Why does your face mask cause acne?

August 02, 2020

Why does your face mask cause acne?

Why Your Mask Is Causing Your Face to Breakout

And How to Stop It

As a registered nurse and esthetician, one frequent question I hear: "Tasha, why is my mask causing my face to breakout, and how can I stop it?" Understandably as there are many reasons why I have seen an increase in skin irritations and breakouts caused by wearing a facemask, AKA "maskne." Today, I am going to share with you some potential reasons and how to stop it!

A main area of concern is around the mouth and the areas of the nose, which is called perioral dermatitis. Unfortunately, health-care workers on the front line are experiencing this the most, due to the seal on their masks needed for protection. Some even experience more severe skin issues, like swelling and raw, red skin because of wearing an N95.

Compared to what is going on in the world, having an acne flare-up may seem inconsequential. But it is a critical problem that we should not trivialize as skin issues like constant acne, dry patchy skin, and redness can affect people's self-esteem, socialization, frustration, and even depression. More importantly, we do not want people not to wear a mask from fear of skin inflammations. 

Acne Mechanica

So, before I give you some prevention tips, I am going to get a bit technical here as I think you must understand how these breakouts happen. The technical term for maskne is "acne mechanica," which refers to a specific form of acne triggered by excess pressure, heat, and friction against the skin, from clothing, sports equipment, bulky protective gear, and in this case facemasks and PPE gear.

You see, we all have tons of little hair follicles on our skin, and that constant rubbing can irritate those follicles. The skin initially becomes dry, even red, and then develops acne-like bumps with continued irritants from sweating, makeup, or more friction. So, what are we to do? 

How to Care for The Skin If Required to Wear PPE 

The first tip is for those on the front-line wearing PPE, is to understand that when fitted correctly, it creates a tight seal around the nose and mouth for safety measures. The downside of this tight seal for health-care workers who wear these masks for extended periods they can experience, headaches, breakout, rashes, even something more severe like pressure ulcers. Hence it is essential to take preventive measures before, which I have listed below.

  • To prevent irritation and breakouts, you want to keep your skin clean and well moisturized. 
  • Ensure your cleanser and moisturizer are free of harsh fragrances, non-comedogenic, and not known to irritate your skin.
  • We suggest using a gentle cleanser like our Fresh Berry Cleanser that delivers a nourishing blend of natural plant oils to moisturize and soften your skin. This formula goes the extra mile for your skin, delivering a healthy dose of antioxidants, as well as, protecting the skins natural barrier. Meanwhile, the strawberry oil heals damage and brightens your complexion.


After the mask comes off, you can implement some approaches that I have outlined below for everyone wearing a facemask.


How to Care for The Skin When Wearing A Recommended CDC Facemask


The below tips apply to all of those wearing a mask out in public.


Tip 1- Wash Your Mask

This tip is a tip I give my patients, who wear the same mask multiple times. You need to wash and dry your mask after each use. One mistake I've seen people do is leave it in the car, thinking the heat might help kill germs, but you need to wash it. You wear it once and then wash it or toss it in the trash if it is a disposable mask. 

Tip 2- Use Fragrance-Free Laundry Detergent 

Harsh fragrances in products are among the most common cause of sensitizing and other adverse skin reactions, so you most certainly do not want to be placing that on your face. 

Tip 3- Switch Out Your Mask Frequently

For those who tend to sweat often, work in a hot environment, speak all day, or are wearing a mask to work out, you need to change it. If you wear that sweaty mask all day, that is the perfect breeding ground for more acne flare-ups.  

Tip 4-Types of Masks

For those not required to wear an N95 or surgical mask, you should wear a cotton mask to allow the skin to breathe. Also, make sure the mask fits properly. Having a mask that is too small can irritate the skin. On the same token, having one too large may require constant adjusting, and the more you touch your mask, the more likely you are to transfer germs to your mask and face. 

Tip 5-No Makeup

If you are wearing makeup, the mask is like a dirty makeup brush, pressing bacteria and microbes into the skin. Therefore, I recommend limiting your makeup use when wearing a mask, especially in the mask area.  

Tip 6-Skincare

We have a few skincare tips, which we have listed below.

Cleanse Your Face Daily

While it may be tempting to wash your face before and after you wear a mask, you do not want to overdo it. Over-washing can dry and irritate the skin further. Additionally, you want to make sure you are using a mild cleanser that offers anti-inflammatory properties and protects your skin against environmental stressors.

Moisturize Your Skin

Face masks can dry out the skin, so you want to hydrate the skin by using a Hyaluronic Face Cream that can be used on sensitive skin and won't clog pores or irritate blemish-prone skin. 

Hydrate With Hyaluronic Acid

Layering with a lot of skincare products can be irritating, which is why we suggest finding a skincare product with a dual purpose, like this oil-free gel moisturizer. Enriched with Hyaluronic Acid that heals and hydrates without clogging overactive pores. 

Lighten The Load On Powerful Skincare Ingredients

Anti-aging skincare products are still a must. But if you are wearing a mask frequently, you want to lighten the load on ingredients like retinol or any harsh scrubs as they can become more irritating under a mask.  

The Takeaway

Because of the COVID pandemic, we will probably be wearing a mask for a while. Hence implementing the correct mask-wearing measures and the right skincare routine can help lessen mask-related breakouts and other skin issues.


Have further questions regarding wearing a facemask, please refer to the CDC website.