Happy in Your Skin: Dermatologist Approved Advice on Combating “Maskne”


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Intense breakouts have become increasingly common due to the daily use of masks and face coverings. How do we fight this so-called “Maskne”? A local Doctor gives the scoop on how to treat unwanted blemishes.

While many Covid-safety regulations have relaxed as vaccination rates have increased, and schools and businesses have begun to reopen, wearing masks remains a part of our everyday lives in the continuous effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, as a result of wearing face coverings on a daily basis, many have developed intense breakouts as well as dry or irritated skin. 

The condition, which has coined the term “maskne”, is a result of numerous factors: clogged pores due to a build up of oil, dirt and dead skin under the mask, humidity due to breathe or sweat trapped beneath the mask, and chafing and irritation caused by the friction of a mask on one’s face. Leigh Charron, a Physician Associate from Reston Dermatology & Cosmetic Center said, “I have seen more acne in the lower face since the pandemic started.”

While many feel defeated by stubborn acne and painful irritation, Charron assures that so-called “maskne” can be easily treated and even prevented. She also strongly recommends speaking with a Dermatologist or skin professional to address your specific concerns.


Smart mask practices can help to reduce mask-caused acne and irritation. Mask fabrics do have an effect on the skin. According to experts, silk or silk-lined masks make a great choice for those who suffer from breakouts or experience sensitivity. Not only is silk gentle and moisturizing to the skin, but it is also antimicrobial as well as antibacterial and absorbs less pore-clogging bacteria than other materials. 

An alternative to silk are standard cotton masks which can be found in abundant supply. While cotton does not contain moisturizing or antibacterial properties, the light fabric allows for easier air circulation and can decrease the production of sweat and oil. 

However, Charron notes that practicing proper mask hygiene is perhaps more critical than the type of mask you wear. “More important than the type of mask is that you change it frequently. I recommend switching to a new or freshly cleaned mask half way through the day. For example, around lunch time,” said Charron. 

Every moment that you wear a mask, it absorbs bacteria, sweat and oil from your face and mouth; therefore, washing your mask between each use is vital. Do not reuse a dirty cloth mask,” said Charron.


While applying makeup is a part of many’s daily routine, it may be contributing to a build-up of oil and bacteria beneath the mask, creating clogged pores and intense breakouts on the skin. Charron discourages wearing makeup underneath a face covering. “I would not recommend wearing makeup under the area that the mask is covered by,” said Charron. “It will just get your mask dirty and clog your pores. While the world has seen several beauty and makeup trends emerge during the pandemic, it may be time to try out the “natural look.” 


Cleansing one’s face is an essential step in having an effective skincare routine. The practice of washing your face removes oil, sweat and bacteria that accumulates on the skin throughout the day. The criteria of an effective facial cleanser varies from person to person depending on their needs.

However, there are products on the market for nearly every skin type. Charron stated that, “For sensitive skin I like Cerave gentle cleanser. For oily skin I like Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil removing foam wash.” 

She once again recommends consulting a specialist if you have concerns about your skin. “We also sell products at our office that can be recommended during a consultation,” said Charron.


Many who have oily skin or experience regular breakouts believe that the solution to the build up of oil and dirt beneath the mask is to skip out on a moisturizer. However, neglecting this step often causes more harm than good. 

Those with oily skin, combination skin, or skin prone to breakouts often overlook moisturizing, and instead focus heavily on drying out their skin and using overly-harsh products in an attempt to rid their face of oil and combat blemishes. In actuality, moisturizing is about much more than providing hydration. Stripping the skin of its natural oils leads the skin to overcompensate by producing excess oil and sebum, which only exacerbates clogged pores and acne breakouts. 

Charron strongly advises against the disuse of moisturizers, and says that there are products for oily or acne prone skin available. “Do not skip the moisturizer. Just [find] one that is non-comedogenic, which means non-pore clogging,” said Charron. She adds that, while moisturizer is an essential ingredient to achieving healthy skin, there are products she would discourage using on skin prone to acne. “Avoid moisturizers such as Aquaphor or Vaseline on acne prone facial skin. Most other moisturizers are fine,” said Charron.

Topical Treatments

There are a myriad of topical products on the market. Prescription topical medications such as dapsone, an antibacterial sulfonamide, and tretinoin, a potent rhetinoid, can be extremely effective in achieving clear skin. 

Charron says, “Prescription retinoids can be helpful.” She adds, “For over the counter you can try Neutrogena Salicylic acid cleanser.” Another popular and effective product that is available over the counter is Differen, a high-rated, prescription strength multi-benefit gel.

Charron expresses that the bottomline is to practice mask hygiene, changing and cleaning your mask frequently, and to consult your doctor about your skin concerns.  A study from 2015 which followed students who suffered from acne concluded that 59.8% felt embarrassed or self-conscious because of their skin. Charron recognises that while a blemish may be small, it can have a significant impact on one’s confidence. 

Her message to you: It can get better. Everyone deserves to feel confident in their own skin. “I know it is frustrating dealing with acne, but especially frustrating during a pandemic. Acne is a medical condition and can have bad mental health side effects,” she says. “We can help you!” Charron adds that such resources and advice can be found on the Reston Dermatology instagram page, @restonderm as well as her own page @leighcharronpa.