A close-up photo of a person wearing a facemask.

With colder weather approaching, we’ll all start to see more people out in public wearing facemasks. A facemask may be worn to help prevent someone from getting sick, or to prevent someone who’s sick from spreading germs. Either way, facemasks can help slow the spread of respiratory illnesses like colds and flus, as well as COVID-19.

Although facemasks can be helpful, they also can be tough on sensitive facial skin.

Here are some common skin problems caused by wearing a mask — and how to prevent and treat them.

Common Skin Problems Caused by Wearing a Facemask

Masks trap heat and moisture — as well as bacteria — between the fabric and your face. Long-term use of a facemask can cause new skin problems or make existing problems worse. These skin problems include:

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

How to Prevent Skin Problems While Wearing a Facemask

Your face needs a little extra TLC when you’re wearing a mask. Here are some tips to help keep your skin comfortable and healthy:

  • Use a gentle cleanser. Skip the harsh products and choose a mild, fragrance-free cleanser.
  • Moisturize. A good moisturizer adds a protective barrier to your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a moisturizer that contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or dimethicone. And choose one that’s fragrance-free and oil-free.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen. Your skin can get sunburned while covered by a mask. Use a mineral-based sunscreen containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
  • Protect your lips. Your lips can become chapped behind the mask, so apply a dab of petroleum jelly before you mask up.
  • Take a makeup break. Makeup under a mask leads to clogged pores and breakouts, so nix the foundation and blush. (No one sees it behind a mask, anyway.)
  • Avoid masks made from synthetic fabrics. They are more likely to hold in heat and moisture, irritating your skin. Cotton is a good choice, especially if you have acne or oily skin.
  • Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water every time you remove your mask.
  • Wash your cloth mask after every use. Otherwise, bacteria can build up and cause more skin problems. Use hot water and fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry soap.

Taking Care of Your Skin While Wearing a Facemask

You can treat many mask-related skin problems at home with simple over-the-counter products.

  • Use ointment at night. Apply petroleum jelly to chapped, raw skin before you go to bed. It will protect the skin and allow it to heal.
  • Wash your face regularly. To get breakouts under control, it’s important to keep your skin free of bacteria. Use a gentle cleanser as soon as possible after removing your mask. Wash again before bed and in the morning.
  • Give your ears a break. If your ears are sore or raw, try alternating different styles of masks to relieve pressure.
  • Find a mask that fits. Your mask should fit snugly around your nose and chin. If your mask doesn’t fit properly, you’re likely to adjust it often, which increases the risk of transferring bacteria from your hands to your face. A poor-fitting mask also can irritate your skin as it slides around.
  • Go easy with skin care treatments. Skip the peels, scrubs, and at-home light devices for now. Even aftershave can be an irritant.
  • Use a no-sting barrier spray. This product is available in drugstores and online. It forms a breathable coating on the skin and can help protect your face from mask irritation.

Make an Appointment with a Dermatologist

If home treatments aren’t working, it’s time to see a skin doctor, or dermatologist. With UPMC telemedicine, our video conference, telephone, or email options allow you to see a dermatologist without leaving home.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

UPMC, Helpful Tips to Protect Your Skin While Wearing a Mask Link

Centers for Disease Control, How to Wear Masks Link

Centers for Disease Control, Considerations for Wearing Masks Link

American Academy of Dermatology, 9 Ways to Prevent Face-Mask Skin Problems Link

American Academy of Dermatology, Face Mask Skin Problems, DIY Treatment Link

About Dermatology

The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.