'Maskne' is a real thing: Here's how to stop face mask breakouts

The wearing of face masks as we begin to tentatively emerge from a restrictive lockdown won't be an enforced requirement, but the Irish government has recommended that adults wear them (if they can) on public transport or in other settings where social distancing isn't possible. If you've already been wearing one while outdoors, you may have seen your skin break out – and it's not a coincidence   


If stress-related breakouts and adult acne weren't bad enough, Covid-19 has seen another form of skin disruption affect some.

Acne has been on the rise over the last few months, and it's showing up in several different ways - stress-induced hormonal breakouts, quarantine diet-related acne, and as the name suggests, maskne (as it has been termed) is a type of breakout that results from wearing a face mask.

According to dermatologist Dr Robin Schaffran at BalmLabs, "Maskne is a real thing. Wearing masks all day long can exacerbate acne as well as causing irritation or dermatitis."

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How is our skin affected by wearing the face mask?

Sweat and oil buildup on the skin combined with the increased humidity from breathing into the mask, increases the PH of the skin which can cause bacterial and/or yeast overgrowth on the skin.

In addition, there is the constant rubbing of the mask on the face. All of this can contribute to clogging of the pores and increased acne breakouts. The constant rubbing from the mask can also lead to irritation rashes known as friction dermatitis and less commonly allergic reactions to the mask can occur causing a rash called contact dermatitis.

Does it affect more women than men?

While there have been no studies on this, it appears to affect both men and women. Much will depend on the type and condition of your skin – as well as how long you're wearing the face masks for.

What can we do to help our skin?

Dr Schaffner has offered the following tips:

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1. Disposable paper masks are preferable.

2. If using cloth face masks which most people are, wash frequently (every 1-2 days).

3. If reusing a disposable mask, hang it up in a sunny spot and let it dry out for a couple of days.

4. Cleanse skin with a gentle cleanser each day, ideally with a mild exfoliating ingredient in it.

5. Avoid using any irritating anti-ageing or acne ingredients during the day under the mask (things like retinol/retinA or benzoyl peroxide)

6. Use gentle, non-irritating skin products with hydrating properties (including squalene, ceramides, hyaluronic acid) and if possible, include anti-inflammatory ingredients such as niacinamide or CBD.

7. For minimising friction dermatitis (more of an issue with tightly fitted masks) - best to apply plain Vaseline to the point of contact of the mask before putting the mask on.

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