How to Deal with Maskne (7 Tips for Clearing up your Skin Fast!)

No one should have to deal with a midlife skin crisis, we already have enough going on! And we definitely shouldn’t have to deal with one due to maskne.

Have you heard about maskne? Do you think you may be suffering from it?  Well, read on friend.  We are about to discuss what maskne is, how to tell if you have it and how to treat it. 

What is Maskne?

Maskne may seem like an imaginary condition, but it’s a real thing and has been around for much longer than COVID-19.  Maskne has always been an issue for people in fields where they regularly wear masks.

The technical term for “maskne” is acne mechanica.  Acne mechanica is a form of acne that specifically refers to skin irritation formed by excess pressure, heat, and rubbing against the skin. When the skin is constantly rubbed, it can initially become rough in texture.  Then, it starts to develop acne-like bumps with continued irritation from sweating or more friction.

Acne mechanica can be brought on by anything that traps heat against the body for a prolonged period of time, causes friction or puts pressure on the skin such as:

  • Straps (from backpacks, bags, purses or bras)
  • Athletic equipment, helmets, or padding
  • Hats and headbands
  • Tight-fitting undergarments and clothes
  • Masks and other PPE



Specifically, maskne is brought on by prolonged wear of facial personal protective equipment (PPE). The heat, friction and occlusion imposed on the skin by masks . combined with the moisture created by breathing, talking or sweating fosters an optimal environment for breakouts. In this environment, hair follicles (aka pores) get clogged and become pimples or acne lesions. Additionally, any prolonged heat, occlusion, sweat or other things continuing to create a moist environment can cause the skin to become dry, itchy and raw.

Now, it’s important to know that maskne is not the only condition that can occur from these circumstances. Other face mask skin problems include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis happens when a chemical like formaldehyde or bronopol causes an allergic reaction.  These chemicals can be found in polypropylene surgical masks - most of your N95 and paper-like masks.
  • Rosacea - If you already have rosacea, you may not be aware that you do.  Well over an estimated 16 million Americans alone are affected by rosacea and most of them are unaware.  Rosacea is classically worsened by heat and stress, so mask wearing can increase flares.  Learn more about managing rosacea for good here.  
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of eczema that causes scaly plaques, inflamed skin and stubborn dandruff.
  • Folliculitis is a condition when yeast or bacteria infect hair follicles and the hair follicles become inflamed. It's usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. At first it may look like small red bumps or white-headed pimples and can often be confused with acne.

As you can see, a lot that can be going on which is why it is important to work with a professional who understands skin before you start self medicating and treating.

This is seriously important because having the right skin care routine will lessen mask-related skin irritation and maskne and will also ensure that you are not incorrectly treating the skin and causing more damage.  If you are looking for a professional to work with to help you understand what’s going on with your skin, book a Skin Health Transformation session.

While I highly encourage you to work with a professional, here are some clues what’s going on under your mask is acne mechanica.

  • You find your skin is relatively clear in other areas.  You’re breaking out in strategic spots.  For example, your face is clear except for where your mask rests.
  • Your acne suddenly developed after you recently wore your PPE for an extended period of time.
  • Your acne tends to clear up when you don’t have to wear your PPE for long periods of time.

Acne mechanica often completely clears up when the offending culprit is taken away. This isn't always practical though. For example, right now we have to wear our masks a lot. 

So how to treat it?

1. Wash your face before and after you wear your mask
This prevents dirt from being trapped on the skin's surface, which causes breakouts.
Use a gentle, oil-free cleanser like ETHYST® Clarity Cleanse and rinse with lukewarm water. You can fin additional information on proper face washing tips here.
2. Apply a moisturizer
Not only will this keep your skin hydrated, it will act as a barrier between your face and the mask, reducing friction. Apply after cleansing before and after wearing your mask.
Look for moisturizers/SPFs containing ceramides, hyaluronic acid or dimethicone (ETHYST® SPF), which will provide extra protection and the much needed slip helping to reduce friction and irritation.
3. Take care to avoid common contact allergens
Lots of people are into  “natural” skincare, but  natural and botanical substances commonly contain allergenic products, so buyer beware. 
It may take some trial and error to find the right formulations for your skin type which is why it’s easiest and best to work with a professional.
4. Ditch the makeup
I really love this one. Honestly, isn’t the goal to fix your skin so you don’t have to cover it up? Can I get an amen, friend? 
The American Academy of Dermatology has absolutely confirmed that wearing makeup under your mask causes breakouts.  Makeup residue will also soil your mask. 
And let’s be real, people are reusing disposable masks and not cleaning their masks daily.  Which takes us to... 
5. Don't reuse disposable masks
If you use disposables, throw them away (at least daily).  If wearing a cotton mask, wash it after each use.  Dirt and oil are trapped on its surface and it will become a breeding ground for bacteria. 
6. Avoid laundry detergents with fragrances
If you're using a reusable mask, be sure you are washing it daily, but pay attention to what you're using to wash it.
When washing your reusable mask, choose a fragrance-free laundry soap  and skip the fabric softener.  Harsh fragrances in detergents irritate the skin.
7. Take caution while using harsher products
Medicated skincare products (especially from the derm)  that contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid will be more irritating to the skin under a mask.
Be careful about what you use, how much you use and when you use it. It’s best to leave these products for your night routine, when you aren’t wearing a mask or using more effective, more gentle ingredients like lactic acid and or cold pressed lime oil and mint leaf.

Overall, ensuring you are treating the right skin condition and having the right skin care routine will lessen mask-related skin irritation.  Work with a professional and if breakouts, redness or swelling still persist, seek medical care with your physician. 

Good luck, friends!

Want to get started on your Skin Health journey? Book a Skin Health Transformation Session here.


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