Dealing with Maskne: Tips for treating and preventing mask-related breakouts

Nov 2, 2020

There's no other way about it: We are going have to learn how to live with wearing face masks from here on out. It's one of the best ways to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus--and face masks are here to stay. 

But we're also discovering the unfortunate (and annoying) downside of wearing our face masks all day: acne. So now the question is: does mask acne have to be part of our new normal? 

OF COURSE NOT! Here are some tips and recommendations to keep you protected from bad skin while protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.

What is mask acne or "maskne"? and why does it happen?

Wearing face masks for prolonged periods may cause breakouts and skin irritation because of heat, friction, and lack of fresh air circulation. There's a lot going on inside your face mask:

  • A buildup of excess sebum, excess dirt, and an overgrowth of bacteria can cause clogging in the hair follicles in your face and general mask area.
  • The mask area is humid because of the enclosed environment and your breath. This warm and moist environment is ideal for acne bacteria to thrive and grow. 
  • Constant friction between the mask material and your skin creates opportunities for bacteria to penetrate the protective skin barrier, which makes skin more prone to developing pimples.

Skin irritation may also result from prolonged mask use. Conditions such as eczema or contact dermatitis may develop, causing redness and itching, and in some cases scaly and/or weepy skin underneath your mask.  


Reducing and preventing maskne

Key to preventing breakouts is keeping bacteria under control. To do that, you need to keep your mask as clean as possible, as often as possible. Here are some ways you can prep your mask to keep acne at bay: 

  • If you're going to wear a mask again (as long as it's not fresh/new), disinfect the inside of the mask by wiping or spraying it with isopropyl alcohol. 70% alcohol is recommended for effectively killing germs and viral particles. 
  • Throw away disposable masks, or if you're using reusable fabric ones, wash them by hand after every use. You can disinfect it with alcohol if you have no time to wash your mask, but we recommend that you use a fresh or freshly-washed mask every time you have to wear one. 
  • If for instance, you're out and have to wear a mask all day, bring a spare clean one so you can change it in the middle of the day. (This is especially helpful if you need to be talking all day while wearing your face mask.)

    Treating maskne and mask-related irritation

    We're approaching the end of a very long year and we have spent much time wearing our masks for protection. For most, maskne has been inevitable--but it's not too late! Mask-related breakouts can be treated, and these ingredients can help your skin recover in no time. 

    1. Benzyl peroxide. Using a 2.5% - 5% benzyl peroxide wash is recommended. Going stronger than 5% can achieve just similar results but cause your skin to dry so much more. Avoid using this on your whole face, and make sure to rinse your skin thoroughly after using. 
    2. Salicylic acid. If you are getting a lot of blackheads and whiteheads, you can try using products with salicylic acid. Above 0.5% is best. Salicylic acid is also great for painful bumps and pimples because of its analgesic properties.

    If you are using salicylic acid concurrently with a benzyl peroxide treatment, make sure to wait 12 hours in-between applications. It is not recommended to use either of these everyday because of the drying nature of the ingredients. And don't forget your moisturizer!

    For eczema or contact dermatitis, here's what you can do to help your skin heal and recover: 

    1. Cleanse your face using a gentle non-foaming cleanser.
    2. Apply hydrocortisone cream twice daily after cleansing. Do this for 1-2 weeks at before putting your mask on, and at the end of the day after taking it off.
    3. Use a moisturizer. This helps repair the outer layers of the skin and allows the irritation to heal.

      Product recommendations for treating mask acne

      Recommended by Peaches&Creme

      Here are our top skincare product picks for dealing with maskne and mask-related skin irritation. Click on a product name to learn more! 


      A gentle, thorough clean is always important for controlling acne bacteria and preventing breakouts.


      If you prefer to use a cleanser without salicylic acid, you may opt instead to use a "leave-on" salicylic acid treatment in the form of a toner. 

      • Some By Mi 30 Days Miracle Toner (AHA BHA PHA) - contains 100ppm salicylic acid and has an optimal pH of 5.5.
      • Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner - contains 0.5% salicylic acid to aid in skin exfoliation and sebum reduction. It also contains ingredients that are known for anti-inflammatory properties, dead skin cell and blackhead care, pore care, and skin texture control. 
      • Pyunkang Yul ACNE Toner - contains white willow bark extract, salicylic acid (BHA), and tannin that helps unclog pores by exfoliating dead skin cells and any leftover impurities. It also helps readjust the skin's irregular skin turnover cycle which promotes healing. 
      • Sioris Feel So Fresh Toner - contains 2% willow bark extract that gently exfoliates and controls sebum levels. It contains natural salicylic acid (BHA) which is excellent for managing dead skin cells, keratin, and sebum for healthier pores. It also helps the skin stay moist and hydrated for longer periods. 
      Pimple patches

      When you already have some bumps and pimples present, it's important to protect them from getting infected by acne bacteria while wearing a mask. Pimple patches are hydrocolloid-type waterproof patches that protect blemishes from further irritation or infection. They also absorb the gunk inside to promote healing, minimizing scar formation.

      Antibacterial treatments

      Use antibacterial treatments during your morning routine, before you wear your mask. These treatments contain propolis, an ingredient with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties especially needed by acne-prone skin. 


      Moisturizers help protect and repair the outer layers of the skin and allow any irritation or acne to heal quickly. 

      BONUS: Recommendations for quick skin recovery

        Maskne Relief Skin Care Essentials

        Shop your maskne care today! Click here to view the full collection.


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