Read this if wearing a protective face mask is making your skin dry and irritated

2020 has thrown all of the oddities at us, and aside from the recent announcement of the end of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, irritated, acne-prone skin by way of isolation and mask-wearing was one we could have never predicted.

Like our skin (and our lifestyles!), our routines have had to change. This has been recognised by the MECCA community, and by the Australasian College of Dermatologists and the Occupational Dermatology Research and Education Centre, who recently published their tips and guidelines to minimise skin problems in the age of mask-wearing.

We took these into consideration in a long chat with our skincare education manager (and resident skin genius), Lucy Shaw, to compile a comprehensive, MECCA-fied guide on how to navigate your skincare routine while staying COVID-safe and wearing a mask.

If your mask-wearing is causing acne, read our guide to how to deal with ‘maskne’ here. If it’s dryness and irritation – read on!



“When selecting a gentle cleanser,” advises Shaw, “opt for a formulation that is water-free and sulphate-free, as this won’t risk over stripping or causing any further irritation.” Her recommendations include Kate Somerville’s Gentle Daily Wash, which “skips the sulphates and instead works to replenish skin with plenty of ceramides and amino acids that help the skin barrier to recover.”

Another tip from Shaw is to use cool to lukewarm water when cleansing—this will help to “keep any inflammation calm and prevent moisture loss.” “You can even skip using tap water all together and use the Dermalogica UltraCalming Cleanser which can be applied onto dry skin and tissued off,” perfect for extra sensitive, irritated skin.


The Australasian College of Dermatologists and the Occupational Dermatology Research and Education Centre recommends we avoid toners if our skin is experiencing irritation due to wearing a mask, and Shaw agrees that you might need to take a different approach. “Traditionally, toners have been used as an extension to your cleansing routine to remove excess oil and prep the skin,” she says. “If your skin is feeling red, raw and irritated from a mask, try a different approach and opt for an essence that will instantly soothe and infuse hydration to help your skin heal and recover.”

AmorePacific’s Vintage Single Extract Essence is a powerful blend of fermented green tea, which, according to Shaw, makes the anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and healing effects of green tea subsequently more potent. “If you need an extra boost of lightweight hydration and an overall glow,” she says, “the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra Fine Mist has you covered as the two phase ultra-fine mist is packed with hydrating hyaluronic acid but won’t congest or clog pores thanks to the gentle hibiscus exfoliating AHA.”

Not sure on the difference between an essence and a toner? Read this.


“Hydration is so important when your skin is under stress from friction and a feeling of asphyxiation,” says MECCA’s skincare education manager. “Just make sure you select a lightweight moisturiser that will easily absorb, rather than sitting on the surface of the skin, which might put you at risk of an unwanted breakout.” The official document agrees, recommending simple, oil-free formulations, and of course, SPF. If your SPF is hydrating (like To Save Face SPF50+ Superscreen), they say, “you don’t need to double up.”

In terms of choosing a formula, you want something that will ensure a stronger skin barrier, as this will improve your skin’s ability to heal and recover. “Volition Beauty’s Celery Green Cream is packed with cucumber, green tea and celery extract that not only hydrate but also soothe and calm,” says Shaw. Other great options include Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream and Dr. Dennis Gross’ Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion.


Even though you should already be doing this, consider this your reminder: sanitise your hands before and after putting on and taking off a mask, and, once the mask is on, do not touch it. The same goes for your face. It’s also important to limit the amount of time you do wear a mask, so if you’re wearing one for extended periods of time, make sure to give your skin a five-minute break every few hours.

If you’re experiencing a bit of friction, the Skin Health Institute suggests moisturising at least 30 minutes before you put on your mask. Shaw recognises that for many people, the friction appears on their lips, making them look and feel dry and chapped. If this is you, reach for a reliable, non-sticky balm, and glide on a super light layer. Shaw’s go-tos are By Terry Baume de Rose and Mecca Cosmetica Lip De-Luscious Glide.


For those in-the-know, blemish spots and patches have been the MVP of 2020. Hidden by your mask, they create the ideal environment to heal a blemish, while keeping bacteria out and preventing it from spreading onto your mask and into other areas. Shaw recommends the Patchology Breakout Box—“it’s an absolute go-to if you’re having unexpected breakouts as it is a multi-use SOS kit that can target different types of breakouts such as pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. It really has you covered.”

READ MORE: Acne flaring up? Try these MECCA-favourite quick-fixes


Once you get home, Shaw advises to wash your face immediately, ensuring that your skin is in a “cleansed state” for longer than it is a masked one. “Before bed,” she says, “apply something super nourishing such as REN's Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm, Herbario’s Moisturising Balm or Cosmetics 27’s Baume 27 – these will place a protective seal over the skin to help boost its ability to heal and recover overnight.”

If you prefer a cream texture to a balm, Shaw suggests using your favourite moisturiser with a lightweight oil mixed into it, “like Sunday Riley’s Juno Antioxidant + Superfood Face Oil”. The oils and ceramides will help to create a second skin so that any damage has a better chance to repair.

READ MORE: Ceramides: what they are, and why you need them in your skincare routine


If you suffer from mask-induced acne (or as we now know it, ‘maskne’), the Australasian College of Dermatologists recommends spot treating with lightweight gels, formulated with ingredients like salicylic acid, niacinamide and zinc. Dr. Dennis Gross’ DRx Blemish Solutions Breakout Clearing Gel ticks all the boxes. “If you need to take care of a few pimples, says Shaw, “use these treatments at night when your skin has a better opportunity to repair.”

READ MORE: If your skin is breaking out due to wearing a protective mask, we’ve got some tips


If your skin is flaking or slightly irritated, our resident skin guru suggests acting with caution when it comes to layering on ingredients like AHAs, BHAs and retinols. “These irritated areas can be ‘hot spots’ for acids and retinols to get into, and you may feel a stinging sensation because of it.” If you’re in a long-term relationship with your serums and solutions, Shaw recommends “saving your actives for the eye area and forehead,” and sticking to a simple routine of cleansing and hydrating on the lower half of the face.

If you’re struggling with mask-induced irritation and would love personalised advice on how to calm, treat, and nourish your skin, don’t forget you can chat to an in-store MECCA expert via the icon in the bottom right corner of your screen, or, you can book in a complimentary virtual skin consult here.


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