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Maskne: How to stop face mask acne and irritation



Find out how you can treat your skin's reaction to prolonged face mask wearing.

While we know that wearing a face mask can help control the spread of COVID-19, it's not all that great for those with sensitive skin.

A new study shows that prolonged wearing of masks can "cause adverse skin reactions such as acne, contact dermatitis and pressure effects, as well as exacerbating any underlying skin conditions".

The latest research comes from the Australasian College of Dermatologists and the Occupational Dermatology Research and Education Centre.

But why does this happen? Face masks increase moisture, temperature and friction, thus making the skin more susceptible to irritation.

How to prevent maskne

There are a few steps you can take before, during and after your mask wearing that can significantly help your skin's experience.

  • Research recommends keeping your skincare routine simple. Use a mild skin cleanser morning and night, keep your skin moisturised with something lightweight, avoid toners as they can be drying, and apply sunscreen.
  • Always remember to use hand sanitiser when putting your mask on and off.
  • A good-fitting mask can limit friction, so try and find something that's not too tight. You can also reduce friction by applying moisturiser 30 minutes prior to putting on your mask as this will lubricate the area.

How to treat acne and irritation from your face mask

Besides itchy and dry skin, prolonged face mask wearing can cause both acne and contact dermatitis. This is due to the increased temperature and moisture in and around the face area.

According to the Australasian College of Dermatologists and the Occupational Dermatology Research and Education Centre, this is what you can do to treat it.


  • Consider using products with salicylic acid, benzyl peroxide gel, azelaic acid, zinc and niacinamide. All of these ingredients work to control acne and oil production.
  • Use a lightweight moisturiser.
  • A toner could be beneficial (in this case) as it can dry out the skin.
  • If you are planning to wear makeup, avoid a comedogenic formula and opt for something mineral-based.

Contact dermatitis

  • If you're able to, try a different brand or type of mask. Everyone reacts to different fabrics differently.
  • Treat mild irritant contact dermatitis with moisturiser.
  • With more severe irritant contact dermatitis, low strength topical steroids can be used. It's recommended to start with 0.5-1% hydrocortisone cream available over the counter, or 1% hydrocortisone ointment if the skin is dry.
  • If allergy is still suspected, refer to a dermatologist for patch testing.

Want more help with masks? Check out our overview of face masks, how to choose the best one, what doctors recommend when using them, the rules that apply in Australia and our regularly-updated guide on where to buy masks.

Image: Getty Images

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