so that you can wrap the ear loops around the buttons.

Stop applying skin care products and medications that can irritate your skin. Until your skin heals, dermatologists recommend that you stop using:

Acne treatments that contain salicylic acid

Anti-aging products

At-home light devices

Peels or scrubs

When you irritate your skin, you can delay healing.

Skip makeup where you have a skin problem. Until your skin heals, makeup can worsen a mask-induced skin problem. If you must apply makeup where you’ve developed a skin problem, use a non-comedogenic product, such as mineral-based makeup.

Wash your cloth face masks. Oils on your skin and particles that you breathe out collect on the mask. As these build up, they can irritate the skin covered by your mask. You can remove germs, oils, and particles by washing a cloth mask in a washing machine or by hand. Just be sure to:

Follow the washing instructions.

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

Use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent.

Besides helping to keep your skin healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wash your cloth face masks after each use to limit the spread of germs.


If you find that wearing a face mask is causing a skin problem like a rash, acne, or other irritation, you may be able to treat it yourself using these tips from board-certified dermatologists.

Continue to wear a mask to protect yourself and others

It’s important to continue wearing a mask, even when it causes skin irritation. When you cannot socially distance, such as at a grocery store or pharmacy, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask.

Protect your skin before you put on your mask

If you need to wear a mask while you have a skin problem, gently apply a no sting barrier spray. This product adds a layer of protection, so your skin feels more comfortable.

Source: The Wound Healing Unit of the University of Pisa (Italy)

With the right skin care, you should notice an improvement in a few days. If your skin stays the same or worsens, it’s time to consult a dermatologist. During the coronavirus pandemic, some dermatologists are seeing patients through telemedicine and essential in-office appointments. You can locate a board-certified dermatologist in your area at, the “find a dermatologist section” of the AAD website.

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