Here’s looking at you…

mask acne

By Kelly Hollands @glow_beauty_skincare_wellbeing

Maskne really is a thing! 

As someone who has never suffered with spots and blemishes, you may now be asking yourself, ‘what is happening to my skin?!’

As we all adapt to the new normal way of life and play our part to stop the spread of Covid, mask wearing and social distancing have become a way of life. Keys, bags, purse, phone and now mask before we leave the house have become second nature. The panic sets in outside the shop as we struggle to remember if we brought our mask or not.

We all want to stop the spread of Covid, but, the breakouts, pimples, spots, dry lips and sore chin are not something we were expecting. The majority of us weren’t wearing masks this time last year and now that the temperature is hotting up, maskne is more prevalent.  

So what is happening and how can we adjust to taking care of our skin whilst protecting our more vulnerable citizens?

Mask wearing can have several issues for skin :

  • Maskne
  • Transepidermal water loss (TEWL)
  • Friction lesions and blisters

The degree to which these affect each of us will depend on several factors including:

• Skin sensitivity

• Duration of mask wearing

• General health and well being

• Cleanliness of the mask

Help is at hand and by some simple changes to our skincare routine we can prevent and treat these “new” conditions.


Whilst this is a new term which seems trendy in the media, it actually refers to a medical condition known as Acne Mechanica. This is different from what we often associate with teenage acne (Acne Vulgaris) which is caused by hormone changes, increased oil production, blocked pores and inflammation.

Acne Mechanica isn’t caused by hormonal changes, but by friction, heat and pressure on the skin.  It is made worse when the skin is not exposed to air.  Historically it has been very common in athletes and skiers who wear face or body coverings for extended periods of time causing friction and breakouts.  The resulting spots are similar but smaller than normal acne and blackheads and whiteheads are also common.  It is also often referred to as sandpaper acne.

Treatment and Prevention

Good skin cleansing is key to help unblock the pores and remove excess dirt and oil.  Regular exfoliation will also help remove dead skin cells. 

Alpha and Beta Hydroxy-acids will help with this.

For more severe cases seek medical advice and prescription Benzoyl Peroxide may be needed.

To prevent occurrence use a good emollient to keep skin lubricated and hydrated to prevent rubbing. 

Top tips for keeping maskne at bay:

  • Wash or replace your mask regularly
  • Double cleanse your skin every evening
  • Use a nourishing balm if wearing a mask for extended periods of time
  • Take a break and get some fresh air, this will help reduce the build up of anaerobic bacteria on your skin
  • Avoid wearing a full face of makeup when wearing a mask 

Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL)

This phenomena is well known to athletes and is caused by heat and water evaporation due to areas of the skin being covered for long periods of time.  You may have started to notice this especially on your lips if you have worn a mask for a long period of time indoors.  It is very uncomfortable and can make mask wearing a real hassle.

However, it is easily avoided and treated. 

Plan ahead and always carry water with you.  This will help to replace lost water and keep you hydrated.

Carry a good emollient lip balm to prevent further water loss.

Top tip for lips:

Use a small amount a gentle exfoliating scrub on the lips to remove dead skin cells and encourage blood flow.

Use a nourishing balm on lips to prevent further water-loss and from nose to mouth to reduce irritation.

Friction lesions and blisters

Healthcare professionals will be more aware of this complaint.  Friction lesions and blisters can be extremely painful, lead to infection and even prevent the ability to tolerate mask wearing. It is highly unlikely to occur if wearing a mask around the shops or on the occasional long train journey, but the key is prevention and a good lubricating emollient balm. Use before you wear a mask and apply every few hours to stop irritation and manage skin condition.

mask acne



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