Tips For Fighting Bouts Of Maskne As We Go Into The Winter Months

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

No matter how well you take care of your skin, maskne can pop up when you least expect it. Breakouts caused by wearing masks may have existed prior to 2020, but the term "maskne" gained widespread use during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. "[Maskne] has always been an issue in professions where you have to wear a mask regularly. But now that the general public has to wear masks, the incidence of it has certainly increased," Dr. Amy Kassouf tells the Cleveland Clinic. As masking became more prevalent, acne-prone individuals and those with no history of breakouts quickly observed that the face coverings caused difficult-to-treat spots.


Acne caused by face coverings can appear anywhere along the lower half of the face and is aggravated by repeated mask usage, which can sometimes be unavoidable. Friction plays a role in the formation of mask-related acne, and the humid environment underneath your mask can increase sebum production. According to research published in The Journal of Clinical Medicine, your pores excrete sebum at higher rates as temperatures rise. "You can see [maskne] in the areas covered by the mask and also the areas where the mask and face shields touch the skin," Dr. Nazanin Saedi tells Masking up is more common as we approach winter weather, but you can minimize the irritation it causes. So, what steps can be taken to get rid of maskne quickly?


Always wear a clean face mask

The first and most important step in preventing maskne is to ensure your face mask is squeaky clean. You might be tempted to reuse masks occasionally, but you should always seek a fresh face covering to avoid potential breakouts. "Treat your mask like your underwear. You want to change it every day," nurse educator Jade Flinn tells The Washington Post. If you remove your mask throughout the day, try transporting it in a sealed pouch, so it doesn't collect germs from your bag or coat pockets.


If you prefer fabric masks, take a few extra steps on wash day to keep them feeling fresh with each wear. Try including a sanitizing agent, like Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, when washing reusable masks. Another helpful laundry additive is a tablespoon or two of borax powder, such as Mule Team Borax, which works to deodorize fabrics. Above all, make sure that you wash your face coverings using hot water. "The hotter the water, the better it is at killing organisms," Dr. Lindsey Gottlieb tells New York Magazine. However, take caution, and wash any favorite articles of clothing separately, as hot temperatures can cause increased shrinkage and fading.

Use this trick to reduce bacteria from spreading

This tip might sound strange, but it's useful for stopping bacteria from circulating beneath your mask. Your mouth contains microbes that can become trapped under face coverings, potentially causing the spread of spots. Some have suggested that oral health products, like mouthwash, can help reduce this type of maskne. Others implore maskne sufferers to focus on flossing to minimize oral bacteria in the fight against acne. "[You can] remove WAY more bacteria in your mouth by flossing and brushing. Most mouth rinses don't do anything to disrupt the bacteria in dental plaque," writes one Redditor. Try to make a quick stop to brush, floss, and rinse between breaks or mealtimes before strapping on your mask.


When choosing a mouthwash, tread carefully; experts caution that common active ingredients like fluoride and alcohol are linked to dermatitis, which can make maskne appear worse. "If you are rinsing with a fluoride or alcohol rinse, and then you put your mask on, it's going to rub onto your face ... it might actually cause dermatitis," Dr. Elisa Mello tells New York Magazine. In lieu of fluoride or alcohol-based mouthwashes, try a holistic formula with oxygenating activity, like Therabreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinse. Best of all, its compact travel size means you can use it whenever you like.

Try this protective measure against maskne

It's better to stop maskne in its tracks before it leads to problematic breakouts. Fortunately, to reduce the growth of bacteria and keep your skin feeling fresh, you can wear an "under mask." An under mask is essentially a hydrogel sheet mask that covers the lower half of your face to treat and protect the skin. Because this type of mask typically sticks to your face, it won't affect the protective seal of your face covering. According to research published in The Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, hydrogel patches can reduce redness and pimples associated with regular mask usage.


As an added benefit, some under masks have a soothing feel, making mask-wearing more bearable during long shifts or events. One K-beauty product to try is Celderma's Undermask, which contains licorice and tea tree extracts. "I love how it's super cooling. I often feel really warm inside of the mask, but this one actually prevents that!" writes one Redditor. Although the Undermask's instructions suggest wearing it for less than an hour, some reviewers find it comfortable enough to keep on during long-haul flights.

Fight maskne while on the go

Even though you can't see it, your skin is prone to collecting bacteria throughout the day. You can sometimes even feel sweat and sebum buildup with prolonged mask usage. To get rid of pesky dead skin cells, it's a good idea to freshen up between masking. There's no need to carry a cleanser everywhere you go, however. "Overwashing can strip our skin's natural barrier," dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar tells New York Magazine. For a gentler approach, you can remove dirt and debris with a quick swipe of toner.


Those with combination or sensitive skin may want to stock up on some cotton pads and a gentle face tonic like Klair's Supple Preparation Unscented Toner. People with oilier complexions can try a more astringent product for acne-prone skin, like Desert Essence's Tea Tree Pads. And if you prefer the feeling of a mist, many swear by COSRX's AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner for keeping skin clear.

Make the most of your mask

While masks have the propensity to cause acne, they offer one advantage for skincare lovers. For instance, you can apply almost any type of spot treatment without judgment during masked trips to the grocery store or office. Though you can use a traditional formula for targeting acne, like Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion, it may be simpler to pop on a few pimple patches for pronounced zits. "[Pimple patches] actually gave me noticeable results for my acne — within eight hours, my pimples were smaller and starting to heal," Soko Glam co-founder Charlotte Cho telle The Washington Post.


Some pimple patches contain micro darts, or microcrystals, to penetrate deep blemishes under the skin before they surface without causing damage. One of the best spot coverings for this type of early-stage acne is Rael Beauty's Miracle Patch. When you need to remove your mask momentarily, try a fashion-forward patch with a cute shape, like The Creme Shop's I [Love] Clear Skin Hydrocolloid Acne Patches.

Advance your nighttime routine

Practicing good skincare while wearing a mask throughout the day can be tricky. But once you get home, it's the perfect time to give your skin the attention deserves. "Thorough removal of oil, dirt, and bacteria from the skin before and after wearing a mask is the best way to reduce the risk [of maskne]," Dr. Yoram Harth tells Tatler. After cleansing and toning, give your skin some room to breathe as you unwind.


In your quest to quell maskne overnight, be choosy about your evening creams and serums. Multi-tasking products are a sure bet, and few ingredients are as effective as retinol for simultaneously addressing acne scars and anti-aging. "[Retinol] helps to increase collagen production and decrease its breakdown," Dr. Mona Gohara tells Forbes. If you don't currently use retinol, Paula's Choice Barrier Repair Moisturizer is an excellent evening cream that's gentle enough for those new to the ingredient. While retinol products may require some getting used to, they can be a tremendous tool in getting rid of maskne.