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How to Protect Your Skin from Face Mask Irritation

protect skin from mask

How to Protect Your Skin from Face Mask Irritation

Love them or hate them, there’s no doubt that face masks can help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A review which looked at 172 observational studies from around the world was published June 1 in the journal Lancet, and it found that wearing face masks reduces the risk of coronavirus infection.

Another study published June 18th in the journal Health Affairs found that “states in the U.S. mandating use of face masks in public had a greater decline in daily COVID-19 growth rates after issuing the mandates compared to states that did not issue mandates.”

And you may have heard about the hair salon in Springfield, Missouri, where two hair stylists who had a COVID-19 infection worked in direct contact with 140 customers yet did not infect a single one, because the stylists and their customers were all wearing masks.

This is because the coronavirus is now known to spread primarily through respiratory droplets emitted when infected persons breathe, talk, cough, sneeze, or laugh. Even homemade or improperly fitted face masks appear to significantly reduce the risk of transmission.

The downside of wearing a face mask

So what’s the bad news?

Virtually all skin types will see some form of irritation from wearing a face mask if they are wearing them for extended amounts of time each day, many people will see irritation from the physical friction and/or pressure of the material on their skin, while others will see acne and rosacea type reaction.

The latter condition is so common, in fact, that the Urban Dictionary has added the word “maskne” to its lexicon to describe it.

Those who must wear them all day, or anyone with underlying skin conditions such as acne or rosacea, will almost certainly see such reactions as irritation, broken blood vessels, small bumps, and other adverse reactions.

This is because the mask creates a micro-environment that does not allow fresh air to circulate around the mouth and nose (which is, of course, the point of wearing them).

“When you blend together trapped breath, sweat, and oil, you end up with a hot and moist environment under your mask,” Adam Friedman, a professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, told CNBC. “This often leads to a greater risk of irritation.”

Nevertheless, the benefit of viral protection and helping to stop the spread [of COVID-19] far outweighs the temporary risks to your skin.

There are ways to reduce the risk of mask-induced irritation and outbreaks.


  1. Start with clean skin

Use gentle cleansers before and after wearing your mask, and apply a light moisturizer afterward. Continue to apply moisturizer throughout the day to reduce the chance of irritation around pressure points on the mask.

  1. Try a different mask

Any type of covering on your face will significantly reduce the airborne transmission of the virus, so if you’re having breakouts, a rash, or other signs of irritation, it could be the type of mask you’re using or the cleaning products you use to disinfect it.

If you’re using a cloth mask, therefore, try switching to a disposable type. If you’re using a disposable one, try a cloth mask for awhile. Or change the type of detergent you’re using, and be sure to rinse it thoroughly after washing.

  1. Skip the makeup

Why add unnecessary products to already-sensitized skin? You can wear eye makeup, but no one will see the foundation or lipstick beneath your mask anyway, so try going without and see if that clears up the problem. Do, however, wear sunscreen beneath your mask, because both UVA and UVB rays can penetrate a mask.

  1. Keep in touch

If you are experiencing any type of skin reaction that these suggestions do not resolve, be sure to let us know. We can help pinpoint the problem and provide solutions to various issues you may be having.

Dr. Flanagan has found the Sonovia material mask impregnated with zinc and nanoparticles helps prevent the “maskne” and may also be virucidal.


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