published on
March 11, 2022

How to prevent skin problems caused by face masks

Amber Ainsworth
posted on
COVID-19: Nurses & Carers

Can’t live with them, can’t leave the house without them. With face masks being mandatory PPE in care homes, and now in all indoor public spaces and on public transport, wearing one is becoming the “new normal”.  

As face masks have become an everyday necessity, some may find that their skin has started to break out in spots after wearing them for prolonged period of time. A condition being referred to as “maskne”.

Wearing a mask can’t be avoided, but limiting the chance of a breakout can. Here are some of our tips on how to prevent skin problems caused by wearing face masks. 

Clean, protect and restore

Some nurses and carers have reported severe skin damage after wearing face masks for prolonged periods of time. Images of healthcare staff during the pandemic show them taking off their masks to reveal breakouts, redness and sometimes bruising. It’s important for nurses and carers to follow the ‘clean, protect and restore’ approach to wearing face masks. 

PHE recommends wearing PPE in only two-hour stretches, if possible, especially when using medical grade masks. This gives the skin a chance to recover and dry in between use. Using a simple moisturiser 30 minutes before PPE is donned will keep the skin nicely hydrated and should stop the mask from rubbing too much.

Health care workers on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic have found that this helps their skin. Of course, only remove your mask when it’s safe to do so and after washing your hands. Check out the government's advice on when you do not need to wear a face mask. 

Find the right fit

Due to the tight fitting nature of most face masks, the skin may sweat more and pores may become blocked, resulting in spots or acne. This can also happen due to the moisture and humidity caused by breathing into the mask. It’s important to find a mask for you which covers the necessary areas but also leaves room for ventilation. 

With medical grade masks being made for “one size fits all”, it’s important to spend time before your shift making sure you have fit it in a way which feels comfortable for you but still protects those you are caring for. 

PHE advice says, “Ensure all folds in your mask have been used to optimise the correct fit for you and do not over-tighten. If you feel your mask is digging in, move away from direct patient contact, remove the mask using doffing guidance and allow the skin to recover for approximately five minutes. Replace your mask with a new one ensuring a good fit.’

Outside of work hours you may want to consider wearing a custom fitted mask. Alternatively, stick to breathable materials such as silk or cotton. Due to the soft texture of these materials, they are more likely to mould to the natural shape of your face. Keeping you and others protected but leaving your skin room to breathe. 

Cotton masks often come with a pocket which you can add a filter to. These coverings from Aeibe are made in England with 100 percent cotton lining and 100 per cent non-woven polypropylene filters from Korea on the inside. Adding a filter to your face mask can offer extra protection to yourself and others. Find out more about using filters here

Freshen up and keep it clean

A fluid-repellent surgical mask can be used continuously while providing care until you take a break from duties, according to guidance from PHE. Do not get tempted to use the same mask more than once as bacteria can spread between use. 

Be sure to wash your reusable facemask after every use. You can include it in your regular laundry at a high temperature or alternatively hand wash and make sure it is completely dry after washing and rewearing. It is important to always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask. Find out more about how best to wash your mask. 

It’s equally as important to look after your skin underneath the mask. You should cleanse and moisturise your face daily to prevent skin problems developing due to oil, dirt or bacteria irritating your skin.

When washing your face, use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser - we like following the steps on Face washing 101. It is also advisable to moisturise your face before and after using a face covering. Find out more information on how to care for skin problems caused by mask acne here.

Try accessorising

As well as the mask itself, you can also use a nose clip to help shape the mask to your face and keep it secure. Wearing a mask which has a wire in the bridge could be a comfier option if wearing for prolonged periods of time. 

When not wearing the mask, keeping it in a cotton bag or plastic (sanitised) container will help to keep it clean and away from any bacteria it may collect elsewhere. Check out some of these other ways of accessorising your mask and integrating it into your daily routine in the cleanest way possible!

Here to help

Here at Florence, your dedicated account manager is always on hand to support you and help you with any concerns you may have - we’re only a call away. Whether it’s a question around PPE or how to stay safe on shift, we’ve got you covered. Get in touch by calling your account manager on 020 3911 2555, or emailing

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