How to prevent oral & skin problems from mask-wearing


The pandemic has proliferated a new staple accessory in our daily wardrobe – face masks. Whether you prefer to don on surgical masks or washable fabric ones, wearing a mask is a key pillar in the strategy against Covid-19 as well as reducing the risk of any airborne infection transmissions.

With the ongoing pandemic, mask wearing has been a daily affair. However, the constant friction of the fabric mask against your skin, coupled with trapped breaths and moisture underneath our masks, can cause unexpected problems. Here are some tips to prevent two common problems that arise with wearing a mask, namely “Mask Mouth” and “Maskne”.

What is Mask Mouth?

“Mask mouth” refers to various oral side effects from prolonged mask wearing. This condition happens when the mouth is kept closed for long periods of time, when breathing is resorted from the nose to the mouth behind the mask, resulting in the reduction of overall water intake.

What causes Mask Mouth?

Disrupted breathing patterns

Wearing a mask can affect your regular breathing process, as you take more rapid, shallow breaths using your mouth, chest, and neck instead of your diaphragm. Breathing out of your mouth decreases the amount of saliva, which plays an important role in your oral health — washing away food debris and defending your teeth against cavities.


Wearing a mask causes you to drink less water than usual. Dehydration can lead to dry mouth, increasing your risk of tooth decay and bad breath.

Recycling air

Wearing a mask causes more carbon dioxide to be trapped in your mouth than usual. Although the level of carbon dioxide produced is not life-threatening, it can increase your oral microbiome’s acidity, exposing you to oral inflammatory conditions like gum disease.

What are the symptoms of Mask Mouth?

Dry mouth

When you do not have sufficient saliva to keep your mouth moist, it can be difficult to eat, swallow, and speak. This might lead to tooth decay and other oral infections.

Bad breath

Long hours of mask-wearing can intensify dry mouth, trapping the circulation of air after food consumption, resulting in a bad oral stench.

Bleeding gums

Wearing a mask may impact bacterial growth in your mouth, causing plaque build-up. This may eventually lead to the deterioration of your gum tissues.

How do you prevent Mask Mouth?

Practice good oral hygiene

Brush your teeth twice daily, floss after meals, and avoid sugary drinks. Regular dental checkups can help to maintain a healthy dental health.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day increases saliva secretion, which naturally cleanses and balances the acidity and alkalinity of the mouth, reducing the formation of bacteria.

Wear clean masks

Regularly replace or clean your mask as dirty ones can harbour bacteria and affect your oral health. If you are out and about, consider carrying a spare mask so you will always have a clean one at hand in case you dirty your current one.

What is Maskne?

Acne mechanica, more commonly known as “Maskne”, is a skin condition brought on by prolonged wear of face masks, resulting in acne breakouts on the affected areas.

What causes Maskne?

Mask wearing imposes heat, friction and occlusion on the skin. When combined with a moist environment from breathing, talking or sweating, this triggers an optimal environment for acne breakouts. The pores on your face might get clogged, becoming pimples or acne cysts. In addition, the heat and sweat from prolonged hours of mask-wearing can cause the skin to become dry, itchy and irritated.

How do you prevent Maskne?

Keep your face clean

Use a mild cleanser that is fragrance-free and gentle to your skin. Having a clean face will prevent dirt and oil from being trapped on the skin surface, which is often the cause of persistent breakouts. Your face should always be clean before you put on your mask.

Avoid wearing makeup

Wearing a face full of makeup combined with the humidity under the face mask affects your skin’s sebum production, the culprit of clogged pores and breakouts. If you cannot do without makeup, opt for a lighter alternative such as a tinted moisturiser with sunblock. There is no better time than now to let your skin breathe!

Suitability of the type of facial masks

If your face is extremely sensitive, disposable surgical masks could be the most appropriate ones for you as they can be frequently and hygienically replaced after every use. If you prefer a cloth mask, wash it after every use to prevent the accumulation of oil and dirt which can worsen acne.

During this pandemic, we have to be extra mindful in protecting our internal and external well-being. If you encounter any persisting oral and skin problems from mask-wearing, do not hesitate to make a trip down to the dentist or dermatologist to seek professional help.

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