Combating ‘Mask-ne’: How to Avoid Skin Irritations Caused by PPE

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From the very outset of COVID-19, it was obvious that wearing a face mask would become the “new normal” in order to protect yourself and others from transmitting the virus. Beyond the health and safety measure, it has been a bit disruptive and measurably unnerving, as daily mask-wearing has wreaked havoc on my skin.

Skin irritation and breakouts, for some, have also become the “new normal” as the requirement to wear face masks or other forms of PPE remains in place.

Acne flareups often come from pores clogged by excessive oil, dead skin and dirt build-up. But they can also come from acne mechanica – acne that erupts from repetitive physical trauma, such as masks on your face causing constant friction, rubbing, and excessive heat. The resulting irritation, inflammation and comedones has come to be known as “mask-ne.” In response to this new skin irritant, we have some skincare tips to help prevent acne flareups.

1. Cleanse regularly to prevent irritation and breakouts. It’s essential to cleanse after wearing your mask. Be sure to use a gentle, anti-bacterial cleanser to avoid stripping and trapping bacteria under the skin

2. Never rub. Always pat your skin dry after cleansing.

3. Use the right products. Apply an acne-fighting product, with low concentrations of salicylic, glycolic, or lactic acid that penetrates the skin directly to the problem areas around your nose, mouth, cheeks and chin.

4. Keep it simple. Avoid using too many highly concentrated acne products to address the same condition. Astringent-based toners that may cause more harm than good when layered with others. Keep your acne products to a minimum. Over-layering drying products can contribute to increased irritation.

5. Exfoliate. If pores become clogged with dirt and oil, it is vital to exfoliate with a chemical exfoliant at night. Chemical exfoliants penetrate deeper than mechanical facial scrubs. They also increase cell turnover, keeping dead skin cells from building up on the surface, clogging pores.

6. Moisturize. Apply a light-weight moisturizer to keep the skin barrier intact and protect the skin from constant friction.

7. Keep makeup to a minimum. Many of us, myself included, feel more put-together when I apply makeup(especially now since wearing masks leaves only the eyes to see). Swap out heavier products with lighter, more breathable ones. Too much makeup plus sweat and a mask leaves bacteria trapped with nowhere to go

8. Don’t experiment. If you are experiencing breakouts or irritation, now is not a good time to try new or stronger-than-usual products. If you must try a new product, choose those that are cooling and anti-inflammatory to reduce redness and irritation. Follow us on Instagram for specific cooling product recommendations.

For more specific skin concerns related to “mask-ne,” feel free to email the Courted team to set up a personal virtual consultation. Just email to learn more.


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