How to Avoid Acne while Wearing Your Face Mask

“Maskne.” The nickname may be cute, but the reality isn’t: Unsightly pimples that erupt in our face-mask zone. But we can take steps to prevent mask-related breakouts so that we feel comfortable wearing our masks and confident about taking them off when it’s safe.”

As research has increased on the role face masks play in preventing COVID-19, so have the number of Americans who are putting them on, with a recent CDC report noting that three out of four in the U.S. are now donning the protective wear.


Acne is this country’s number-one skin problem: The American Academy of Dermatology reports that as many as 50 million of us deal with the condition. And it’s not just teens. The causes of acne – genes, hormones, lifestyle, environment – can trigger breakouts across the decades.

Pimples pop up when our pores get clogged with the a skin oil, sebum, and dead skin cells. If the skin bacteria p. acnes is added to the mix, pimples typically become more severe.

It’s important to make sure that our face mask isn’t creating an environment that produces clogged pores or irritation. We want to practice preventative maintenance so that face masks don’t contribute to acne.

Here are some suggestions for avoiding acne while wearing your face mask:

  1. Give your face extra TLC: Preventing ‘maskne’starts with a supportive skin care routine. We may be tempted to wash our face more, but overwashing can irritate our skin and strip away protective sebum – signaling our body to increase production, which can clog pores. In general, we should wash with a gentle non-comedogenic cleanser twice a day, avoiding scrubbing and hot water. Using a cleanser with salicylic acid one of the times we cleanse can help keep pores unclogged. After washing, we’ll want to pat dry and immediately moisturize – oil-free gel is a good choice unless you have dry skin, and products that include ceramides or hyaluronic acid can aid in protection. This step locks in moisture and creates a supportive barrier between our skin and our face mask. To further prevent clogged pores, a gentle chemical exfoliant, for example one with glycolic acid, can be used twice a week.
  2. Get fit! A secure, comfortable face mask reduces rubbing. This is important to avoid irritation that can inflame our skin, contributing to acne. Also, a good fit will prevent us from adjusting our mask, which can result in the cross-transfer of germs, oil, and debris.
  3. Material matters: The inner layer of our mask should be soft ‘hydrophilic’ material that absorbs moisture like cotton. This helps reduce moisture so that it doesn’t get trapped and contribute to clogged pores. Stay away from synthetic linings, which can irritate our skin.
  4. Clean up! Washing masks after each use removes the oil and debris that build up on the lining.
  5. Make-up? Sunscreen? All of the ingredients we apply to our face should be non-irritating. Thanks to the “athleisure” trend, there are products designed with that in mind; for example, mineral-based sunscreen-and-foundation combos designed to protect without clogging or irritating. Remember to carefully check that products are non-comedogenic and oil free.
  6. Keep sebaceous glands happy: That means taking time to relax and being mindful about overdoing comfort food. The hormones triggered by stress can kick sebum production into overdrive. So can high-glycemic foods like sweets, white rice, pasta, potatoes, and bread.

Feeling comfortable and confident about using our face mask can reduce the worry of ‘maskne’ and add to our peace of mind.

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