How to deal with "maskne"

COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in an infinite number of ways—including, unfortunately, our skin care.

Women wearing face mask Photo: Engin Akyurt from
January 2022 update: With this Omicron variant making things more difficult, make sure you're wearing a 3-layer mask (whether it's a cloth one or a medical one like an N95). And remember you need to wear it in all indoor common areas at Dal—including classrooms and lecture halls. Have your drink and snack before or after class so you can keep it on during the entire lecture. Other than that, the same info below applies for the dreaded maskne!

One of the most significant changes to the way we now go about our daily lives is unquestionably the mask. They’ve become as necessary in the ‘before-I-walk-out-the-door’ check as keys and wallets, but I can’t even count on both hands the number of times I’ve run home in a cold sweat upon realizing that I’d forgotten mine and—god forbid—couldn’t enter a café or grocery store as a result. But, in my opinion, that’s not the biggest issue with masks. No, my beef with masks has to do with what has become known (and what I will reluctantly refer to) as ‘maskne.’

That’s right, mask-acne = maskne. The breakouts that form on your face under the mask have a name, and it looks like as long as masks are required to enter buildings, maskne is along for the ride, too.

Any sort of acne is frustrating and can cause huge insecurity, and that’s not helped by the fact that there’s seemingly nothing we can do to actually prevent getting it—we have to wear masks after all.

While it may seem like the fight against maskne is a losing battle, there’s plenty that can be done to not only prevent it, but to deal with it as it comes.


Clean masks = happy faces

The first and best line of defence is to wash fabric masks after each wear. While it seems like a huge time commitment, the benefits not only for your skin but for the health and that of those around you cannot be understated. Masks trap bacteria from your mouth and nose as well as oil, makeup and dirt from your face. The more you wear a dirty mask, not only are you increasing the risk of bacteria escaping, but you’re exposing your skin to layers of dirt and oil that will worsen acne.

I suggest having seven or more masks that can be rotated throughout the week, so you don’t have to wash them more than once a week. Be sure to use fragrance free detergent as scents can cause irritation to your skin.


Zit remedies

Acne happens despite our best preventative measures. If that’s the case, the most important thing to remember is not to try to pop or pick at the pimples or blackheads. Popping can lead not only to scarring but to worsening acne or even infection. If you must touch your skin, make sure you’re doing it with clean hands—not only to prevent infection, but to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 as well.

Spot treatments can be a great option to reduce the inflammation of acne but knowing your skin type and the ingredients that will work best with it is imperative, as using the wrong products can actually make your skin worse.

Products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can typically be found at any drugstore and can be incredibly helpful for those with oily or acne prone skin. For those with dry or sensitive skin, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can still be used, but pay attention to percentages. Anything containing more than 5% benzoyl peroxide will likely be too strong and could actually worsen the condition of your skin.


While it looks like masks are here to stay for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean maskne is a life sentence. Cleaning your masks regularly, avoiding touching your skin, and accessing the proper products can all contribute to happier, clearer skin. And if that doesn’t work, at least the mask will cover it up.