3 Ways to Treat Acne from Wearing a Face Mask


3 Ways to Treat Acne from Wearing a Face Mask

Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD
By Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD
Jan 21, 2021
3 Ways to Treat Acne from Wearing a Face Mask

If you’re like countless other Americans, the frequent use of face masks is leading to skin irritation and acne. Dubbed maskne, these breakouts are primarily occurring on the bridge of the nose, along the cheeks, and on the chin. Fortunately, these breakouts can be managed. Though you may not be able to prevent breakouts altogether, there are ways to treat them.

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3 Ways to Treat Acne from Wearing a Face Mask

The 3 primary ways to treat acne caused by wearing a face mask include:

  • Adopting healthy skin habits
  • Prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medications

Adopting Healthy Skin Habits

While there is no surefire way to prevent all breakouts from masks, healthy skin habits can help to prevent and treat acne. Be sure to:

  • Use clean masks
  • Moisturize your skin
  • Cleanse skin regularly

Use Clean Masks

If you use disposable masks, do not reuse them. Put on a fresh mask every day. If you use a fabric mask, be sure to wash it daily. Oil, sweat, and bacteria build up inside masks, which contribute to acne. You might also consider switching to a satin or silk mask. These have become much more affordable, and these fabrics cause less friction than other materials.

Moisturize Your Skin

It may seem counterintuitive to moisturize your skin to prevent acne. However, you need a healthy moisture barrier on your skin. As the mask moves on your face, having plenty of moisture will reduce the friction that is causing bumps, and allow the mask to glide easier. You can also help maintain a healthy moisture barrier on your skin by using a humidifier in your home or office.

Cleanse Skin Regularly

In addition to your morning and evening cleansing routines, you may want to quickly clean your face throughout the day. Pre-moistened cleansing pads are easy to carry with you, and a quick trip to the restroom to wipe your face during the day can help remove bacteria, sweat, and oil. Just be sure you apply moisturizer after cleansing.

Best Prescription Medications to Treat Acne from a Face Mask

If the acne caused by your face mask is difficult to manage, prescription medication may help. Since the acne caused by face masks is primarily a type of acne called acne mechanica, rather than being cystic in nature, most retinoids are not necessary. Instead, try:

  • Soolantra (ivermectin cream)
  • Azelaic Acid
  • Onexton (clindamycin phosphate/benzoyl peroxide)

Soolantra (Ivermectin Cream)

This topical prescription cream boasts anti-inflammatory benefits and will help moisturize your face. It should be applied as directed by your dermatologist. The manufacturer of Soolantra offers a coupon that may help you save money on your prescription.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid can help treat acne caused by a face mask. Prescription-strength azelaic acid should be applied according to your dermatologist’s recommendation.

The cost of azelaic acid without insurance starts at $103.16* for 15% and 1 tube using an RxSaver coupon.

Onexton (Clindamycin Phosphate/Benzoyl Peroxide)

This medication combines an antibiotic, which stops the growth of bacteria, with benzoyl peroxide which helps reduce oil production.

The cost of clindamycin phosphate/benzoyl peroxide without insurance starts at $73.64* for 1 %-5 % and 1 jar using an RxSaver coupon.

Best Over-the-Counter Medications to Treat Acne from a Face Mask

There are lots of OTC medications that will help treat acne caused by a face mask. Look for medicated toners with salicylic acid. Sulfur washes are also helpful in treating minor breakouts. Cleansers and moisturizers that contain benzoyl peroxide can also help treat small breakouts.

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Why is my face mask making me break out?

Acne caused by a face mask is a specific type of acne, known as acne mechanica. Acne mechanica is caused by friction. Incidentally, athletes experience this type of acne fairly frequently from helmets and uniforms. In the case of acne mechanica caused by a mask, it’s because the mask rubs over the pores of your skin, and irritates it.

Once irritated by friction, your skin will begin to re-epithelialize, which is an important healing process that takes place after you get a wound on your skin. During this process, the open wound is covered by epithelial cells known as keratinocytes. These cells migrate from the periphery of the wound to cover the wound and promote healing. In other words, it is the process by which your skin works to restore natural barrier functions. Unfortunately, when the new skin grows over the follicular opening (or pore), it can lead to clogged pores and the proliferation of acne.

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Talk to Your Dermatologist For a Prescription

We will likely be wearing face masks for the foreseeable future, so if you’re struggling to control acne, talk to your dermatologist. Acne caused by face masks is very common, but if it can be treated. If breakouts caused by face masks are bothering you, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. There are plenty of affordable over-the-counter and prescription medications that can help.

*Lowest online price at national pharmacy chains Costco, CVS, RiteAid, Walgreens and Walmart as of 1/19/2021. Prices vary by location and pharmacy, see RxSaver.com for actual pricing in your area.

Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD

Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD

Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified and nationally-acclaimed dermatologic surgeon. Widely celebrated for her expertise in neurotoxins, injectable fillers and chemical peels, she provides a wide range of treatments including fat removal, mole excision, Mohs surgery, and skin cancer treatment. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, and American College of Mohs Surgery. She regularly appears as a dermatologic expert on national shows including Good Morning America, TODAY, The Dr. Oz Show, The Doctors, Inside Edition & many more. Dr. Engelman is the Dermatology expert for RxSaver.

The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

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