It is the right thing to wear a mask to help protect others and yourself against COVID-19, but it can also cause many skin issues. Over 33 percent of frontline health care workers have said they are experiencing adverse skin reactions after wearing masks every day for several months. Most of the symptoms include acne, rash, and facial itch. Here are some problems people are experiencing and tips on how to handle the issues, according to the UH Department of Dermatology.


Frictional acne occurs from constant contact with a mask and the humidity. A different mask type may help to reduce the humidity and move the contact point. You can use an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide cream or wash.

Immediately after taking your mask off, wipe the affected area with a gentle cleansing wipe and reapply moisturizer if the skin is dry. If necessary, prescription acne products can be administered. If you have a prescription for acne, you may need a different product or a change in your skin regimen. Remember, certain products may be irritating to your skin when under a mask.


Heat under your mask may cause the capillaries in the skin to dilate, which will worsen your rosacea. Use a cooler-feeling mask and stay away from hot liquids, spicy foods, and alcohol. Prescription products may be needed.

Red Rash

Almost all masks that come in contact with your face cause irritation from friction, and it is not an allergic reaction to the material. Over-washing can make the irritation worse. Use a washcloth and water only, and maybe a very gentle face wash. Be sure and wash and rinse your mask regularly. Skin products used for anti-aging, a conditioning treatment, or products with fragrance can irritate the skin when used with a mask.

Rash or Soreness Behind the Ears

Swap your mask that loops behind the ears to a string-tie mask. There are also clips available that connect the ear loops behind the head instead of the ears. Wear a mask with loose-fitting ear loops, but make sure it is fitted around the edges on the chin, cheeks, and nose, so it is effective. Alternate the masks you wear from day to day or even during each day.

Beard Stubble Discomfort

Five o’clock shadow stubble can easily get caught in surgical masks and other types of mask fabrics. Change your mask to a higher thread count, which may catch less on the beard. You can add a mid-day shave to keep your face smooth or grow a beard if you are wearing something other than an N95 mask.

Added Advice

Problems can arise based on the type of mask you are wearing. N95 masks cause the most skin issues because they fit tightly. Wear these types of masks for the shortest amount of time possible. Remember not to apply barrier products to the skin as they will interfere with the mask’s seal.

When wearing cloth masks, you can reduce skin irritation by wearing powder where the mask comes in contact with the skin. Apply moisturizer immediately after removing your mask for the day, especially if you have dry skin.

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