How to deal with acne caused by wearing face masks

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Mask wearing is a key part of preventing the spread of COVID-19, but it can lead to irritation and acne. News 2 spoke with Dr. Bill Stebbins, Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center about why this is the case.

Dr. Stebbins told News 2, “Most of it is just due to the fact that we are throwing our skin’s natural homeostasis and our natural humidity control out of balance when we put these masks on.” 

The good news is that there are a few things that you can do to reduce the skin irritation and acne that can arise from prolonged periods of mask wearing.

“So the simple stuff first in terms of treatment options is, for healthcare workers, if you can take a 15 minute break every two hours to just take the mask off and let the skin air out. For people that are wearing them day to day, I’d say keep the mask off as frequently as possible when you can. So when you are home alone or in the car alone, things like that. Or when you’re outdoors and you’re socially distanced and you’re able to keep that mask off at that point. That’s going to be your number one best thing that you can do.”

Taking the time to adjust your skincare routine can also make a difference. Gentle is the key word when it comes to products that fight acne.

“You should wash your face with a mild soap, so something like Cerave, like Cetaphil, some of those very mild over the counter cleansers. And then you should pat your skin dry rather than rub it. Moisturize with a very mild skin moisturizer. You don’t want anything that has glycolic acid in it or any retinoid products.”

And if that doesn’t work, there are other options.

“If you are struggling with that and it’s not really responding to what you normally would be using, such as over the counter products, Benzoyl peroxide for example. You might need something that’s a little bit stronger, something prescription strength. And if you have a dermatologist, give them a call. If you don’t, it might be time to establish care with one because this may not be going away for a few months.” 


Most patients with COVID-19 have a mild respiratory illness including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The Tennessee Department of Health strongly encourages Tennesseans to wash your hands often with soap and water and to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

The CDC recommends that organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 10 people or more throughout the United States.

High-risk individuals are defined as adults over 60 years old or people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions such as: Heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.

The Tennessee Department of Health offers a COVID-19 Public Information Line at 877-857-2945, with information available daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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