Maskne is real, here’s how to treat it

asian woman with acne from wearing mask

How masks and COVID-19 are changing skin care routines

Is wearing a face covering causing your skin to break out?

There’s no doubt that masks are one of the most proactive things you can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are all wearing them, and that’s a good thing. But one unexpected result of mask-wearing is an increase in breakouts and acne, even among adults who don’t usually have issues with their skin. It’s so common there’s even a name for it: maskne.

Why are so many people breaking out from wearing masks? Masks trap air when you talk and breathe, creating a warm, humid environment against your skin that encourages the growth of bacteria and yeast. Combined with friction from the mask, this causes skin irritation. And that irritation can cause pimples, rosacea and even a yeast infection in and around your mouth.

How to protect skin while wearing a mask

With acne, the most effective cure is prevention. This means taking the time to care for your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends doing the following to keep maskne at bay:

How to treat mask acne and mask breakouts

If you do develop maskne, don’t treat it like regular acne. Traditional acne treatments can be harsh, causing delayed healing and possibly making your skin irritation worse. And keep in mind, you’ll still need to wear a mask on top of that irritation, so it can create a vicious cycle. You’ll need to treat your skin with a gentle touch:

If your acne persists despite careful skin care, it could be the result of other issues related to COVID-19: pandemic stress and diet. The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article in June linking adult acne to dairy and a high-glycemic diet.

Is it maskne or something else?

If the irritation on your face is itchy or looks like a rash, it might be contact dermatitis. If that is the case, it can be treated with hydrocortisone cream. But you should see a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment because hydrocortisone cream can exacerbate acne.

Another mask-related skin issue is candida overgrowth. The symptoms are similar to acne —red bumps or pus-filled pimples — but include irritation, cracking, bleeding and redness at the corners of the mouth. Luckily, candida infections are easy to treat with the same antifungal creams used to treat athlete’s foot.

Rosacea is another condition triggered by masks and often mistaken for acne. Like acne, it appears as red patches with teeny-tiny bumps. But it usually covers a larger surface area. Unfortunately, if you treat rosacea with anti-acne products, it can make the condition worse. Identification by a dermatologist is key so you can ensure you are using products that heal rosacea.

When to see a dermatologist for maskne

While most mask-related skin issues can be treated at home, if you aren’t sure about what is irritating your skin, or if your symptoms don’t improve, make an appointment with a dermatologist. Visit our online doctor directory  to locate a Roper St. Francis Healthcare dermatologist near you.