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Breakouts From Face Masks

How to Prevent Mask Acne

While vital to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, face masks are causing an uptick in acne. The humid and sticky environment your mask creates around your face lends itself to breakouts around the nose, cheeks, mouth and chin.

“The acne people are experiencing due to face masks is small pimples, like rosacea,” says Northwestern Medicine Dermatologist Walter J. Liszewski, MD. “Some people have never had acne like this in their lives.”

Though Dr. Liszewski recommends regularly cleaning your cloth mask, he says the main cause of the acne is not a dirty mask. Bacteria that cause acne thrive in the humid environment a face mask creates for your skin. Even people who change their masks and use clean surgical masks are having issues with acne.

Dr. Liszewski also says that duration of time wearing a mask doesn’t directly correlate to acne development. “I’m seeing as much mask acne in people who work in health care and wear a face mask for eight hours a day as in people who are just wearing their mask to the grocery store,” he says.

Here’s an easy over-the-counter solution for mask acne:

  • To reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria on your skin, wash your face with a cleanser containing 2% to 5% benzol peroxide; higher concentrations can irritate the skin.
  • Let the benzol peroxide solution sit on the skin for two to three minutes before rinsing it away.
  • Use a non-comedogenic (oil-free) moisturizer on your face after washing.
  • Try not to pick at your acne or touch your face.

If your acne doesn’t clear up after switching to a benzol peroxide wash, it may be helpful to see a dermatologist for additional treatment. Remember, wearing a mask is vital to your health and others during the pandemic.

How to Stop Your Face Mask From Chafing

The routine use of masks is also causing skin irritation for many people.

“Frictional or irritant dermatitis can be easily relieved by minimizing pressure of the mask on the face, or using thick barrier creams to protect the skin from chafing,” says Dr. Liszewski.

If wearing your mask is painful, try to alleviate pressure by either extending the straps, using a creative solution like a headband with buttons to reduce the pressure, or purchasing a larger mask that better fits your face.

On skin that is already chafing, apply a thick barrier cream such as zinc oxide, often used for diaper rash, or petroleum jelly. These types of cream protect the skin from further damage so that it can heal from the inside out.

Rashes due to allergies are not common with masks. If you suspect you are having a skin allergy to your mask, see a dermatologist.

Dr. Liszewski adds that the stress of the pandemic and isolation can also exacerbate skin issues. Stress relief practices may be useful in combination with topical treatment for acne.