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Be Smart About South Africa

How To Avoid And Treat Maskne (Mask Acne) Breakouts

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Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in South Africa and has become our “new normal”.  However, for some people this has heralded skin breakouts – known as “maskne” which sees sufferers struggling with pimples, redness, and irritation on the lower half of the face.

Dr S’lindile Ndwalane, leading Dermatologist for SCIN @Hyde Park, offers her expert tips on ways to prevent and treat maskne.

“Maskne” is a term that has been coined for a type of acne known as “acne mechanica”.  This is an eruption of acne because of constant mechanical friction, in this case, the face mask.  The friction from the mask as well as humidity and sweating contribute to clogging of pores and inflammation – leading to pimples. 

According to Dr Sli, everyone has sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells on our skin. When we wear a mask, these substances can build up more and block your pores.  A mask also traps humidity due to your breathing and sweating, which makes this the ideal breading space for bacteria and breakouts to form.

“Other conditions that can be caused by wearing a face mask include: rosacea, irritant and allergic contact dermatitis (which occurs when you are allergic or sensitive to the material of your mask); and folliculitis, (which is inflammation of your hair follicles).”

Tips to Avoid and Treat Maskne:

·         Wash your face twice daily with a gentle fragrance-free cleanser.  When washing your face, use lukewarm water and pat your skin dry with a clean towel – avoid rubbing your skin as this may cause irritation.

·         If you have acne prone skin try a medicated cleanser with tea tree, salicylic acid, glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

·         Avoid harsh granular exfoliators as these can create or worsen irritation.

·         Use a lightweight non-comedogenic (doesn’t clog pores) moisturiser and apply it every day before wearing your mask.

·         Include Hyaluronic Acid in your skin care regimen for hydration.

·         Start using skin care products with vitamin C during the day.

·         Treat spots with Benzoyl Peroxide which can be obtained over the counter.

·         Make sure your night cream has Retinol (vitamin A) in it.

·         Make sure you wear sunscreen every day!

·         Wash and/or change your mask every day.  Never reuse a cloth mask without first washing it. Use unscented hypoallergenic laundry detergent, then let it dry completely.

·         Skip the makeup while you’re treating maskne. Beauty products such as foundation, concealer, and blush can clog your pores and prolong healing. If skipping make up is not possible, use lightweight, non-comedogenic make up.

·         Where possible, remove your mask every 4 hours to give your skin a break.You should remove your face mask only when you can practice social distancing from other people.  It’s also important to wash your hands before and after taking a mask break.

·         Choose the right mask.  To avoid skin issues, try to wear a face mask that fits snugly, but not too tight, and is made of natural, soft, lightweight fabric like cotton.  If possible avoid masks made of synthetic fabrics as these materials can irritate the skin.


“Although maskne can be frustrating, by following the advice above you can prevent and effectively treat minor skin problems caused by wearing a mask,” says Dr Sli.  “If your maskne is more severe, or if it still persists after trying these recommendations, be sure to make an appointment with a Dermatologist.”

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