Wearing a mask on the face to cover the mouth and nose is quite impossible without involving the cheeks, chin, and ears. The broadened scope of facial coverage brings about more surface area on the skin being less exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun but more exposed to skin disruption and imbalance, thereby creating a new form of skin condition — maskne.

Just like a blister forms on the foot from a newly worn shoe being broken in, masks have bred a unique development of bumps within the skin where the two touch. The continued friction from the masks with the skin causes irritation. This irritation transitions to small, almost milia-looking or open -looking bumps on the surface of the skin.

Treating Maskne

Maskne can be treated by professionals the same way as acne because they share similar skin care conditions that result in inflammation of the skin caused by a disruption to the skin’s homeostasis.

However, acne does involve more internal elements that create it, such as genetics, the amount of natural sebum being produced by the body, elimination of toxins from the body, the triggering of different hormones, consumption of inflammatory-producing foods, and stress. Maskne differs because it is an external, mechanical ailment on the skin that creates friction and harbors bacteria.

An accurate skin analysis will better assist the professional in determining how they can treat their client’s skin in the best way possible. Knowing the difference between maskne and acne on the client’s skin tailors a variation of treatment solely for them.

Maskne disrupts the function of the skin’s microbiome. The bad bacteria anchored in the mask infiltrates the good bacteria, overriding the inhabited microorganisms designed to assist in protecting the skin. This invasion of bad bacteria from the mask creates disharmony on the skin, thus causing the skin to react like a pubescent teenager. Regardless of age, race, or sex, maskne targets anyone wearing a mask.

Sanitation & Proper Cleaning for Masks

The most important part of preventing maskne is the regular sanitation of masks. A clean mask will aid in clean skin.

The best mask to wear is debatable. Disposable masks are great because they are thrown away after use, which creates the least amount of bacteria build-up formed within the mask. The downside of wearing disposable masks is the material. The paper that is used to make them creates more irritation. Also, some people wear disposable masks without disposing of them after each use, which defeats the purpose.

Satin masks will create less irritation and friction on the skin because of their soft, woven material. They soak-up excess moisture residing on the skin, which in turn may aid in a lower production of sebum. The downside to wearing a satin mask is the entrapment of heat. They are not as breathable on the skin as disposable or cloth masks.

Cloth masks are more comfortable on the skin and if made with cotton, are fairly breathable for the skin. They harbor the most bacteria within them, thus creating a sanctuary of bad bacteria. To overuse a cloth mask, especially in some places where masks are required while actively exercising, is like wearing the same pair of underwear repeatedly. No matter what skin care regimen that is religiously practiced every day, there is no instant antidote for placing a re-used, cloth mask on the skin.

Silk masks are recommended because they promote clean and hydrated skin. Silk assists in preventing moisture loss within the skin, which helps those suffering from dry skin. It is also antimicrobial and aids in keeping the skin clear and free of irritation. Since silk is naturally made from silkworms, the organic quality supplements the skin’s carbon makeup. Silk would be the best choice of mask for the skin but if not sanitized properly, could impose a maskne flare-up.

To prevent maskne, please form good habits of mask cleanliness. Disposable masks should be thrown out after use. Satin, cloth, and silk masks should be cleaned on a regular, daily basis. Create space where masks are treated with care by storing them in a clean environment when not in use. Be mindful of how the masks are placed after wearing them — keeping them open and allowing them to breathe instead of folding them in half. Sanitation can even be taken a step further with sterilization. A portable ultraviolet radiation sterilizer can reduce the spread of germs and bacteria.

Treatment of Options

The treatment of maskne will closely mimic the treatment of acne. Non-aggressive techniques should be applied, such as minimal to no massage stimulation, minimal to no steam utilization, acute extraction and no mechanical exfoliants in the areas of active acne and skin irritation. In some cases of maskne, the skin mimics a rosacea-like appearance, forming clusters of irritated, inflamed skin around the mouth and chin and should be treated like rosacea-based skin conditions.

Four easy ways to treat maskne include avoiding makeup use when wearing masks, applying a moisturizer before masking up, washing the face directly after removing the mask, and applying acne medication.

Makeup that rests on the skin where the mask touches not only transfers onto the mask but also acts as a layer of occlusion to the skin, thus making it less breathable. Adding a mask on top of skin that has a painted palette of cosmetics invites the confinement of bad bacteria, which can cause maskne.

A common mistake when maskne appears is using products that dry out the skin and then foregoing moisturizing products. When the lipid barrier on the skin is disrupted by the stripping of the skin’s natural oils, skin naturally activates the production of more oil, which causes acne. By applying moisturizer on the skin before masking, it will cater to the lipid barrier’s need to not produce more oil which then will control acne. Also, the moisturizer will work as a film on the skin to decrease irritation due to the friction of the mask.

Since masks tend to harbor bacteria, washing the face directly after removing it promotes the freeing of any lingering bacteria that could cause maskne. This also rids the skin from excessive debris in the pores from the material of the mask.


The first step in home care when treating maskne is to not wear a mask within the confinements of one’s home if possible. The least amount of time the mask has to be worn over the face, the less exposure to acquiring to possible maskne.

Remember to cleanse the skin after removing your mask and ALWAYS make sure to apply a moisturizer. These are good practices for homecare which help develop skin care habits that become a daily routine when a mask is worn.

Incorporating tools, such as red and blue light LED to treat inflammation promote healing and fight against bacteria and are safe ways to assist in treating maskne.

Another tip is to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and eat a healthy diet.