How to Fight Mask Acne, aka "Maskne"

by Elizabeth Pamboukian on May 12, 2022

How to Fight Mask Acne, aka "Maskne"

Forget a designer handbag, our new and essential accessory is our face mask. Now it is ingrained in our brains that wearing a mask or face covering along with social distancing is the most effective tool we have right now to stop the spread of Covid-19, we are all wearing ours a lot more, even daily.

But despite offering a vital first defense against airborne bacteria, masks can come with their own set of problems. With more people wearing masks regularly due to Covid-19, many of us have been noticing increased acne breakouts and skin irritation on our lower faces, thus creating the new term: maskne. Sure, “maskne” is a small price to pay for lowering the rate of transmission of Covid-19, but wouldn’t it be nice not to have to pay it?

Maskne refers to pimples, blackheads, and other irritation on your cheeks, chin, nose, and around your mouth that you wouldn’t normally be having if it weren’t for your face covering. “The acne people are experiencing due to face masks is small pimples, like rosacea,” says Northwestern Medicine Dermatologist Walter J. Liszewski, MD. “Some people have never had acne like this in their lives.”

Though Dr. Liszewski recommends regularly cleaning your cloth mask, he says the main cause of the acne is not a dirty mask. Bacteria causes acne to thrive in the humid environment that a face mask creates for your skin. Even people who change their masks and use clean surgical masks are having issues with acne.

Dr. Liszewski also says that duration of time wearing a mask doesn’t directly correlate to acne development. “I’m seeing as much mask acne in people who work in health care and wear a face mask for eight hours a day as in people who are just wearing their mask to the grocery store,” he says.

So bottom line, if you feel like your face mask is causing acne, you’re probably not imagining it. Maskne is quite common in this Covid-19 driven age but there are some ways to prevent and treat the issue.

Here are some tips for preventing maskne:

1. Wash your face before and after wearing a face mask.

Hopefully, you’re taking the time to diligently wash your hands throughout the day and avoiding touching your face as much as possible. But you should also be sure to wash your face with a gentle cleanser free of fragrance and parabens to avoid trapping bacteria under the mask and pushing it further into your skin. We recommend using Bonajour’s Green Tea Foaming Cleanser to soothe and keep your skin balanced. This cleanser also works well with sensitive skin!

2. Use a chemical exfoliant.

While benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid spot treatments can help target whiteheads once they are formed, chemical exfoliants, which dissolve dead cells on the skin's surface, are key for preventing mask breakouts from forming in the first place. We recommend Bonajour’s Eggplant Daily BHA Toner which helps get rid of impurities, dead skin cells, and sebum. Plus, eggplant is a unique protective ingredient that prevents oxidative damage, fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots! Another great exfoliant is Swell Skin’s Tight and Toned Botanical Exfoliating Toner which uses natural ingredients to minimize pores and promote glowing, bright, moisturized skin.


3. Add in anti-oxidants into your skincare routine.

Adding ingredients such as Vitamin C will keep your skin healthy and illuminated while protecting against pollutants as well as any bacteria from under your mask. We recommend Bonajour’s Green Multi-Vitamin Nutrition Serum packed with vitamins to promote clear skin and reduce spots.

4. Hydrate accordingly.

After cleansing, be sure to add moisture back into the skin. We recommend Bonajour’s Eggplant BHA Water Cream Moisturizer which is lightweight and free of harmful ingredients. The added BHA will also protect against any new acne.

5. Avoid oily products.

Heavy oil-containing products can make you sweat quicker and clog your pores. Look for skincare products that are lightweight and oil-free.

6. Ditch the face makeup.

Heavy foundations will only further trap bacteria in your pores and under your mask. Instead opt for a tinted sunscreen like Unsun’s Mineral Tinted SPF 30 Face Sunscreen.

7. Pick the right mask.

If you’re wearing a non-medical mask, go for a more breathable fabric like cotton which is less likely to make you sweat. That said, if you’re working out choose a moisture wicking fabric similar to your workout clothes. If it’s likely that friction is causing your skin irritation, pick a mask that feels more smooth.

8. Toss disposable masks.

The word “disposable” should be a tipoff but if you’re reusing one of these, you might be putting makeup and dirt from yesterday right back on your face.

9. Wash your reusable masks regularly.

This can depend on how long you’re wearing your mask and whether you sweat but we recommend using hot water and soap for a deep clean! You can even throw in your cotton masks with your load on laundry day!

10. Spritz your mask.

You spritz your pillow, why not spritz your mask? Moonlit’s Sleepy Spritzzz is meant for your pillow but you can spray some in your mask to help both you and your skin relax a bit (plus it smells like lavender, what more can you ask for?).

Here are a few tips to treat maskne at home.

1. Use a spot treatment for active acne lesions.

Bonajour’s Extreme Spot Serum uses low molecular ingredients to absorb quickly and directly into skin to immediately repair and brighten skin. This treatment can also act as a barrier between your acne and your mask.

2. Try a hydrocolloid pimple patch.

These patches gently absorb excess fluid and protect your breakouts from further bacteria and irritation.