N95 acne & irritation FAQ

We know that many on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic are facing new skincare concerns due to the extended use of N95 masks. Below, our Curology medical providers have compiled some advice to help address these concerns. If you are a healthcare provider and have questions not covered here, please reach out to your Curology medical provider or contact us directly via email here: medicalhelp@curology.com. We thank you for all that you are doing in this current crisis, and would love to help support you.

My mask is causing dryness and irritation. What can I do to minimize this?

First, please know that the moisture, friction, and occlusion will continue as long as masks must be worn, so improving this can be a challenge. With that said, we do have some suggestions to help minimize irritation and dryness. 

If your skin is very dry/irritated, you can apply a thin layer of pure petrolatum (Vaseline) to protect your skin before your shift begins. Aquaphor Healing Ointment is another good option and can feel less greasy than Vaseline. 

If you don't feel that your skin is dry enough to warrant an ointment, a heavier moisturizer can also help. Here are a few of our favorite products:

  • Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream with Hyaluronic Acid
  • EltaMD Intense Moisturizer 
  • Curology rich moisturizer (thicker, creamier texture)
  • Curology original moisturizer (lighter, gel-cream texture)

What should I be using to wash my face?

Do your best to avoid harsh scrubs and cleansers. These can make irritation worse and exacerbate existing breakouts. Here are some gentle cleansers you might want to try:

  • Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser
  • Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser
  • The Curology cleanser 

See our Support site at https://support.curology.com/article/40-cleansers for more recommendations!


My mask is making me break out (or worsening existing breakouts). What can I do?

Acne breakouts related to wearing a mask for extended periods of time may be difficult to treat, as the over-the-counter and prescription medications used to treat acne may contribute to irritation. 

Some tips:

  • Avoid coconut oil as it is one oil that commonly blocks pores. This may happen slowly and imperceptibly, so coconut oil is the one oil that we discourage our patients from using in skin and hair care products.
  • Benzoyl peroxide is very helpful in treating acne by killing bacteria, helping to unclog pores, and by its mild anti-inflammatory effect. Just keep in mind that it can be irritating for some people, and about 5% of the population is allergic to it. Most benzoyl peroxide products are over-the-counter. We suggest using one of the following products (no need to push to higher concentrations, as those are more irritating and have not shown better efficacy than <5%):- Replenix Acne Gel Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5%- Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser (3.5%)- CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser (4%) If you decide to try other products, I suggest that you read the labels for the base (inactive) ingredients, and avoid Isopropyl Myristate, Laureth-4 or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which can worsen acne breakout in some people. Also, it’s best to use white towels and washcloths if you use benzoyl peroxide, as this ingredient bleaches colored fabrics.
  • Zinc soap - It might be quite helpful to add in a cleanser that fights both bacteria and fungus, as acne may be aggravated by pityrosporum (a type of normal fungus that lives on our skin). I'd recommend using it on your face/neck 2-3 times weekly in place of your regular cleanser. Lather the bar soap in your hands, apply to the face and leave on for a minute or so before rinsing off. If your skin is not becoming dry or “tight,” you may use the zinc soap more often, even every day. Many people can use it daily, but some become a bit dry, so use your judgment. Here are a few good choices:
  • Toothpaste - Some people break out more around the mouth when they use toothpaste with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate or whitening agents. Small amounts of toothpaste may contact the skin, even briefly, every time you brush. (Be aware—SLS is a foaming agent and when it's taken out, toothpaste doesn't foam.) Some people might be irritated by fluoride, so fluoride-free toothpaste is also available.

I’m experiencing bruising from wearing my mask all day. What can I do?

If bruising is a problem, you’ll want to avoid the usual culprits — medications that increase the tendency to bruise — unless you have a medical need to take them. These include aspirin (which may be found in Alka Seltzer and other analgesic products), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Midol Liquid Gels, Motrin IB, etc.) and Naproxen (Aleve).

Also, consider avoiding the following (although there are a lot of good things on this list that you’ll want to consume if bruising is not an issue!):

  • St John’s Wort
  • Vitamin E and foods high in vitamin E such as almonds, sunflower seeds and oil, and olives
  • Fish Oil/Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Salmon, cod, mackerel
  • Gingko Biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Green tea
  • Krill oil
  • Flaxseed oils
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Alcohol

Although we don’t have strong evidence that this would help, you might consider applying Arnica topically. Additionally, it is possible that enzymes found in high citrus fruits like pineapples can help minimize to bruising.


Are you a healthcare provider in need of more advice? Please email medicalhelp@curology.com.

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