MASKne and How To Deal With It

Let's start this off by saying something that I REALLY feel like I shouldn't have to say: WEAR A MASK. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, something that most of us have never ever experienced in our life time, and most definitely the largest public health crisis we may ever see with our own eyes. Wearing a mask is the single easiest thing you can do to prevent yourself from asymptomatically spreading the virus to others (yes-- I know you've heard this before but its worth reiterating. Real scientific evidence shows we can show no symptoms for up to 14 days after contracting the virus and still spread it to others during that time). If you don't care about others potentially dying (yes, I'm putting it bluntly), then maybe this will help: wearing a mask can also protect YOU from contracting COVID-19. Still unclear about whether or not you want to wear a mask? Here’s a quick pros and cons list to help you decide:


  • Prevents others from contracting a deadly disease that I give to them

  • May prevent me from contracting a deadly disease

  • Doing so may help us decrease transmission rates and positivity rates and hospitalization rates and allow the economy to re-open up and return to normal functioning like hanging out with your friends, going to bars, seeing your grandma, petting random dogs on the street, etc. a lot quicker!!!!

  • You can make it match your outfit and wear it as an accessory

  • You don't have to wear face makeup because you can only see your eyes

  • You don't even have to wear eye makeup if you decide to also wear sunglasses

  • Wear both a mask and sunglasses and prevent being recognized in public by people you went to high school with and being forced to make small talk


  • it can sometimes get a teeny bit sweaty and uncomfy

  • that little bit of extra sweatiness in summer makes me break out

Bonus pro: wearing a mask covers up the acne that may be caused *indirectly* by wearing the mask! (Seriously, why couldn't masks be a fashion trend when I was in high school?)

Now, I know you didn't come here to receive this lecture from me so I promise, I'm going to get to the "good stuff" now.

As soon as I told my friends I was going into dermatology, I immediately started getting questions from them about skincare and how they can improve their routine. And while I don't yet have the degree or the full breadth of knowledge I'll eventually have as an MD, resident and attending, there are three basic principles I always share with them that I've learned through my dermatology mentors and my own experience:

  1. Keep your skin clean

  2. Wear daily sunscreen

  3. Be gentle

Once the pandemic started and wearing masks started becoming mainstream (and an essential part of preventing the spread of a deadly virus-- but I think I made my point above), I started being asked the same thing from everyone: How can I prevent and get rid of these pimples I have around my mouth and nose from wearing my mask?

The same three principles I mentioned above still apply here.

  1. Keep your skin clean: Your first line of defense for maskne is keeping your skin clean by washing your face 2x a day and now after sweating/mask use with a gentle non-abrasive cleanser (my personal favorite is CeraVe Hydrating Fascial Cleanser, but Cetaphil is also a dermatologist-favorite that is very similar!!)

  2. Wear Sunscreen- Unless you are wearing an SPF fabric mask – you are still prone to the UV damage of the sun. Always wear SPF if you plan on leaving the house.

  3. Be gentle: You might think that with an increasing number of clogged pores that an exfoliating scrub or mask might be the solution to your problems, but be aware that you may end up doing more harm than good. Heavy exfoliating scrubs can actually create micro-tears in your skin, allowing for the introduction of bacteria, more pimples/clogged pores, and even infections. If you want to exfoliate you're probably better off going with an Alpha-hydroxy Acid (AHAs; such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid) which will more gently and gradually remove the dead outer layer of your skin and allow new, healthier skin to grow and replace it. You can find these easily OTC at any drug store or receive a prescription strength one from your dermatologist.

Aside from those 3 main principles, there's a few more COVID-specific things you can do to prevent that pesky (but potentially life saving for yourself and others!!!!) maskne:

  1. Be conscious about the material the mask you wear is made of and pay attention to whether or not it is irritating. Dermatologists recommend those made with tightly woven fabric, as they are less likely to cause friction, be irritative, or cause an allergic reaction. Black or dark fabric are more likely to case, contact dermatitis. You might be better off wearing a paper mask if available.

  2. Be smart about what makeup you wear and when: I will always support wearing whatever makeup makes you feel your best and gives you the confidence to attack your day, but in reality a heavy foundation + a mask + summer heat = more sweat underneath your mask, and a higher chance that your pores will get clogged. If you're out running errands and expect to be wearing your mask the majority of the time, try skipping the face makeup and focus more on highlighting your eyes or doing your hair! Or go full quarantine-mode like I do most days now and rock your "I either just woke up or am about to fall asleep but you can't tell which one it is" look proudly. In shorter terms: wear what makes you feel your best but be conscious about the affect it may be having on your skin, especially with a mask!

  3. Continue with your normal skin care regimen that you use to prevent acne on a daily basis, such as any retinoid serums/creams or topical antibiotics. I won't get into the details of these treatments here (I'll save that for another time), but these same treatments that help you prevent zits on a daily basis will continue to do so now!

  4. As always, if you ever feel like your maskne or acne in general is getting out of control and greatly affecting your self-esteem, how you interact with others, or just your life, don't be afraid to consult your dermatologist or even your primary care doctor! No complaint is too superficial or "dumb" and they'll be happy to help you however they can.

And last but not least,


Stay safe everyone. Peace. Love. Wear a mask.

Zoe & Dr. Debi

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