How to Deal With Face Mask-Related Breakouts

How to Deal With Face Mask-Related Breakouts

Because we all have to wear masks ALL the time now and they can definitely cause major skin issues…

I originally wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about how to deal with Coronavirus acne (caused more by stress and anxiety), but when one of my friends texted me telling me how his skin has been breaking out from wearing a face mask for 8+ hours a day, I realized we’re now dealing with a different kind of acne beast.  #Maskne.

I sent him the post I wrote…but when I was scrolling through my product recommendations, I also happened to notice that almost ALL of the products I talked about (while, yes, amazing) were on the pricier side, and I know that’s not really ideal right now with more than 20 million people out of work, you know?

So, this post is focusing not only on how to take care of your skin while wearing a face mask, but I’m also featuring only drugstore beauty products (that includes Target!) in this particular blog post.   

The mayor here in LA just announced that everyone has to wear a mask any time they leave their house now, so I’m predicting that this post might be useful to you, even if you’re not experiencing issues right this second (bookmark it!).

And p.s.- I got the mask I’m wearing from a local artist here in LA that I saw my friend Scotty Cunha post about. The exact mask is no longer available but there are plenty of other cool options HERE.

Other acne-related posts you might like:

How to Deal With Face Mask-Related Breakouts

Before the mask goes on…

Step 1: Cleanse your face.

You always want to start with clean skin…and while you’re at it, make sure your mask is clean as well.  You don’t want to over-dry your skin (which can actually cause acne on its own), so make sure to use a gentle cleanser.

If you have very oily skin: If you have very oily skin (stop reading this if you don’t!), you CAN use a cleanser with an acne-fighting ingredient like salicylic acid (2% is the max amount for any over-the-counter products). But if this isn’t you PLEASE don’t think you get bonus points by using an acne cleanser, k? You don’t and it could actually make your breakouts even worse.  My pick: The Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash is a cult classic for a reason.


Step 2: Moisturize your skin.

As a general rule you should always moisturizer after cleansing but, in this case, it’s even more important because you want to create a barrier to protect your skin from the face mask.  You want to look for hydrating ingredients like niacinamide (my new favorite I’ve talked about a lot HERE) because it helps with inflammation, normalizes oil production, strengthens the skin barrier and can be used by ALL skin types (even the most sensitive).


Step 3: Create an extra barrier (optional).

My cosmetic derm, Dr. Jessica Wu, shared on her Instagram that back in med school she started applying antiperspirant deodorant to her face to stop her face from sweating.  Obviously she was wearing face masks all the time as an essential worker, so this might be necessary for you, but if you find yourself excessively sweating it IS a good option to try.

Step 4: Apply SPF (yes, I’m serious).

I’ve been seeing a lot of stories floating around the interwebs about people getting a weird face mask tan!  Think farmer’s tan for your face. You DO NOT want this for so many reasons.  Make sure to apply SPF to your forehead, ears, etc. – basically any area that’s NOT covered by your face mask.



  • Don’t wear foundation or any other makeup under your mask (eye makeup is ok!).
  • Do only wear masks made from breathable, comfortable, soft fabric. (Rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t use it as a pillowcase it shouldn’t be on your face.) You want cotton, ideally, and layered up.  I read this New York Times article back in early April that explains the most effective fabric for Coronavirus face masks and turns out cotton/quilter’s cotton ranked pretty high.  I’ve seen some really pretty masks made out of lycra and sequins but that’s REALLY not gonna be great for your skin.
  • Do carry “emergency” face wipes with you just in case you find yourself drenched in sweat and panicked when you’re out.  I love these since they have acne-fighting witch hazel.

After the face mask comes off…

Step 1: Cleanse your face.

There’s a 99.9% chance that your face will be sweating under your mask. So it’s important to wash off all that sweat, oil, dirt and debris once your face mask time is over.  You can use any of the cleansers I mentioned above.

Step 2: Moisturize your skin (yes, again).

Just like you would after you wash your face normally, you want to put the hydration back into your skin with a super hydrating moisturizer.  Again, you can use any of the moisturizers I mentioned above or your favorite night time moisturizer of choice 🙂

Step 3: Spot treat any breakouts.

If you DO see any breakouts, make sure to spot treat daily (i.e. put the acne-fighting product ONLY on your pimple and not all over your face).  There are three major acne-fighting ingredients you will see in most acne products: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur.  Personally, I think sulfur works the best but it’s oddly hard to find in drugstore beauty products.  My second choice would be benzoyl peroxide (BPO for short), as long as it’s in a low dose; too much BPO can actually be really harsh on your skin and make breakouts worse.



  • Do use a super thick healing ointment (like Aquaphor or the diaper rash cream Desitin!) if you’re having friction issues (i.e. the fabric rubbing against your face and causing dryness and redness).
  • Don’t panic.  Breakouts are always temporary and stressing out will only make things worse!

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below – I hope this post helps! xo


6 thoughts on “How to Deal With Face Mask-Related Breakouts

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