The Struggle with Maskne: How to Combat Mask Acne

The Struggle with Maskne: How to Combat Mask Acne

It was on April 3, 2020, that federal health officials first recommended wearing face masks.1 Soon, quarter-inch elastic was in short supply, and people everywhere were learning how to fashion simple face coverings. Whether you’re still making your own fabric masks or prefer the non-woven disposables that were once in short supply, continuous wear could be causing a troubling skin issue you hadn’t bargained for, mask-related acne — maskne.

Although those bumps and blemishes might be new to you, mask-related skin issues are nothing new. Maskne has always been an issue for professionals in positions that require frequent wear. Once you know some of the many reasons your skin might be reacting, you’ll be in a much better position to combat mask acne.

What Causes Maskne? The Science Behind Mask-Related Skin Conditions

Your skin has a natural defense system supported by the population of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms inhabiting its surface. Many of those microorganisms help keep potentially harmful populations in check. Some fight infections by keeping your skin slightly acidic; others alert your immune system to signs of danger or help with tissue repair.2

Even subtle changes in temperature and moisture levels can create an environment that allows the bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms in your breath to thrive. Maskne is simply an umbrella term for several skin conditions that can be caused by wearing a face mask. In addition to an increase in blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples, maskne can also cause rosacea to flare and infect hair follicles (folliculitis). The infection in your hair follicles can look a lot like acne, but often itches.3,4

Wearing a mask over the lower half of your face can also cause contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is most likely to occur if you’re sensitive or allergic to your masking materials or the detergents used to clean the fabric. If contact dermatitis is the cause of your distress, you’ll be more susceptible to rashes, irritation, and fluid-filled blisters.4

Maskne Prevention Tips

The type of acne that can start during your teen years is most often caused by a combination of hormonal changes, clogged pores, and C acnes bacteria. Once trapped in your pores, that acne-causing bacteria triggers a response from your immune system that helps your system fight the bacteria. Although wearing a face mask can cause this type of acne to flare, mask-wearing is more likely to cause a similar condition called “acne mechanica”.5

Breakouts caused by acne mechanica are most often triggered by occlusion (obstruction) and irritation-inducing friction. The moisture and sweat trapped beneath your mask contribute to the overall impact. Before the pandemic, acne mechanica most often affected football players and other athletes required to wear a helmet to participate. Now that you know why standard acne treatments might not be the ideal solution for maskne, consider how the following tips might help in the battle against mask-related skin concerns.

Switching to a Fragrance-Free Detergent

Artificial fragrances are a common cause of skin irritation. Since the skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive than the skin elsewhere on your body, you might not have noticed issues until any lingering traces of the fragrance in your detergent began inhabiting your mask. If you have visible irritation along the bridge of your nose, cheeks, or jawline, consider using a fragrance-free laundry detergent to wash your masks.6

Changing Your Mask Frequently

One of the easiest ways to help prevent mask-related eruptions is to change your mask more often. The skin cells, sweat, and oil accumulating inside your mask could be clogging your pores. If you generally wear a mask for 8 hours, consider putting on a clean mask after lunch. To reduce the risk of viral contamination, be sure to wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer) after handling the mask you’ve been wearing and again before putting on a clean face covering.7

Wearing a Moisturizer, But Skipping the Foundation

While there’s no reason to give up cosmetics entirely, wearing foundation, concealer, or blush on the skin beneath your mask can contribute to breakouts. Many are made with chemicals and compounds that can alter your skin’s natural pH balance, irritate sensitive tissues, or prolong healing. However, don’t skimp on hydration. A moisturizer formulated for your skin type helps form a protective barrier between your skin and your mask.6

Being Mindful of Fit and Fabric

Being mindful of the type of mask you wear can have a considerable impact on the health and appearance of your skin. The friction caused by ill-fitting facial coverings increases your risk of irritation. Masks made of synthetic fabrics like nylon or rayon can also be problematic for the same reason. Instead, choose a snuggly fitting mask made with 2-3 layers of a natural fabric like tightly woven cotton or silk. But nothing that’s uncomfortably tight. Any irritation inflicted by your mask increases your risk of maskne.8

Skipping the Harsh Chemical and Scrubs

Since wearing a mask can increase the frequency and severity of breakouts, you might be tempted to use benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or beta hydroxy acid to help your blemishes dry up faster. While understandable, it’s important to realize that harsh chemicals and even exfoliating with facial scrubs can cause more issues with maskne than they solve. Instead, treat your skin gently. Turn down the water temperature and pat your irritated skin dry rather than rubbing it with a towel.9

Keep the Mask. Consider Trying These Products to Ditch the Acne

When wearing a face mask causes changes in skin health and appearance, a few simple changes to your skincare routine could help restore balance. At minimum, you’ll want to use a gentle cleanser, toner, and moisturizer twice each day. Since standard acne treatments can make mask-reactive skin more sensitive, we invite you to experience the many possible benefits of BOTA™ plant-powered CBD skincare products.

Based on what the research shows so far, CBD has considerable antibacterial potential. Once absorbed, the cannabinoid interacts with important receptors found on nearly every type of skin cell, including the receptors regulating inflammation, oil production, and skin cell turnover. For mask-related acne, consider how your skin might benefit from the following suggestions.10

Gentle Cleansing

A basic skincare routine typically requires using a soap-free cleanser twice each day. If you have maskne, you might also want to add a third opportunity to keep your skin clean, balanced, and hydrated. When you’re through wearing your mask, try washing your face with a mild natural facial soap. Depending on the ingredients, a soap-free cleanser might not wash away viruses lingering on your skin.

Using a Skin-Balancing Toner

Many people skip toners because they worry the product will dry their complexion. That’s unfortunate. The purpose of a well-formulated toner is to restore what environmental pollutants, cosmetics, and cleansers can disrupt, your skin’s natural pH balance. BOTA™ Balancing Micellar Cleansing Toner + Witch Hazel helps restore that balance while soothing your skin with plant oils, honeysuckle, and chamomile.11

Applying a Hydration-Boosting Serum

Hyaluronic acid is a water-binding skin lubricant. Serums are lightweight, contain few occlusives (if any), and are easily absorbed. Of the many ingredients you might find in a facial serum, it’s hyaluronic acid that’s most often favored for reviving distressed skin. BOTA™ Age-Defying Hyaluronic Acid Serum is fortified with manuka oil, ginger root, and meadowfoam oil.12

Protecting Your Skin with a Moisturizer

When maskne strikes, many people stop moisturizing because of the common misconception that creams and lotions increase the risk of breakouts. Not true. When the surface gets dry, oil production increases. That’s when trouble tends to start. BOTA™ Anti-Aging Daily Face Lotion helps protects your skin with a lightweight moisture barrier formulated for all skin types.

Are You Ready to Reveal the Skin Beneath Your Mask?

Even subtle changes in your environment can impact your skin. More often than not, the bumps and blemishes you might be hiding beneath your mask are caused by changes in temperature, humidity levels, and irritation-inducing friction. If changing your mask more frequently, switching detergents, or temporarily passing on the abrasive scrubs fail to solve your mask-related skin issues, consider how your skin might benefit from botanical skincare products made with naturally cultivated, full-spectrum CBD oil.

To learn more about CBD or BOTA™ CBD skincare products, consider reading our Complete Guide to Natural Skin Care. Then browse our selection of luxurious skincare products. All BOTA™ CBD skincare products are third-party tested, cruelty-free, and formulated with plant oils and extracts selected for specific skin concerns.



  1. Los Angeles Times. D Netburn. (2021 July 27) A Timeline of the CDC’s Advice on Face Masks.
  2. InStyle. E Lukas. (2019 April 05) Having Bacteria on Your Face Can Actually Make Your Skin Look Better.
  3. Baptist Health South Florida. (2020 July 14) Mask Acne: Treating “Maskne” Involves Lots of Face Washing.
  4. Healthline. K Nunez. (2020 November 24) How to Avoid Maskne (Mask Acne) Breakouts.
  5. US Dermatology Partners. (2020 September 17) “Maskne” Is the New Acne and It’s Caused by Wearing a Face Mask.
  6. Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. (2021 August 04) The Struggle with Maskne Is Very Real.
  7. Oryon. (2020 July 10) Maskne (Mask Acne Is a Real Thing: A Dermatologist Tells Us How to Combat It.
  8. The Institute for Natural Healing. (2021 January 18) The Best Fabric for Face Masks.
  9. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2021) 9 Ways to Prevent Face Mask Skin Problems.
  10. Molecules. (2019 March) Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System.
  11. Journal of Clinical Medicine. D Panther, S Jacob. (2015 May 04) The Importance of Acidification in Atopic Eczema: The Underexplored Avenue for Treatment.
  12. Prevention. K Carter. (2013 July 08) The Wrinkle Fix of the Future.


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