Treating maskne

There's some scary stuff happening underneath our masks.

Football players, healthcare professionals, nurses, and doctors have been battling it for years. Now everyone is suffering from maskne, annoying acne and other skin irritations popping up underneath our masks.


An effective mask is one that fits properly. This perfect deal causes warm air from us breathing or talking to get trapped inside. This created a warm and humid environment that’s perfect for flora, bacteria and yeast to flourish. Other abrasions and skin irritations can also flare up from the mask rubbing against your skin.

 Asian girls with tattoos wearing M95 black mask

Types of Maskne

Not all maskne are the same:

  • Bacterial: Propionibacterium bacteria on the skin creates whiteheads, blackheads and pimples.
  • Fungal: Pityrosporum folliculitis is caused by the Malassezia yeast in your skin. Instead of pimples, you’ll see small red bumps known as pustules that can very itchy
  • Contact Dermatitis: This is a red, itchy rash with dry, cracked skin that may be swollen or burn. You may be reacting to the metal or rubber in your mask. Some fabric finishes can also irritate the skin.


No matter what type of maskne is affecting you, there are some general things you can do to prevent it.

  • Create a moisturizing layer between your skin and mask. Sunblock containing zinc oxide or titanium is a good option since it creates a barrier between your skin and the mask. Apply the moisturizer a few times a day to keep the barrier.
  • Avoid scented creams or any products with alcohol-based ingredients or anything with acid as this can irritate the scent and cause flare ups where the mask is touching the skin.
  • Ditch the foundation. Foundation can add to moisture build up inside the mask. It also ruins any recycled masks since makeup stains make it difficult to fully clean the masks or recycle it.
  • If you are using a cloth mask stick with the tighter weaves and several layers. While lighter fabrics are cooler and breathe more, they offer NO protection.
  • Wash your new cloth face masks several time to remove any finishes off the fabric that can irritate your skin.
  • Change your mask as soon as it feels moist. Wet masks add to the bacterial load on your skin.
  • Wash re-usable masks daily. If the mask has any traces of foundation, moisturizers or cleansers it will deliver this product back to your skin and may contribute to maskne.

Recommended treatments

A good skin care routine can help with your outbreak.

Smiling woman with good skin holding Lutema facemask

Bacterial irritations:

  • Look for a good foaming cleanser with salicylic acid. This ingredient helps the skin shed dead cells from its top layers that then reduced swelling, stops pimples from forming and speeds up healing.
  • If you are using retinol apply the product at night only. For black or brown skin, some dermatologists recommend using glycolic acid to prevent hyperpigmentation.

Home remedies:

  • Cut two or three grapes in half and rub the flesh over your face. Follow with a cool water rinse.
  • Mash and strain one cucumber. Mix with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Apply to your face and wash off after 10 minutes.
  • Mix 1-part tea tree oil with 9 parts water to ensure and dab it onto pimples.

Fungal irritation treatments

Replace your cleanser or body wash for dandruff shampoo:

  • Any dandruff shampoo containing either ketoconazole or selenium sulfide will help. Ketoconazole disrupts the cells of fungus which stops it from growing or duplicating while the sulfur just kills it outright. 
  • Lather it up on the problem areas,
  • Leave it on for a minute or two.
  • Wash it off gently.
  • You may need to repeat it on a daily basis until the fungus is cleared up.

Natural remedies

  • A face mask from raw, unpasteurized and unheated honey has great anti-fungal properties. To reduce its stickiness and make it thicker you can add yogurt, ground oats or brown sugar. Leave it on your face for 10-15 minutes and rinse well.
  • One drop of tea tree oil in 9 drops of your favorite body wash. Massage it into your skin. Leave on for five minutes and rinse.
  • Using a sterile cotton pad, apply witch hazel on and around the bumps.
  • Combine 3 drops of neem oil to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or almond oil. Leave on for at least six hours and then gently wash off.


Contact dermatitis

Try this treatment and then replace your mask.

  • Use a mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water to wash your face. Rinse completely. Apply a light moisturizing lotion that is fragrance and alcohol free. If your skin is still itchy try using calamine lotion or a hydrocortisone cream. Be sure to use the hydrocortisone sparingly.
  • Apply a cool, wet compress on the affected area. Keep it in place for 15-20 minutes.
  • Try to avoid scratching the area.
  • Take an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl to help ease the itching.
  • Avoid scratching the area. It only makes it worse.

If the rash is itch to the point of distraction you, keeping you awake at night or if you develop blisters that start to ooze or look infected, contact a dermatologist immediately.

Dietary considerations

One way we are coping is turning to comfort food. But those favorite meals and snacks might be contributing to maskne. Foods and drink that are high in dairy and sugar contain hormone triggers that make your insulin spikes. This can result is skin outbreaks including maskne.