What To Do If Your Face Mask Is Causing Your Skin To Have A Meltdown

Why ‘Maskne’ Is More Than A Buzz Word
& How To Look After Your Skin When Wearing A Face Covering

It’s safe to say that 2019 Hayley wouldn’t have expected to dedicate blog space to topics such as hand sanitizers, lockdown looks and face masks – but here we are. This will forever go down in history as the year with so much promise, the start of a decade filled with so much hope, but ended up being one of the most difficult and complex twelve months in modern times; but what doesn’t metaphorically kill you makes you stronger eh.

Since it became government advice to wear a face covering back in July, face masks have definitely become one of the most unexpected accessories of all time; who knew the high street would be rushing to design ones that coordinated with every outfit and would be charging ridiculous prices for the privilege? I’ve got a vast number of them (thanks to a handy mum and MIL) that I use on rotation, but something that’s becoming increasingly apparent is how much they’re playing havoc with our skin. I could probably count the number of pimples I get in a year on one hand, but since I’ve been popping on a face mask every time I go out my cheeks and jawline have developed a number of unwelcome additions.

Maskne is more than just a buzzword; this sh*t is real.

Why 'Maskne' Is More Than A Buzz Word & How To Look After Your Skin When Wearing A Face Covering

Why Is My Face Mask Causing Spots?

Although they’re an essential part of our ‘new normal’, face masks by their very nature trap bacteria and viruses within their very warm and humid environment; it’s the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. We have so much bacteria in our mouths on a daily basis that being bitten by a human is actually more dangerous than being bitten by an animal, so those microscopic irritants are inevitably going to cause us issues. Sitting on the surface of skin they can cause inflammation, blocked pores and breakouts – otherwise known as ‘maskne’.

What’s even worse is that in order for a face covering to work effectively, it needs to fit snuggly. Prolonged use can cause friction and micro-tears within the upper layers of skin (which is very thin comparatively with the rest of our body) which act as an additional access point for these bacteria. This causes a perfect storm, leaving our complexions not exactly looking their best.

What Other Issues Can My Face Covering Cause?

The heat and humidity caused by wearing a face mask can also cause an over production of sebum; if it’s left sitting on the surface of skin this can lead to blocked pores, trapped hair follicles and bacteria overload, which in turn can cause infection and inflammation.

If you’re also following advice to regularly wash your masks, then the detergent used can leave residue on the surface and cause irritation in sensitive skin types – particularly those who already suffer with rosacea, eczema or dermatitis.

And just to add fuel to the fire, stress levels have never been higher: stress causes a chemical response in your body that makes skin more sensitive and reactive, meaning spots and irritation are more likely if you’re not feeling your usual self.

How Can I Ensure My Face Mask Isn’t Causing Me Skin Problems?

1. Be really mindful that it’s not rubbing or being abrasive to the skin; you want it to fit snuggly, but you don’t want it to be causing irritation and soreness.

2. Ensure good hygiene and wash them regularly in a non-irritating detergent, or hand wash them with some gentle soap.

3. Invest in a thorough and targeted skincare regime to reduce the negative impact of your mask, ensuring you’re counteracting any potential damage at the end of every day.

What Skincare Should I Be Using To Help My Maskne?

Having a targeted and effective skincare routine has never been as essential as it is right now, as we need to support our skin in the best possible ways to ensure it looks and feels its best. Although no one thing will provide a miracle for pimples and breakouts, a comprehesive programme and portfolio of great products will really help to keep those symptoms of maskne at bay.

An oil-based cleanser will help remove dirt, bacteria, makeup and any pollution that’s been caught on your skin, as well as lifting away any excess sebum without drying the surface. (Check out my affordable faves here.) Use this as a first step every evening before bed, or better still – as soon as you get home. A double cleanse with a foam-free cleanser will help to ensure skin is left feeling super clean, fresh and balanced. It’s also worthwhile using a daily AHA toner like the Pixi Glow Tonic to help speed over that turnover, clear pores and get rid of any dead skin build-up.

Even if your skin feels oily you’ll still need a lightweight moisturiser to hydrate and keep the surface balanced; ensure it’s non-comedogenic (won’t block pores) and is free from potentially irritating ingredients like mineral oil. I love ARK Age Defend Replenishing Moisturiser (£35.00) as well as Antipodes Baptise H20 Ultra-Hydrating Water Gel (£25.50).

Adding in a targeted serum to help reduce inflammation and irritation will ensure skin is in the best shape possible, so why not opt for something like ARK Skincare’s Clearing Serum (£45.00) which is great for troublesome areas or used as a specific spot treatment. Murad are also one of my go-to brands and their Murad Advanced Blemish & Wrinkle Reducer (£49.50) combines blemish control with wrinkle treatment. If that’s too pricey, then the Avene TriAcnéal Expert (£23.00) has got glowing reviews and makes a real difference to breakouts.

A bi-weekly exfoliator will help to break down dead skin cells, remove any sebum or build up and give skin a healthy glow. My go-to is ARK Skincare’s Triple Action Exfoliator (£35.00) that combines physical, fruit acid and enzymatic action for incredibly smooth and supple skin that’s left feeling cared for. If that doesn’t float your boat, then Avene Gentle Exfoliating Scrub is a gentle and affordable alternative.

Using a hydration masque regularly will also help to rebalance, add moisture and soothe skin that may be irritated or inflamed; my personal fave is the ARK Skincare Hydration Injection Masque (£35.00) which I’ve been reaching for a couple of times a week to help instantly leave my skin feeling cared for. I also love the Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Hydrating Mask (£22.00) as a boost I can leave on as I sleep, as well as The Body Shop’s Mediterranean Almond Milk with Oats Instant Soothing Mask (£18.00) which is fab for applying before a long soak in the bath.


Maskne is a very real thing and a very modern problem that we’re probably going to be tackling for quite some time. But there are ways you can help tackle the breakouts, irritation and inflammation that come alongside wearing a face covering – and you can restore your complexion to its former glory. It just takes a little extra work.

Have you been suffering with ‘maskne’ or getting pesky breakouts around your jawline and cheeks?


1 Comment

  1. September 16, 2020 / 3:33 pm

    Wow! I’ve had such bad breakout lately and I hadn’t even thought of the fact that my masks could be causing it! Thanks so much for this post!

Leave a Reply


Looking for Something?