Skincare while wearing a mask

How to manage breakouts and irritation in a time of social distancing

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas
Aug 24, 2020 · 4 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

I’ve written a lot about sheet masks and clay masks, but these “uncertain times” are calling for a different kind of mask knowledge. Wearing a face covering is something we can all do to help stop the spread of COVID-19. They’re a requirement to shop at most businesses. Essential workers are usually required to wear them, especially those who work in medicine.

But wearing a face mask can be a big adjustment, especially if you have to wear one all day every day. And, unfortunately, dry skin, irritation, and breakouts can come with the territory. Hopefully this pandemic will be over before the phrase “maskne” catches on, but until then, there are some steps you can take to help your skin get through it.

Masks and acne

If you’re experiencing acne around your mouth that gets worse from wearing a mask, it’s all about managing your breakouts.

1. Avoid potentially pore-clogging ingredients. Make sure that products you’re using on and around your mouth aren’t making your breakouts worse. That includes products like toothpaste, lip balm, and moisturizers. (Skip to the end for product recommendations!) Use the cosDNA test when deciding whether or not to use a product, or just lurk my blog for more reviews.

2. Wear a clean mask. The moisture and friction that comes with wearing a mask may contribute to breakouts. Likewise, a used mask covered with oil, sweat, and product buildup may also aggravate a breakout. So, wash your cloth masks regularly, and try your best to wear a fresh, clean mask every day.

3. Gently wash your face. Your instinct might be to scrub away your acne, but that friction might make things worse. You may want to try a zinc soap, that fights both bacteria and fungus, as acne may be aggravated by pityrosporum (a type of normal fungus that lives on our skin). You’ll also want to avoid harsh soaps or exfoliating scrubs — reach for gentle hydrating or foaming cleansers instead. More on this in a sec!

Masks and dry, irritated skin

Do you have dry, irritated skin from wearing a mask? It’s probably being caused by 1) moisture/friction, 2) acne treatment medications, or 3) both.

1. Moisturize. Good moisturizers can help soothe skin. For extreme dryness/irritation, spread a layer of pure petrolatum like Vaseline or Aquaphor around the affected area before applying your mask. These moisturizers form a protective barrier around your skin. If your skin is only mildly dry, or petrolatum feels too heavy/greasy, skip to the next section for other moisturizer recommendations.

2. Reduce your acne treatment. Cutting back on your acne treatment may help reduce irritation. Over-the-counter treatments like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be effective, but might be too harsh for sensitive skin. If you are using a prescription acne treatment (like your Curology custom formula), reach out to your prescribing provider for assistance! You can also try applying your custom formula on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays.

Image of three masks

The best skincare products to use with a mask

Daily moisturizers

Daily cleansers

Zinc soap

Lip balms

Non-comedogenic toothpaste

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More questions about mask hygiene? Check out our support article on the topic. If you are a healthcare provider and have questions not covered here, please reach out to your Curology medical provider or contact us directly via email here:

If you’re not a member yet, you can get your first month of Curology for free. You’ll receive a customized cream with a mix of 3 active ingredients prescribed to you by one of our in-house medical providers. You can also add on our other products for no extra cost — just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas

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