Are COVID Masks Making You Break Out?

The short answer is yes.

While wearing your COVID-19 face mask is a necessary social norm, many people are experiencing undesired skin changes as a result of wearing their masks. Some acne-prone people are experiencing more regular breakouts, while others who don’t usually see breakouts in their skin are reporting small blemishes that are more akin to rosacea than anything else.

These breakouts aren’t happening solely because of a dirty mask, though that may be one contributor. Wearing a mask, even for a short period of time, creates a humid environment that allows bacteria to thrive. Add a dirty mask, excess sebum production, or stress, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for blemishes.

Aside from blemishes, COVID masks are also being blamed for chafing and irritating the skin to the point of creating frictional dermatitis—a fancy way of saying the skin is being rubbed so much that it’s become red, flaky, and uncomfortable.

So what can you do to keep your skin happy and healthy while also doing your social duty? Here are a few ideas:

Wash your cloth mask, or use disposable masks
This is a no-brainer. Wash your mask every time you do laundry. Better yet, spring for a few different cloth masks and switch them out every day, so you always have a clean one ready to go. This is a good plan for germs anyway, but it’ll also go a long way toward keeping your skin clear.

If keeping up with cloth masks is too much of a task right now, buy a pack of disposable masks. Be sure to hand wash them if you plan to use them a few times before tossing, or make a point to throw your mask away at the end of each day.

Let your skin breathe when you can
The humidity and stickiness that occurs under your mask is the #1 reason why breakouts are becoming more common. When out and about, give your skin a break any chance you get. Remove your mask when you’re outside and socially distanced, and be sure to take it off when you’re in your car alone! These mini breaks can go a long way toward giving your skin a chance to breathe.

If you work in an environment where a mask is required all day, consider investing in a face shield. Sure, these are a little more eye-catching than a face mask, but look at it this way—your face shield will be showing off your clear skin that you’re maintaining thanks to wearing a face shield! It’s a perfect circle.

Make sure your mask fits properly
This suggestion works for both mask-related breakouts, and mask-related chafing. If your mask is ill-fitting, you’re more likely to see negative skin changes because of it.

If your mask is too small, you’re ensuring a highly humid environment in which blemish-causing bacteria will flourish. If your mask is too loose, it is likely to rub and irritate skin with every movement you make.

To ensure that your mask fits properly, you may want to buy a handmade cloth mask that comes in different sizes, or find a mask with adjustable straps. Necessity is the mother of invention, which is perfectly illustrated by the number of mask designs and options that are out there. Whether you choose elastic straps, a knit strap-extender that takes the pressure off your ears and face, or go for a tie-on version that secures behind the head, you can find the right choice that meets social requirements while protecting your skin.

If your skin is already chafed and need of immediate help, try applying an extra layer of Intensive Moisturizing Cream or your favorite cream before putting your mask on. Allow the product to soak in a bit so the mask doesn’t rub too much away, and reapply (with clean hands) as needed.

A note on stress
Another thing that can exacerbate or cause blemishes? Stress. Been stressed lately? A few of us have.

Adding in some stress-relieving practices may help clear your skin—and your mind. Some more popular stress relieving activities include:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Relaxing in the tub
  • Taking up a new hobby that brings you joy
  • Meditation
  • Prayer groups
  • Yoga or other exercise

Some of these practices will work double-duty to combat blemishes—thoroughly washing your face in the tub, for example. Whichever you choose, be sure you’re checking in with yourself and your stress levels. These are strange times, but you’re not alone in them!

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