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Cloth Mask vs Surgical Mask: Acne Causes

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a face mask has become a necessary part of our daily lives. Masks and face coverings are instrumental in reducing the spread of COVID-19, but they've also introduced many new skin challenges, such as rashes and acne breakouts.

This blog post dissects the causes of acne due to different types of face coverings. We'll be focusing on cloth mask vs surgical mask acne, exploring which might be better or worse for acne-prone skin, and how you can mitigate these issues.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Both cloth and surgical masks have pros and cons for acne; the choice depends on individual skin needs.
  • Wearing masks for extended periods can create a humid environment that exacerbates acne, but choosing the right material and fit can mitigate this.
  • Preventing acne while wearing masks involves a mix of proper laundry care—avoiding irritants like fabric softeners and dryer sheets—and a regular skincare routine.
  • Exposed Skin Care offers an effective skincare strategy that targets acne-causing bacteria and helps manage the challenges posed by prolonged mask-wearing.

Woman taking off face mask seeing acne under mask

Why Does Wearing a Mask Cause Acne?

Before diving into the cloth mask vs surgical mask acne dilemma, it's crucial to understand why wearing a face mask can cause acne in the first place. When you wear a face mask, especially for extended periods of time, several factors come into play that can lead to breakouts.

Heat and Humidity

Wearing a mask creates a humid environment due to your breath being trapped. This condition is a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. You’re also more likely to sweat under the mask, providing more moisture that can cause skin irritation.

Friction and Irritation

The constant rubbing of the mask against your skin can irritate and cause redness. This is a recipe for disaster for those with acne-prone skin or common skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.

Clogged Pores

Masks can trap oil, dead skin cells, and dirt close to your skin. The result is clogged pores and increased acne. Now that you understand the general reasons, let's delve into the specific issues related to cloth mask vs. surgical mask acne.

Woman with acne on her chin area

Cloth Mask vs Surgical Mask Acne: Pros And Cons

Regarding cloth mask vs surgical mask acne, each has its own pros and cons that may either help prevent or exacerbate breakouts.

Cloth Mask Acne


  • Reusable: Cloth masks are reusable, making them eco-friendly. Just ensure you wash your face and mask regularly to prevent the buildup of acne-causing elements.
  • Breathable Fabric: Choosing a cloth mask of breathable fabric like cotton may help reduce skin irritation.
  • Adjustable: Many cloth masks come with adjustable straps, allowing for a better fit, which may help prevent maskne by reducing friction.


  • Less Filtering: Cloth masks are generally less effective at filtering germs than surgical masks.
  • Detergent Issues: Washing cloth masks with laundry detergent that's not fragrance-free can irritate your skin.

Red head woman wearing cloth mask

Surgical Mask Acne


  • Better Filtration: Surgical masks are designed to filter out more particles, protecting you better from the germ aspect.
  • Loose-Fitting: Surgical masks are often more loose-fitting, reducing friction and skin irritation.


  • Non-Reusable: Surgical masks are not reusable, meaning they can become an environmental concern.
  • Potential for Irritation: The material of surgical masks may irritate your skin, especially when worn for extended periods of time.

How to Prevent Maskne: Steps You Can Take

Whether you choose a cloth or surgical mask, there are ways to prevent mask-induced acne.

    Mask Hygiene

    • Use Clean Masks: Always wear a clean mask. It’s best to wash cloth masks after each use in the washing machine.
    • Avoid Synthetic Materials: Opt for masks made of breathable, natural fibers, and avoid synthetic materials like polyester that can irritate your skin.

    Skincare Routine

    • Cleanser: Use a mild cleanser to remove oil, dirt, and makeup before and after wearing your mask. Look for cleansers that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide for acne-prone skin.
    • Apply Moisturizer: After cleansing, apply an oil- and fragrance-free moisturizer to avoid clogging your pores.

    Woman putting serum on her face

    Mask Wearing Tips

    • Limit Time: Take breaks from wearing your mask when safe and appropriate to reduce the humid environment and allow your skin to breathe.
    • No Makeup: Avoid wearing makeup underneath your mask to prevent clogging pores and cause further irritation.

    Common Maskne Myths Debunked

    While you might find a lot of advice, separating myth from fact is crucial.

    "More Layers Means More Protection"

    Although the CDC recommends masks with multiple layers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, adding too many layers can cause skin irritation and increased acne. Choose a mask that balances both safety and skin health.

    "Use Petroleum Jelly for Sore Areas"

    While petroleum jelly can be great for dry, chapped skin, it can clog pores and cause acne when applied to acne-prone areas.

    "Stronger Cleansers Are Better"

    While you might be tempted to overdo your skincare routine with stronger products or higher concentrations of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, doing so can irritate your skin more. Stick to the recommended dosages.

    Managing Acne with Exposed Skin Care

    Even as we navigate the challenges of wearing face masks and face coverings in public, managing acne doesn't have to be a monumental task. Exposed Skin Care offers a comprehensive solution tailored for acne-prone skin that can help reduce the occurrence of pimples, whiteheads, and other skin irritants.

    Exposed Skin Care Basic Kit

    The benefits of Exposed Skin Care are:

    • Advanced Formulations: Developed using scientific research, the line includes doctor-recommended products such as cleansers and serums that target the bacteria that cause maskne.
    • Treatment Serum: Packed with potent ingredients, it's designed to tackle acne caused by the humid environment under the mask without causing additional irritation.
    • Facial Peel: For those dealing with new or increased acne, a facial peel can deeply exfoliate the skin, clearing out clogged pores and reducing oily skin.

    So, whether you're dealing with acne for the first time due to wearing masks or experiencing exacerbations of existing issues, Exposed Skin Care offers an effective skincare strategy to navigate these challenges.


    Wearing face masks has become a new norm for all of us, and with this change has come the unfortunate side effect of "maskne," particularly for those with acne-prone skin. Whether you choose to wear cloth or surgical masks, each has its own benefits and drawbacks that can prevent breakouts or exacerbate them.

    It's important to balance the necessity of wearing a mask with the need for proper skin care. Avoiding irritants like fabric softeners and dryer sheets in your laundry routine can make a significant difference, especially if you wear cloth masks that need frequent washing.

    Adopting a consistent skincare routine can mitigate many skin issues caused by prolonged mask-wearing. Exposed Skin Care offers a tailored solution that can help manage acne in these challenging times.

    Its advanced formulation targets acne-causing bacteria and provides an effective strategy for those dealing with the skin challenges of wearing a mask. After all, protecting ourselves and others from the spread of COVID-19 doesn't have to come at the expense of our skin's health.


    What are the main differences between cloth and surgical masks concerning acne?

    Cloth masks are reusable but may retain more moisture, leading to acne. Surgical masks are less absorbent but can irritate the skin due to their material.

    Can wearing a mask actually cause acne?

    Yes, wearing a mask for extended periods creates a humid environment that can lead to breakouts, commonly termed "maskne."

    What laundry products should be avoided when washing cloth masks?

    Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, as they can cause skin irritation and exacerbate acne.

    How can you prevent breakouts while wearing masks?

    Choose the right type of mask, wash it regularly if it’s reusable, and adopt a consistent skincare routine to manage acne-prone skin.

    How can Exposed Skin Care help in managing mask-induced acne?

    Exposed Skin Care offers advanced formulations designed to target acne-causing bacteria and prevent breakouts, making the discomfort of wearing masks more manageable.