Tips for Clear and Healthy Skin While Masking

As you con­tin­ue to wear a face mask in pub­lic to help pre­vent the spread of COVID-19, you may notice some side effects such as break­outs, dry­ness, red­ness or oth­er forms of irri­ta­tion. This is due to the mask cre­at­ing fric­tion against your skin and restrict­ing your air­flow, which caus­es a build-up of humid­i­ty, sweat and bacteria.

Everyone’s skin may react dif­fer­ent­ly to a mask but in gen­er­al, some of the most com­mon skin con­di­tions that occur are dry skin, rashes/​dermatitis, acne and/​or rosacea.

Dry skin

Dry skin can occur under­neath the mask or on pres­sure points where it lays on your face. In order to com­bat dry skin apply mois­tur­iz­ing creams free of alco­hol, gels, retinoids, acids or exfo­liants. Look for prod­ucts that con­tain ceramides or glyc­erin to rehy­drate the skin and replace mois­ture that has been lost.

If you are expe­ri­enc­ing dry, flaky skin, start your skin­care reg­i­men with a gen­tle face cleanser such as CeraVe’s hydrat­ing cleanser or Neu­tro­ge­na ultra-gen­tle cleanser. After­wards, gen­tly pat your face dry before apply­ing a mois­tur­iz­ing cream such as Cer­aVe mois­tur­iz­ing cream, Cetaphil night­time mois­tur­iz­er or Cer­aVe PM moisturizer.


Rash­es typ­i­cal­ly occur due to irri­ta­tion from the mask touch­ing your skin, also known as con­tact der­mati­tis. Many of these rash­es will resolve with the use of a gen­tle cleanser and a heavy mois­tur­iz­er that will pro­vide a bar­ri­er on your skin. How­ev­er, it is pos­si­ble to devel­op an aller­gic rash from the adhe­sives, rub­bers or preservatives/​chemicals used to make the masks.

If this is the case, your der­ma­tol­o­gist may rec­om­mend using an over-the-counter (OTC) 1 per­cent hydro­cor­ti­sone cream. This can be used on your face twice a day for up two weeks. If you begin to see an improve­ment in your rash, tran­si­tion to using a reg­u­lar dai­ly mois­tur­iz­er. How­ev­er, if you do not see improve­ment in your skin, you should con­tact your der­ma­tol­o­gist for fur­ther evaluation.


If you’re sus­cep­ti­ble to break­outs, wear­ing a mask may result in an increase in your acne due to the obstruc­tion of fol­li­cles and pores. The block­age can come from the mask itself or from an increase in humid­i­ty, sweat and oil that occurs under­neath the mask. This block­age traps oil in your pores which cre­ates acne such as white­heads, black­heads or oth­er inflam­ma­to­ry bumps.

To help pre­vent acne, your der­ma­tol­o­gist may rec­om­mend using a face wash that con­tains OTC ben­zoyl per­ox­ide or sal­i­cylic acid such as the Cer­aVe or Neu­tro­ge­na sal­i­cylic acid cleansers or the Belleza gly­col­ic acid-sal­i­cylic acid 2/2 cleanser.

If you need to use cleansers dur­ing the day such as in-between work hours or dur­ing break times, you may be bet­ter suit­ed for a gen­tle hydrat­ing cleanser so you don’t over-strip your skin of mois­ture. Your der­ma­tol­o­gist can help deter­mine what reg­i­men is best for your skin and see that you do not over-use your acne products.


Wear­ing a mask traps heat and increas­es the tem­per­a­ture of your skin caus­ing sweat, irri­ta­tion and flare-ups on rosacea-prone skin. Rosacea is char­ac­ter­ized by red­ness, dilat­ed blood ves­sels and red bumps or pim­ples that typ­i­cal­ly occur on the cheeks, nose and chin.

To help pre­vent rosacea flare-ups, try cool­ing off your skin by remov­ing the mask when­ev­er you are able and at a safe dis­tance from oth­ers. It may also help to avoid trig­gers such as caf­feine, alco­hol, spicy foods and harsh scrubs or irri­tat­ing agents that con­tain sal­i­cylic acid or ben­zoyl per­ox­ide, as these can also exac­er­bate the areas of rosacea.

While cer­tain skin con­di­tions may require dif­fer­ent prod­ucts or pre­scrip­tion creams to help with irri­ta­tion, the fol­low­ing gen­er­al skin­care rou­tine can be prac­ticed dai­ly for any­one who needs to wear a mask:

  1. Start with a fra­grance-free, gen­tle cleanser to keep the skin clean by remov­ing any oil, dirt, bac­te­ria or oth­er poten­tial irri­tants with­out over strip­ping the skin of nec­es­sary mois­ture. Also, be sure to wash your mask reg­u­lar­ly or swap out dis­pos­able masks before plac­ing them on your face.
  2. After you cleanse, apply a facial mois­tur­iz­er con­tain­ing sil­i­con, zinc or petro­le­um jel­ly to help pro­tect your skin and cre­ate a bar­ri­er from the pres­sure points of the mask. If you’re still feel­ing a bit dry through­out the day, a quick spritz of Avene Ther­mal Spring Water is a great choice for hydra­tion on the go.
  3. Avoid apply­ing make­up in areas cov­ered by the mask as this can lead to addi­tion­al irri­ta­tion to the skin.
  4. Last­ly, try tak­ing a break from using scrubs or exfo­lia­tors as these can aggra­vate the impact­ed areas of skin that are under the mask.

For more infor­ma­tion on how to pro­tect your skin from the side effects of wear­ing a mask, please sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our der­ma­tol­o­gists online, or by call­ing your pre­ferred location.

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