How to combat skin irritation from face masks

Face masks have been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19 – so much so that the government has made it illegal to not wear one in public.  But this life-saving measure is not without its side effects – the aptly named “maskne”. 

Maskne (acne-causing by wearing a mask) is caused when the mask traps dirt and oil, causing it to be in contact with the skin for prolonged periods.  Masks also create a micro-environment that is warm and humid, creating the perfect conditions for bacteria and fungi to flourish.  Add to that friction caused by long periods of wear and you’ve got a skin that is sensitive, irritated, inflamed and at risk of outbreaks – or even dermatological conditions such as rosacea and eczema. 

While the benefits of wearing the mask outweigh the temporary effects on your skin, a few simple changes to your skincare routine will help counter some of the undesirable effects of this now-essential piece of cloth. 

Tackling your mask 

One of the first steps to take is to evaluate whether your mask is increasing your risk of maskne.  Synthetic materials are more likely to cause breakouts than masks made of cotton or polyester blends.  Smooth textured material will also reduce friction than irritates the delicate skin around your mouth, nose and chin. 

Cloth masks need to be washed regularly.  Machine or hand wash are both acceptable, as long as the water is hot and a detergent is used.  Take care when selecting a detergent, as harsh chemicals can affect delicate facial skin.  Ironing your masks can also provide extra protection against bacteria.  

Tackling your skin 

Making some small tweaks to what you’re applying to your skin will also help combat skin irritation. 


You want to look your best but applying make-up could be counter-productive in the case of mask-wearing.  In addition to blocking pores that are already under strain, make-up rubs off on the mask itself, and if not washed properly, can continue causing problems with further use. 

While make-up is a no-no, it is important to apply sunscreen, as UVA and UVB can still affect skin beneath the mask. 


The build-up of dead skin cells, oil, and dirt needs to be tackled as quickly as possible once you’ve removed your mask.  Cleansing with an antibacterial formula is recommended and exfoliating once per week with something like Sebamed’s Gentle Scrub is essential to help prevent maskne. 


Wearing a mask all day affects your skin’s natural barrier (the acid mantle), and ensuring your skin is moisturized will help to reduce irritation and inflammation.  For best results, use a light, oil-free moisturiser.  Spots can be treated as they appear with our Spot Control Gel

Your safety comes first, and masks are a must in the current conditions.  However, that doesn’t mean you need to put up with unsightly, uncomfortable skin.  Simply controlling the cleanliness of both your skin and your mask will go a long way to ensuring your delicate facial area remains maskne-free.