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Published on October 15, 2020

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Is wearing a face mask causing your acne?

Beat 'maskne' with these tips

Is it stress? The changing seasons? Your new foundation? If you're wondering what may be causing more pimples than usual to pop up around your nose and mouth, the culprit may surprise you: your face mask.

Maskne—a word that started trending during the COVID-19 pandemic—describes acne caused by wearing a face mask. The phenomenon often affects people who wear a face covering for prolonged periods, especially those who already have acne-prone skin. While the condition is an inconvenience, there are small steps you can take to limit breakouts.

What causes maskne?

Maskne is a form of mechanical acne, which is commonly caused by heat and friction—like your face and a mask rubbing together. "When there is an external irritant that causes rubbing, in acne prone people skin cells tip in under the skin and this causes acne," says Gundersen dermatologist Abigail Taub, MD.

How can I prevent maskne?

Unfortunately, maskne is difficult to avoid for some people.

"We all need to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which makes wearing a mask of the utmost importance," Dr. Taub says. "It is hard to keep the mask from rubbing and allow the skin to breathe."

There are some steps to take to reduce your chances of maskne:

  1. Cleanse your face with a product containing benzoyl peroxide. This tip is especially useful for anyone who has oily skin, but beware: You don't want to overdo it and strip all the natural oils from your face. "It is normal for there to be oil on the skin, and if too much oil is stripped the skin's defense is to make more oil, which can lead to a vicious cycle," Dr. Taub says.
  2. Wash cloth masks frequently. Use a fragrance-free laundry detergent and consider rinsing your masks an extra time to ensure anything that could irritate your skin is removed. Do not use dryer sheets.
  3. Visit a dermatologist. If your maskne is particularly bothersome or the above tips don't work for you, a prescription cream for acne may be helpful. "At Gundersen, we usually can schedule a video a visit within a week and can help tackle maskne virtually," Dr. Taub says.
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