top of page

Maskne: How to prevent breakouts and sore, irritated skin from face masks

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 is mandatory in many countries, including the UK. It's been a crucial step in helping to reduce the rate of infection, but with many of us having to wear face masks for long periods of time, our skin is suffering as a consequence.

"Maskne", or "mask acne" is spots, inflammation, redness, bumps and irritation caused by material rubbing against the skin and trapped sweat, oil and bacteria. The mask's material rubs on the skin and breaks down the skin's barrier, and the moisture and heat combo and a reduction in oxygen stops the skin from functioning normally. Pores become blocked, bacteria gets through the skin's barrier, and inflammation, spots and irritation can occur. In addition to breakouts, mask wearers can also suffer from dry skin and dermatitis on the nose, cheeks, side of the face and behind the ears, which is caused by rubbing and pressure from masks.

What can be done about maskne?

It's really tempting to want to scrub the skin and dry it out when we have breakouts. However, dry, damaged skin has a reduced barrier function, an important part of the skin's job as our largest organ. If the skin gets damaged, all-be-it microscopically, toxins, pollutants, bacteria and other pathogens will get in, and too much water will evaporate out, known as Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), further drying out the skin. Overly dry skin results in more oil production, creating a vicious circle with breakouts. It's important to maintain a healthy skin barrier with the right moisturisers and other ingredients so that the skin stays hydrated, healthy and resilient.

Here are some important skin care ingredients that will help maskne. You may already have some of these in your skin care arsenal, which is why I've broken it down:


Ceramides are lipids (fat molecules) found naturally in the skin. They help to keep the skin soft and moisturised, and are an essential part of the skin's barrier function, helping to keep bacteria and other pathogens out and hydration in. Ceramides are helpful for treating eczema and psoriasis, and they help to protect the skin from environmental damage and have anti-aging effects too. Applying a product rich in ceramides before wearing a mask will help to protect the skin and reduce dryness and irritation.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

Another essential molecule in the skin, Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is naturally produced in our bodies to attract and retain moisture within the joints and the skin. HA binds to water by up to 1000+ times its molecular weight, restoring the skin's moisture levels and plumping lines and wrinkles, smoothing and firming the skin. Topical HA can be found from botanical sources or created synthetically. However, sometimes it is derived from animals, so check the label if a vegan/vegetarian option is important for you. Hyaluronic Acid is available in different molecular weights, determining the level of skin penetration and absorbability; the lower the molecular weight the more easily it is absorbed into the skin and the deeper the skin penetration. Nutraceutical supplements with HA boost the body's hydration from the inside, improving skin, hair, nails, joints and gynaecological menopausal dryness too.

Salicylic Acid / Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

Salicylic Acid is a great ingredient to both treat and prevent breakouts. It exfoliates by dissolving the glue that binds the skin cells together, it also deep cleans pores and removes debris from hair follicles. Salicylic Acid breaks down dirt, dead skin cells and excess oil, and does all this without causing inflammation.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Glycolic, malic, lactic, citric, tartaric and mandelic acids are all AHAs. AHAs in skincare come in different strengths and are used in products from over the counter skin care to what I refer to as 'Big Daddy' skin peels, and everything in between. AHAs encourage the exfoliation of skin cells, helping to smooth and soften the skin, correct hyperpigmentation, reduce pore size, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and - you guessed it - helping to treat acne by preventing pores from becoming blocked. Lactic acid has the largest molecules of all the AHAs, which means that it doesn't penetrate the skin very deeply. Lactic acid won't dehydrate the skin, and at low concentrations it will actually help to draw moisture into the skin, making it a good option for dry and sensitive skins. Cleopatra had the right idea, but if you don't have an abundance of sour milk, I have some products you can use instead!

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid comes from mushrooms, and although you'll find it in soy sauce and rice wine, Kojic acid can also be found in skin care due to its ability to inhibit the production of melanin, helping to lighten the skin and control and treat hyperpigmentation and scarring. The brilliant thing about Kojic acid though, is that it has powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial and antibiotic properties, really helping to prevent and treat maskne.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

The main role of pantothenic acid in the body is to maintain the efficiency and integrity of cells by converting lipids, protein and carbohydrates into energy, resulting in a healthier skin barrier and healthier hair and nails. Pantothenic acid also reduces the production and secretion of oil in the skin and helps to breakdown sebum in the oil glands. Pantothenic acid can also be taken as an oral supplement for acne. Check with your pharmacist before starting any new supplements or over the counter medications.

Copper PCA

Copper has many advantages in skin care formulations. Copper kickstarts collagen production, resulting in healthier, younger looking skin. It also speeds up wound healing and aids exfoliation, clearing and refreshing the skin. Copper has antimicrobial action, helping to reduce breakouts and redness. It also reduces sebum output!


There are many antioxidants out there, including green tea, resveratrol, olive leaf, grape seed, and other leaf extracts which help the skin in lots of ways, decreasing inflammation and increasing the overall health and function of the skin. Antioxidants have antibacterial and antifungal properties, and they protect the cells from damage. Antioxidants help collagen synthesis and aid wound healing.


Glycerin is considered to be an acne-friendly (non-comedogenic) moisturiser. It helps the barrier function of the skin, aids wound healing and the development of normal skin cells.


You can get some amazing results and treat your skin in the comfort and safety of your own home during lockdown. So which specific products do I recommend for Maskne? Well, I love to use and highly recommend iS Clinical products. iS Clinical products are:

- Clinically tested for their safety and efficacy

- Plant based and 95-97% botanical

- Pharma grade quality ingredients

- SLS, fragrance and paraben free

- Safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding

- Vegan friendly

My three must-have maskne products from iS Clinical:

1. SHEALD Recovery Balm: Protective, soothing and nourishing treatment for raw, dry, chapped, compromised skin. Suitable for open lesions and burns, SHEALD Recovery Balm is an amazing treatment for eczema and for after aesthetic procedures such as laser and microneedling. It can be used several times a day and helps to protect the skin, decrease inflammation, relieve itching during healing, and soften, hydrate and protect. It won't block pores and is suitable for breakout-prone skin. Every household should have a SHEALD Recovery Balm, and every sore mask-worn face should have some too.

£52, 60g. NHS workers receive 15% off SHEALD Balm at Dorset Aesthetics.

2. Active Serum: Loved by the likes of Halle Berry and Jessica Alba, Active Serum is active by name and by nature and is a must have for most skin types. Active Serum contains 8% Glycolic Acid, 2% Lactic Acid from Bilberry, and 2% Salicylic Acid from Willow Bark, which work hard to both deep cleanse the pores, exfoliate the skin, reducing breakouts, pore size, lines and wrinkles. Active Serum also contains Arbutin for and Kojic Acid to control hyperpigmentation and to provide antibacterial, antimicrobial and antibiotic properties. This amazing botanical superbooster is fabulous for acne-prone skin and for anti-ageing.

£70, 15ml / £115, 30ml

3. Hydra-Cool Serum: 25% Hyaluronic Acid, Pantothenic Acid, Kojic Acid and Centella Asiatica (amazing antioxidant) work together in this little gem of a serum to provide penetrating hydration, reduce acne, hyperpigmentation, redness and irritation, and cool, calm and protect the skin. The best after-shave balm, Hydra-Cool is amazing at preventing shaving rash too. A little goes a long way, as with all iS Clinical products, so pop a few drops on and smooth over the skin twice a day.

£50, 15ml / £80, 30ml

Arrrg.. I know said three products, but I can't leave without telling you about two more incredible products from iS Clinical that are really helpful for Maskne:

- Cleansing Complex: I can't imagine ever another cleanser! Cleansing Complex is gentle enough to remove eye make-up, and cleans the skin without leaving it feeling tight and dry, powerhouse contains Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid, together with camomile, vitamins A, E and C and antioxidants to thoroughly cleanse and remove makeup without stripping the skin. Cleansing Complex gently resurfaces, smooths and softens the skin and reduces the size of pores, whilst helping to control acne breakouts. Use twice a day, and double cleans the day away. £36, 180ml / £18, 60ml

- Copper Firming Mist: Containing Copper PCA, botanical antioxidants, biopeptides and resveratrol, this incredible treatment spray is a real rescue remedy, which will immediately hydrate, refresh and calm the skin, whilst also reducing bacteria, sebum output and inflammation! Copper Firming Mist is also anti ageing and firming, and enhances the brightness, clarity and tone of the skin. It's even brilliant for setting makeup! £26, 75ml

Have a look through the website and get in touch for a free no-obligation consultation and bespoke treatment plan, or just to have a chat about about products and home treatments for maskne from Dorset Aesthetics.

SAVE 15% on purchases of two or more iS Clinical products! UK wide delivery.

Other ways to help your skin whilst wearing masks:

- always use a clean mask

- try to stay hydrated

- up your fruit, veg and salad intake .. it's magic for the skin

- don't apply makeup under your mask

- clean makeup brushes regularly to prevent bacteria building up

- clean your phone regularly

- protect and treat your skin with high quality products that won't clog the pores

- Always cleanse am and pm, and also when you get home and remove your mask

Thanks for reading. I hope it helps. Stay safe, and hopefully see you soon! Gilly x

40 views0 comments


bottom of page