How to Prevent and Treat Maskne

Health Conditions

How to Prevent and Treat Maskne

Jennifer Hadley
By Jennifer Hadley
Aug 14, 2020
Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
Medically Reviewed ByCarina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
How to Prevent and Treat Maskne

Citing evidence that face coverings help to slow the spread of COVID 19, in June the CDC called on most Americans to wear a face mask in public settings, when social distancing measures are hard to maintain, and when spending time with people outside of your household.

This recommendation, along with local and state guidelines on wearing a mask means that millions of Americans, who had previously never worn face masks, are now covering their noses and mouths for varying lengths of time.

As the result, many Americans are experiencing new skin breakouts dubbed “maskne” around the nose, cheeks, and chin. Fortunately, following smart skincare tips and/or using medications recommended by your dermatologist may help to prevent and treat maskne.

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What is maskne?

Maskne is the slang term for a skin condition called acne mechanica. It is not a new type of acne. Plenty of athletes who wear ball caps, helmets with straps, or chin guards experienced this type of skin irritation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, injured individuals using crutches, have long experienced this type of skin outbreak in the armpits.

How do you get maskne from your face mask?

Maskne is believed to stem from two major triggers. The first is humidity, which builds up as the result of breathing in a mask. This humidity around your face can mix with sweat, oils, and makeup, clogging the pores on the skin of your face. Secondly, the friction caused by the mask itself rubbing against your skin can also lead to blocked and clogged pores, leading to pimples.

How to Prevent Maskne

Preventing maskne begins with ensuring that the mask you use to cover your nose and mouth is clean. If you are using a cloth mask, it should be washed daily. If you choose to wear a disposable face mask, replace it often.

It is also important to remove your face mask and let your skin have a break when it is safe for you to do so. Remove your mask in between errands, when you are alone in your car. To prevent maskne, it is also a good idea to remove your face mask when in your own home, as long as you are not taking care of anyone who is at high risk for COVID-19, or caring for someone who is currently ill.

If you will be wearing a face mask for long periods, it is important to be vigilant about your skincare routine, by going easy on your skin. If you have to wear a mask all day at work, for example, you may consider avoiding makeup, and taking a shower when you get home.

Be sure to use gentle cleansers for washing your face, rather than products that may weaken your skin’s protective layers because they are abrasive or otherwise dry out your skin.

How to Treat Maskne

Even with your best efforts to prevent maskne, you may still experience acne mechanica as the result of wearing a face mask. If you do break out around the face, cheeks, chin, and nose, topical treatments that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide may help clear up your skin.

If your maskne does not clear up with over the counter cleansers, creams, gels, or spot treatments, you may want to see a dermatologist. Depending upon the severity of your maskne, a prescription acne medication may be recommended.

What medications can you use for maskne?

Prescription medications recommended by a dermatologist to treat maskne may include those included in a class of medications called retinoids. These include adapalene (brand name Differin), tretinoin (brand name Retin-A, Avita), and tazarotene (brand name Tazorac, Avage).

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Keeping Skin Clear During COVID-19

To improve your chances of keeping your skin clean and free of maskne during COVID-19, be sure to wash your face regularly to remove dirt, oil, and makeup, and prevent the buildup of bacteria. Ensure that your face mask is secure, snugly covering your nose and mouth, but not too tight, where it may irritate your skin. Wash your mask regularly, or use a new disposable mask frequently.

When it comes to your lotions, and/or makeup, look for products that have a “non-comedogenic” label, to ensure that they won’t further clog your pores.

If you do begin to break out, do not rub, pick, or pop any pimples. Try an over the counter topical cream, gel or lotion with salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide listed as an ingredient.

If it contributes to irritation or redness, discontinue use, and schedule an appointment with a dermatologist for professional medical help in treating maskne.

Adapalene: 0.3 % | 1 tube

Tretinoin: 0.05 % | 1 tube

Tazarotene: 0.1 % | 1 tube

*Lowest online price at national pharmacy chains Costco, CVS, RiteAid, Walgreens and Walmart as of 8/12/2020. Prices vary by location and pharmacy, see for actual pricing in your area.

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley

Jen Hadley is a freelance writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, who writes extensively about the medical, legal, health care, and consumer products industries. Jen is a regular contributor to RxSaver.

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS., is a pharmacist who earned her PharmD from St. John’s University in Queens, NY. She maintains an active practice, serving as a Board-Certified Pediatric Pharmacotherapy Specialist at a large metropolitan teaching hospital in New York City. Carina has also published in pharmacy journals and works as a consultant reviewing medical articles for publication.

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