What is Maskne?

Maskne is a newly coined portmanteau for acne and irritation caused by wearing a face mask. It has given a much-needed golden opportunity for skin care brands to market products to solve this facial problem.

When asked about Maskne, Dr Mona Gohara, associate clinical dermatology professor at Yale School of Medicine, said “Oh, it’s a real thing”. Dr Gohara herself has been infected with Maskne, from wearing 3 protective layers of masks simultaneously. She first puts on a KN95 mask, then puts a surgical mask over it, and used a face shield, when attending to patients.

The most common form of Maskne is Acne Mechanica, which is rather common among American football players, and happens at points where the helmet comes into contact and rubs the skin.

Now Maskne breakouts have become common in healthcare front liners, because of their tight-fitting masks and longer periods of usage. According to an article published a few months ago in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, at least 80 per cent of health care workers in Hubei alone suffered facial skin problems. There was also an increase in acne flare ups in other people, mainly related to the extended usage of face masks.

Wearing face masks for hours on end can worsen existing skin conditions, or cause new breakouts. Adding on heat and high humidity can further

worsen the situation.

Can Maskne be avoided?

Maskne can be reduced with the following options:

Type of mask:

  • To avoid Maskne, dermatologists suggest a 100 per cent cotton mask, because the fabric allows the skin to breath easily. As the day progresses, you will sweat more, so you need to ensure you keep the mask clean. You may want to consider having spare cotton masks on hand to change when necessary, to ensure there is less build-up of oil and sweat on your cotton mask.


  • For situations where the use of surgical masks with a plastic protective barrier inside is unavoidable, ensure that you change the mask according to the manufacturer’s advice, as there is more opportunity for oil, sweat and dirt to build up quickly on your face due to less ventilation.

Face mask hygiene:

Dr Candrice Heath, assistant professor of dermatology at Temple University, says, “You need to treat it like underwear and wash it frequently. You don’t want all of that oil and sweat and dirt to sit there and then you reapply it to your face constantly.”

Your skincare routine:

  • Using a mask is a good excuse to use a basic skincare routine nowadays, as full makeup with additional heat from using a mask will wreak havoc on sensitive skin. Dr S Tyler Hollmig, director of dermatologic surgery at Dell Medical School, University of Texas, has this to say: “Fewer ingredients is better than more”.


  • When you wear a mask, it will increase delivery of the cosmetic to your skin, i.e., absorption will be better. However, this is not a good thing if you use products like retinols which can irritate the skin. Save products containing retinols for night use during this time.


  • Do put on a moisturizer, as apart from preventing your skin from drying out, a moisturizer can protect facial skin from chafing.


If you tend to sweat easily, wash your face with a mild cleanser when your take the mask off. Note that over washing your face will make it dry, and more oil will be produced which can aggravate Maskne further. Using a light moisturizer will help here.

Recommended treatment for Maskne:

Use OTC (over the counter) benzoyl peroxide treatments, concentrating only on the spots, recommends Dr Gohara. It is important to start off with 2.5 or 5 per cent concentration.

Again, save retinols for night use. Retinols can be used on alternate nights with benzoyl peroxide treatments, but clear this with your dermatologist first.


In some cases, Maskne has been confused with rashes which may arise where the skin comes into contact with the metal or rubber parts of face masks. The rashes may or may not be itchy. Dr Gohara advises consultation with a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and medical treatment.

The above is a basic outline of Maskne, and in no way should be taken as medical advice. Do consult a qualified dermatologist quickly for proper medical advice, if you find acne or rashes appearing on your face, especially around the face mask area, to avoid possible scarring or other damage to your face.

By Aaron
22nd June 18:30

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