Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Arpita Singh (Beauty Expert)  on 18th Jan 2021

Maskne: What is it? Causes, Prevention & Tips

Maskne or acne caused

Masks have become a part of our regular clothing. People are wearing them all over the world to help and break the chain of infections. The workers on essential jobs have to wear tight masks across their faces almost all day long. Ordinary people, too, don a mask whenever they step outside their houses. Be it a short trip to the grocery store or a walk along the nearest lane.

In an ongoing pandemic, wearing masks is the need of the hour. However, it has been observed that masks and your facial skin share a grumpy and not so cordial relation. 

Dr. Rohit Batra, dermatologist, Dermaworld Skin and Hair Clinic. Says

Masks, when worn for prolonged hours, can give rise to acne, irritation, and redness. The mix of sweat, oils, and microbes boils down to the formation of acne. The humid environment that develops beneath the mask further turns the situation worse for you

What is maskne, anyway?  

Maskne, or the acne you get from wearing the masks for many hours at a stretch, is a new terminology that has caught everyone's attention in 2020.

If not taken proper care of, it can add serious complications to your face. One most common being acne breakouts that occur around the nose, cheeks, and jawline. The others include small bumps, inflamed hair follicles, irritation, pressure sores, broken vessels, contact dermatitis, and rosacea (redness).

All skin types can develop a flare-up of acne or a bad rash from wearing a mask for too long. 

How do masks cause acne? 

1) Moisture

Having the mask on, and every time you breathe or talk into it, you are simply adding to the existing humidity present in the area of your face that is confined beneath the mask.

Now, humidity is a terrible enemy of clear skin. A mask, pressing tight against the face, increases its temperature and alters the natural pH. The more humid it gets within the mask, the more convenient a breeding ground it will become for P. acnes (bacteria associated with acne). 

2) Bacteria 

P. acnes get trapped in the skin pores along with your sweat, oils, dirt, and dead skin cells and mostly produce inflammation in the surrounding areas.

Each time you adjust the mask to convene its fitting or pull it down to take a sip of coffee, your hands transfer dirt and oils to the face. Maybe you even rub the face when you get an itchy sensation there. This act also gathers more dirt and pore-clogging elements onto your face. 

3) Friction 

You can suffer from irritation or pressure sores on specific parts of the face that come in contact with the mask. It can be due to heat and friction or the pressure of the (mask) material on the skin.

The mechanical stress breaks the skin barrier, which is the outermost protective layer of your skin surface (including the stratum corneum). An irritated or damaged skin barrier is the gateway to acne. Because then, it gets easier for the bacteria and dirt to settle into the pores and make way for pimples

Jacob Steiger, facial plastic surgeon, South Florida. Says 

Acne mechanica is the name given to this form of acne, developing from continuous rubbing and abrading of the skin

4) Warm weather 

If the temperature outside is soaring, you can get acne on your skin. Higher temperatures stimulate the skin to produce more sweat and oils. When the weather is hot and humid, it becomes even more difficult for the sweat to evaporate off your body.

This causes the sweat to sit on the skin's surface and favor P. acnes to grow and develop. The blemishes appear inside as well as outside the mask. 

5) Cold weather 

It can dry out your skin, enabling the masks you wear to peel out its pieces easily. They aggravate the skin's barrier, providing an opening for irritants and dirt into the pores.

With no certain news of vaccines and WHO claiming that we will not get any until mid-2021, masks are here to stay. And the acne arising from the continual use of masks will remain an issue at present & also in the days to come.

Please equip yourself with all the various methods to stay away from acne.  

How can you prevent maskne? 

Tweak your daily skin routine a bit, and introduce some necessary changes to help your skin remain healthy and free from acne.

1) Go for a gentle skincare routine.

Take care of your face in times of pandemic because it needs you the most now. 

2) Cleansing and moisturizing 

  • Use a gentle and non-abrasive cleanser (one that doesn't contain alcohol) on your face. 
  • Take the help of lukewarm water to wet the face, and then use your fingertips to apply the cleanser. Anything other than your fingers, be it the mesh sponge or washcloth, can irritate your skin.
  • Rinse with lukewarm water again and pat it dry with a soft towel. 
  • Don't overdo the washing activity. Please take it once or twice a day, mostly in the morning and at night. However, if you have been sweating profusely (wearing a helmet or hat), you may consider washing your face immediately after it. Don't let sweat stay on your face.
  • Moisturising, yet again, is important for the skin barrier to remain intact and functioning. It helps to seal in the moisture on the face and handles the stressor of wearing the masks for long hours. Ensure the consistent use of a non-comedogenic moisturizer, and avoid fragrance, essential oils, methanol, and other skin irritants. 
  • You can also put on a gel-based moisturizer before tying a mask around. 
  • As a part of your night skincare routine, always layer in a moisturizer to strengthen the skin barrier and provide aid in its recovery (from the damage it underwent during the day). For the lips, you may use petroleum jelly (or vaseline) as it helps the skin to heal faster.

Minimalist tip:

Your moisturizer should have the anti-inflammatory ingredient, Niacinamide (vitamin B5). It regulates the amount of oil produced by the glands. It also supports the skin barrier with ceramide production, a protein that retains water inside the skin.

  • Take a step back from the regular serums and toners. Lessen the load of chemicals on your skin.
Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) 3% Face Toner
Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) 3% Face Toner
Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) 3% Face Toner
Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) 3% Face Toner

Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) 3% Face Toner

₹ 395

When to use: AM / PM

Frequency: Everyday

View details

3) Sunscreens and barrier creams: a duo that can fight maskne 

Think about the bricks and mortar system and how they are arranged. Similarly, the skin barrier is composed of skin cells acting as the bricks and the natural lipids forming the mortar, facilitating moisture movement into the skin. 

  • Apply a skin barrier cream of high consistency during the daytime before putting on the masks. It will boost/pump up the production of collagen and elastin fibers in your skin. It may come in the form of balms & ointments. 


If you have a skin condition, and you still need to wear a mask, make sure you apply a no-sting-barrier spray, which will add a layer of protection between you and the Mask, as recommended by The World Healing Unit of the University of Pisa', Italy.

  • Use a zinc oxide sunscreen or any mineral-based composition for the same. It will soothe your skin, preventing the irritants and UV rays from attacking your skin. 

4) Don't befriend new skincare products in the pandemic 

  • Experimenting with new ingredients to make your skin look better, are you? If yes, please take a step back. It is not the best time to venture out. 
  • Also, avoid potent medication and products that may render your skin dry and vulnerable. It includes anti-aging products, at-home light devices, peels or scrubs, etc. 

5. Say no to make up for the time being! 

Makeup, sweat, and take in some dirt that rests on your face anytime. Put them all under a mask, and you get one of the best recipes for acne.

  • The fragrance and dyes used in makeup may trickle over to the nearby areas and irritate your skin. Eventually, they will block the pores and cause pimples. 
  • Be it the lipsticks, lip balms, or chapsticks - put them away for a while. 
  • The eye makeup, however, can still be an option for the regular glam-up. 

All that you need to know about masks 

● What type of masks should you choose to wear? 

  • N95 masks are the most efficient in preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. They filter out more than 95% of the solid particles and must-wear for all health workers.

    Once worn, they form a tight seal around the mouth and nose, causing pressure ulcers and rashes on the face. However, the frontline staff can't do much about it. 
  • Surgical masks don't sit tightly on the face. As a result, they are less damaging to the skin. But, such masks can protect you only from the water droplets and not the small particles. 
  • How effective a cloth mask all depends on the material, the number, and the kind of layers it forms. It tends to absorb the sweat and natural oils, which may trigger your skin to compensate for the loss and overproduce more of them. 
  • "Masks made up of silk or silk-lined materials can serve as a good option. They would be antimicrobial in nature, and prove convenient for the people with sensitive skin," says Adam Mamelak, an Austin-based dermatologist. "But silk is a porous fabric, and the masks will hang loose around the cheeks, nose, and mouth. Also, they fail to stop the smaller liquid droplets from getting through the mask."
  • Cotton masks, with a sufficient thread count and layers, are also available. They have breathable and absorbent fabric and are soft on the skin. 
  • Avoid airtight masks as they increase facial sweating. Or any made up of synthetic materials, the reason being that they irritate the skin barrier.

● Your masks should fit you comfortably. 

  • You will mainly find the 'one size for all' masks selling in the market. Customized ones - scarce and a little expensive! 
  • Certain areas of the face that come in direct contact with the mask are more prone to maceration (i.e., abrasion and damage caused to the skin due to rubbing). This process may develop an irritation or a long-term allergy to the makeup ingredients. 
  • Sore skin behind the ears, a common problem these days. Try wearing a mask having a different kind of ear loop or tie. Maybe, use a ball cap or headband that comes with buttons. This way, you can wrap the ear loop around the buttons and prevent further harm to your skin.

● Mask hygiene to be maintained at all costs. 

  • Wash your cloth masks regularly, irrespective of the material. If possible, do it after every term of use. This will protect you from covid as well as ghastly skin irritation.
  • Take warm water to clean the masks, unless suggested otherwise. You can do it using a washing machine, or simply by hand. 
  • Gentle detergents, free from dyes and fragrances and which are hypoallergenic, should be used. White vinegar, being antimicrobial, can supplement your detergents in fighting acne. 

What are the OTC medications you can take to treat maskne?

Gentle exfoliants with a concentration not over 2.5% can be used in the form of daily cleansers, serums, or once in a week chemical peels. Hydration is one vital aspect in the treatment of acne.

You can also apply the medications directly over the affected regions of your face, maybe try a gel or cream. 

The following Minimalist's products are non-comedogenic:

Try out the Minimalist's daily gentle exfoliant salicylic acid 2%,

  • Instantly controls the breakouts (blackheads and whiteheads) on your face.
  • Drives the excess oils and dirt out from your pores. 
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

₹ 545

When to use: PM

Frequency: Alternate days

View details

Try out the Minimalist's powerful acne eraser and deep skin scrubber benzoyl peroxide 2% + glycolic acid 5%, 

  • Kills the acne-causing bacteria by penetrating deep into the pores. 
  • Removes the dead skin cells formed on the skin's surface, helping to unclog the pores.

Try out the Minimalist's nourishing daily serum niacinamide 10% (vitamin B3) + zinc, 

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Elemental sulfur is a milder way to reduce skin redness and inflammation.

The Bottom Line 

Remember, you must never pick, pop, or in any way disturb your acne. By doing so, you will be aggravating irritation and inflammation, and acne will spread to the neighboring areas, which then respond by forming more acne.

Avoid chewing gums and highly fluorinated toothpaste. They may cause rashes around your mouth. Steam exacerbates acne by drying out the skin barrier. Hot steamy soups, beverages, and spices, or even facial steams can trigger the blemishes to rise.

Stress is a huge contributor to acne. It is tough to keep a balance of mind during a pandemic. But, try to relax more often.

The OTC acne medication works rapidly to zap the acne out of your face. However, in some cases, their effects rebound and can lead to acne worsening. Visit a dermatologist at the earliest, or seek proper advice from the same, if it happens to you.

Acne is a common skin condition that can be easily cured with some precautionary measures or medications if required at the most. But in the larger picture, covid-19 remains a serious disease. It is better to bear the pain a little and help the world break free from the pandemic's vicious chain.

Please, properly wear your masks when you go out in public and practice social distancing.