A woman with maskne, acne mechanica on her chin

All About Acne Mechanica

Most of us are all too familiar with maskne breakouts. Though it’s a relatively new phenomenon, maskne is a subset of a widely known skin condition called acne mechanica. It's a type of acne vulgaris that results from physical stress on the skin. We turned to Dr. Pimple Popper to learn how to treat and prevent it.


3 minute read

Most of us are all too familiar with maskne: the breakouts that thrive as a result of prolonged mask wearing. Though it’s a relatively new phenomenon, maskne is a subset of a widely known skin condition called acne mechanica.

So what exactly is acne mechanica, and is there a way to treat or prevent it? For answers, we turned to the expert: Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper.


What is acne mechanica?

We’ve talked about the effects of emotional stress on the skin before, but acne mechanica is caused by physical stress: when the skin experiences mechanical trauma leading to a breakout. Several factors come into play, including:

  • Heat: leads to increased perspiration and changes in the skin’s microbiome
  • Friction: creates irritation and compromises the skin barrier
  • Pressure: traps heat, perspiration, dead skin and microbes

Because it’s a type of acne vulgaris (the most common variety of acne), acne mechanica can present as either non-inflammatory acne, inflammatory acne, or both.

What causes acne mechanica?

Although originally studied by researchers as a sports-related form of acne, just about anything that meets the criteria for stressing the skin can lead to acne mechanica. Some of the most common triggers and their breakout areas include:

  • Masks: the “O” zone (mouth, mid cheeks, lower third of the nose)
  • Hats: forehead and back of the scalp
  • Collars: neck
  • Bra straps: shoulders, chest, back
  • Waistband: lower back, flanks
  • Helmets: temples, chin
  • Chafing: inner thighs, buttocks

Since acne mechanica looks so much like typical acne, the distinguishing factors are the location and cause of the breakouts.

How do you treat acne mechanica?

Like other forms of acne, the best way to manage acne mechanica is to follow a consistent skincare routine that’s formulated for acne-prone skin. Here are Dr. Lee’s recommendations:


For occasional breakouts, incorporate oil-soluble salicylic acid to help keep pores clear, and use retinol at night. Use masks weekly and spot treat pimples as they come up with either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

SLMD Skincare to try

For active acne, it’s important to follow a consistent regimen specifically formulated for acne-prone skin, including ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or sulfur. More frequent masking with Clear Out and spot treating with the products above will also help minimize pimples.

SLMD Skincare to try


For occasional body breakouts, try products containing glycolic and salicylic acids to slough off dead skin and clear out pores. Masks and spot treatments work well on the body, too.

SLMD Skincare to try

For chronic body acne, Dr. Lee suggests sticking to a more consistent routine that also includes benzoyl peroxide.

SLMD Skincare to try

Ways to prevent acne mechanica

According to Dr. Lee, preventing acne mechanica involves both skincare (as noted above) and some lifestyle habits. These include:

  • Wash your mask, sports equipment, hats, etc. frequently
  • Remove equipment as soon as possible after wearing
  • Shower/wash your face as soon as possible after activities
  • Avoid synthetic or non-breathable fabrics as much as possible

Dr. Lee’s favorite tip for avoiding maskne is to spray SLMD Skincare Salicylic Acid Body Spray on the inside of your mask (let it dry before wearing) to discourage the buildup of acne-causing bacteria. You can spray directly on your body and any equipment or clothing that rubs against body skin, too. Applying Salicylic Acid Pimple Patches transparent acne patches to pimples can also help limit both irritation and the spread of bacteria.

Dr. Lee’s last word

With mask wearing now a part of everyday life, I’ve definitely seen a rise in acne mechanica. Maskne and other forms can be frustrating to manage, because there’s no way to get around what’s causing it. My best advice is to use skincare that’s specially formulated for acne-prone skin, and keep the area (and your mask or equipment) as clean as possible. My Salicylic Acid Body Spray is also really good at helping to create a more healthy environment underneath your mask, clothing and equipment.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


Shop the Article