Face Masks: How to stop Irritation to the skin

Face Masks conditions from “maskne” to Rosacea, a few ways of wearing a face mask can be irritating to the skin surface, but there are steps you can take to prevent or treat it. Wearing a mask frequently can cause “maskne.” It is acne caused because the mask traps oil and dirt in pores.

Mask wearing can cause skin conditions like miliaria and Rosacea. Moisturizer, Emollient and medications can control maskne.


As more places are opening up after lockdowns, and wearing masks is becoming a routine, your skin may develop “maskne.” Maskne is a play on the ‘derm-urban dictionary’ term ‘backne’. It is a newly coined for novel COVID-19 face mask era. Chestne (chest acne) is a previous name change of the infamous term backne.

A similar acne response is typical with helmet straps and seen in acne-prone cyclists and football players. It is similar to what we see with wearing thick makeup in actors and dancers. It is common for many doctors, nurses and health workers to experience maskne due to wearing a mask every day, all day.

The most general issue is facial redness in the geometric distribution of the mask, with the most prominence at the border, so people get a lovely oval red outline. The facial areas are usually tender to the touch and any cream/lotion one would apply stings, as the skin barrier has been disrupted. The sensory nerves of the face are hypersensitive to external stimuli in the setting of inflammation.

What causes maskne?

While acne is the trigger for maskne, maskne might be a bucket term for a few more conditions that are caused by wearing a mask.

Acne Mechanica

Physical manipulation and pressure put on by the mask on the skin trigger acne. The combination of occlusion, friction, and emotional stress of COVID-19 makes a perfect recipe for acne. Being a chronic inflammatory disease that results in constant skin barrier disruption, any stress on the skin or overall system can exacerbate the condition.


It is also known as heat rash. Miliaria can be the result of sweat and occlusion under the mask. Mask wearing often leads to local alteration of the facial skin microbiome. The covered skin has elevated CO2 levels, higher temperatures, increased humidity, and more bacteria and microorganisms from the mouth and respiratory system with mask use.

Miliaria directly comes from the immune system responding to trapped dead skin cells, sweat salts in the openings of the skin where they don’t belong and bacteria.


In addition to triggering acne flare-ups, alteration of skin microbiome by masks could worsen or trigger Rosacea. It may lead to perioral dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis, which is a type of dandruff-like facial redness with scaling. It is a unique chronic inflammatory disease that results from skin barrier dysfunction.

It is an overactive local immune response, and hypersensitive nerves around the blood vessels. Rosacea causes widening, which is done persistently, resulting in chronic facial redness. Similar issues arise when a person wears a mask all day in terms of disease exacerbation.

Ways to care for your skin while wearing a mask.

Apply Emollient

  • Skin irritation with face masks is most common along the bridge of the nose and central cheeks, where the flexible nose piece is secured into place.
  • This could be minimized by using a thicker emollient, such as Aquaphor, in the area to augment skin barrier function.
  • It provides lubrication for the junction of the face masks with the skin.


  • Lighter consistency moisturizers, ideally with anti-acne ingredients, such as retinol and purified nano-sulfur regulates inflammation and slowing down skin turnover.
  • When the skin is inflamed, it makes itself too quickly, which in the setting of acne is even more problematic, as this can result in clogged pores, further worsening the condition.
  • Topical retinoids are ideal for this, and there is one over-the-counter called Differin Gel .1 per cent.
  • Because retinoids can be drying and irritating when you first start using them, ease into using them by applying a pea-sized amount to the entire face and dry skin every other night for several weeks.

Cleanse and Exfoliate

  • When you remove your mask cleanse and exfoliate your face gently.
  • Cleaning self-made cloth face masks in the washing machine is purely sufficient.
  • The buildup as dead skin due to oil and other debris can be irritating to the surface, among other things.

Use Prescription Medications

  • For more moderate to stressful situations, there are prescription medications your dermatologist can prescribe.
  • Ignoring conditions may lead to severe skin problems. Persistent irritant contact dermatitis increases skin infection.
  • The constant rubbing and Irritation can cause a cold sore outbreak.
  • Chronic inflammation can lead to long-standing skin discolouration, called post-inflammatory pigment alteration, especially in darker-skinned individuals.