COVID-19: What are the "side effects" of wearing a mask?

Published Mar 22, 2021 • By Candice Salomé

Across the US, wearing a mask is recommended or mandatory in indoor environments, but also in many outdoor locations. Face masks are are an essential tool in the fight against COVID-19 and are now a part of our daily lives. However, wearing a mask can cause certain issues for many people who report experiencing certain adverse effects.

What are the "side effects" of wearing a face mask? What solutions can be implemented?

We explain it all below!

COVID-19: What are the

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask is an essential part of both protecting ourselves and others. But it can sometimes be difficult to bear: acne, redness, migraine, breathing issues and more... However, every problem has its solution!

Skin issues

Masks can irritate the face, because facial skin is particularly thin and sensitive. People who already have skin problems such as acne, rosacea or psoriasis may find that they worsened by their face mask. Masks also tend to encourage sweating and hinder the flow of sebum, which eventually clogs the pores in the skin.

Should certain masks be chosen over others?

Whatever the type of mask, wearing it can lead to skin discomfort. The aim, therefore is to limit the negative effects they can cause by choosing the type that is best suited to your skin. 

To limit chafing, you can opt for masks that tie at the back of the head rather than masks with elastics around the ears that can be too tight if they aren't adjusted properly. 

As for fabric masks, it is recommended that you choose breathable materials (such as linen or cotton), making sure that the model chosen meets current standards.

What skincare routine should you follow?

  • Cleansing: It is crucial to cleanse your skin regularly, ideally in the morning and at night before bed. Make sure to choose a gentle product that is suited for your skin type.
  • Hydration: After cleansing your skin, use a moisturizing cream to soothe skin that has been dried out by the mask. You can also buy barrier cream from your local pharmacy. If pimples appear, use an exfoliating cream or a sebum regulator.
  • Healing: When signs of rash or redness appear, apply a thermal water or a healing cream to the affected areas.

Finally, let your skin breathe and avoiding heavy make-up!

Dry eyes

If the wire nose bridge of your face mask is not properly placed, meaning that it is pinched over the bridge of the nose, the warm air of your breath can escape through the top of the mask and dry out your eyes. According to Professor Laurent Kodjikian, President of the French Ophthalmological Society, this effect is not dangerous, but may cause discomfort. In case of discomfort, you can purchase artificial tears (eye drops specifically for lubricating dry eyes) from your local pharmacy, which are often more effective than a typical saline solution which dries more quickly.


According to Sabine Debremaeker, president of the La Voix des Migraineux ("Voice of Migraine Sufferers") patient association: "Wearing a mask for a long period can trigger a migraine". After having heard from a number of people who experience migraines, she mentions several causes behind this phenomenon:

  • Lack of oxygen: Migraine patients need to breathe. Indeed, being in an unventilated room can also trigger a migraine.
    Taking a breath of fresh air
    can sometimes be enough to stop an attack.
  • Heat: The air from your breath inside the mask is warm, which can sometimes trigger headaches.
  • Odors: If reusable masks are used, the smell of laundry detergent can also trigger a migraine.

Despite these observations, there are as yet no studies showing adverse effects from wearing the mask.

Breathing problems in people with asthma

Some health professionals agree that masks can become bothersome in the long term for people with asthma. However, asthma is not a valid reason to not protect yourself or others with a face covering.

There is no evidence that wearing a face mask can worsen asthma, and a study presented by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) found that wearing a face mask does not affect oxygen saturation levels or cause a build-up of carbon dioxide, whether the wearer has asthma or not.

There are a few solutions available for asthma patients who find it impossible to wear a face mask for a long period. Face shields are an option, but are designed in fact to protect the eyes, so they are most effective if used in combination with a mask. If wearing a mask is not feasible for you, make sure to select a face shield that either wraps around the sides of the wearer's face and extends below the chin or has a hood.

Although wearing a mask is not always pleasant, it is nevertheless indispensable to limit the spread of the virus, so make sure to stay covered!


Was this article helpful to you?
Share your thoughts and questions with the community in the comments below!
Take care!


on 3/22/21

I think the importance of wearing a mask outweighs the minor inconveniences of wearing them. Yes they are tiresome especially after all this time ,but if everyone wore them as we should we might not need them . I get very angry at people using false excuses for not wearing them , and also people who will not wear them because they wish to make the matter political! That is a ridiculous reason for not wearing them. The outrageous lies people use!! Cotton mask  are generally not harsh on peoples skin. I use the kind that are adjustable , if I am going to a store I will double up with a paper mask. My daughter has asthma a nd has no issues with wearing a mask. I think if you are prone to migraines nothing much can help. I used to have them. Mask do not cause a lack of oxygen, according to my 3 doctors. My surgeon who does several surgeries in a row said she would be unable to stay in the OR up to 12 hours somedays if mask restricted her Oxygen. BE well Be safe Mask up! Wash hands ! Continue social distancing and Get the vaccine when you can!! I've had the1st one and am looking forward to the 2nd! LET"S BEAT THIS! If you are fighting or fought CANCER -wearing a mask is a piece of cake by comparison!!  

on 3/29/21

I hesitate comment here but feel my opinions and knowledge are valuable.  For those brainwashed and over opinionated in the subject, please just move along or do some real research on the subject.  

First, look at the history of masks during the 1917-18 flu pandemic were masks caused great illness to many because of contaminating and trapping in viruses.  Today, look at the history of Dr. Fauci's own words where he has vacillated back and forth on the subject several times due to the political climate of the day.  Now he is suggesting multiple layers of masks?

For me personally, having COPD and several other medical issues, I find wearing the mask when at the market does lessen my Oxygen saturation level while walking.  I also see no medical benefit from wearing them, as others are getting vaccines, practicing social distancing, and more personal sanitizing.  In the onset of this "pandemic" I had a box of N-95 style masks.  Wearing or simply discussing these gave rise to people criticizing me for using or simply having the N-95 masks when "medical professionals needed them"!  That is an entirely different discussion of the state of ludicrous affairs with this "pandemic".  So, supplied with boxes of the useless paper masks, I follow requirements to enter the Market or elsewhere, donning these.  To respond directly to the comment that doctors wear masks all day long and they do not cause diminished oxygen, the difference is that the ones they wear are a variant of the N-95 with the ability to exhale freely your Carbon Dioxide.  They also can and do remove themselves as needed to breathe freely when needed.  Paper masks do not protect you from anything.  However they may protect others from whatever you may exhale by trapping it in the paper filaments.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but it is not my job to protect you.  

So I will wear the same overly used paper mask when going to the market and stop often for oxygen by raising the mask over my mouth and nose when needed.  When a strap breaks from overuse, I will toss it in the trash and take out a new one until people come to their senses and find out how they have been manipulated.  

on 3/31/21

I do wear a mask which makes it hard for me to breath but I push thru. I have COPD and it's hard. I have more issues the next day with congestion and it's hard for me to breath so I try not to go shopping s much as I would like or need to. People are judgemental when they see others not doing what this person thinks they should do it's hard. I could go on but I will leave it here. Thanks and have a nice day!

You will also like

Spoon theory: What is it and how can it help people living with chronic illness?

Spoon theory: What is it and how can it help people living with chronic illness?

Read the article
What is the psychological impact of chronic pain? Carenity members share their experience!

What is the psychological impact of chronic pain? Carenity members share their experience!

Read the article
Working with a chronic illness: Carenity members share their experience!

Working with a chronic illness: Carenity members share their experience!

Read the article
Chronic fatigue: patients' experiences and solutions

Chronic fatigue: patients' experiences and solutions

Read the article

Most commented discussions