We Asked A Skincare Expert On Mask Breakouts And How To Prevent Them

With more time dedicated to skincare in the last few months, no excuses, you’d think our skin would be positively glowing by now — nope, not really. I’d boil my case down to laziness, but here’s the thing, with current measures in place that make wearing masks mandatory whenever we step out of the house, we’re now facing a whole new kind of skincare issue: mask breakouts, or “maskne” (mask acne).

You could be an essential worker or frontline healthcare staff, Gen Z or regular work-at-home OL. Whether you’re wearing a face mask for prolonged hours, or even just that quick zip downstairs to get your groceries, you might have noticed clogged skin or breakouts occurring more frequently, especially along the lower half of your face. Well, now you can save your face, literally.

For this, we spoke to Lily Kew, founder of organic beauty brand Kew Organics to gather more information about this unique phenomenon — the former beauty therapist and skincare innovator was happy to share with us why mask breakouts occur, as well as how we can prevent them and properly treat any blemishes for clear skin. Read on for our recommendations of gentle, soothing formulas that care for your skin as well.

Why do mask breakouts occur?

“The moisture from our breath dampens the inside of the mask, while the humidity encourages bacteria to thrive. The heat and humidity concentrated around the mouth can make you more prone to bacterial and yeast overgrowth.

The constant rubbing of a mask on oily, sensitive skin, can cause more acne breakouts, as there’s a good chance you’ve been touching your face even more with a mask, adjusting it to breathe, to avoid fogging up your glasses, or just to talk on the phone. The friction of the cloth of the mask on the skin damages the outer protective layer of the skin and makes it more sensitive, causing more oil gland clogging and more acne.” 

How to prevent clogged pores and breakouts. 

TIP 1 — Cleansing: Double Cleanse!

“Go for cleansers with anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory skincare formulas. During this period where many are experiencing acne, clogged pores and sensitivity, it is also essential to double cleanse in the night.” — Lily Kew


  • Kew Organics Mandarin Acai Cleansing Lotion, $99.40 + Absolutely Youthful Hydra Cleanser, $99.40 — combat the acne-causing bacteria and eliminate gunk, dirt and excessive sebum with these organic formulas. The former is an award-winning and antioxidant-rich cleanser that gently clarifies the skin, while the latter also contains more than 300% cichoric acid, an  age-defying ingredient, to boost skin renewal which aids in the removal of acne scars and marks. For sensitive skin, the Kew Organics Sensitive Skin Rescue Cleanser cleans, soothes, repairs and strengthens thin, delicate and weak skin all at the same time.
  • Pixi Double Cleanse, $39 — While not a new product, this 2-in-1 tub makes it remarkably easy to remember to double cleanse, even while travelling. One side contains a solid cleansing oil that easily breaks down and removes dirt, makeup and sunscreen; the other holds a soft cleansing cream with a gently whipped texture, which cleanses and conditions your skin for the regime ahead. 

  • Banila Co. Clean It Zero, $19.40 + COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, $14.90 — K-beauty’s big on double cleansing too, and a typical routine would include an oil cleanser, followed by a water-based cleanser. These top choices are cult favourites for a reason; Banila Co.’s sherbet-like texture melts into smooth oil when applied onto your skin, effectively cleansing, while COSRX’s low pH formula is revered for all skin types, and helps to soothe and refresh skin without that stripping feeling.
tip 2 — Keep Skin Hydrated: Water-Based Serums, Oil-Free Moisturisers & Mists

“Hydrating the skin is very essential because when the skin is well hydrated, the oil glands will relax in its production of sebum. When the skin is in a state of constant hydration, its pH will be balanced which means skin will be clean, clear and healthy without any major issues… As a result, there will be lesser clogs and breakouts. 

We can also keep skin hydrated 24/7 by spraying mists. Always look at the ingredient list when buying mists because many out there have 99% aqua and only 1% ingredients, that’s why many do not feel any effect after spraying mists; some even feel drier after spraying. ” — Lily Kew


  • Water-Based Serum: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra™ Intensive Hydration Serum, $68 — One of my favourite products now, this Drunk Elephant gel serum is truly lightweight while still being rich in benefits, including vitamin B5 and pineapple ceramide which helps the skin attract and hold moisture, and a bio-compatible formula that your skin will love. Water-based serums, with either a base of H20 or aloe, generally have a lighter gel texture which absorbs quicker into the skin so those active ingredients can get to work faster. Lily also recommends the Kew Organics Clear Skin Treatment Essence, for its blend of antioxidants and key active ingredients, including organic Gotu Kola and Liquorice Root, which aid in skin renewal, removing scars, as well as balancing sebum production.  

    Gel Moisturiser: RE:ERTH Hydrating Gel Moisturizer, $85 — This is an oil-free, antibacterial moisturiser that hydrates your skin while making sure moisture is retained as well. Its key ingredient, Colostrum, known as Mothers’ Milk from Danish Cows, is rich in immunoglobulin with anti-bacterial effects, and contains Vitamins B and E, to give you clear, supple and healthy skin.

  • Gel Moisturiser: Dr. Roebucks Stoked Weightless Face Moisturiser, $62 — From an underrated Australian brand, the daily lightweight moisturiser is quite a unique find; it contains the powerful antioxidant and hydrator Wild Berry Harvest, Fucogel to retain water, and Maritech Bright to improve skin clarity, while Sebustop reduces the chance of breakouts, and adds to that shine-free complexion. 
  • Facial Mist: BYBI Beauty Mega Mist, $50 — Made from naturally-derived ingredients, this hyaluronic acid face mist nourishes and hydrates your skin, keeping it looking fresh throughout the day. You’ll be glad to find calming rose, lemon balm and orange blossom floral waters right at the top of the ingredients list, while a high concentration of hyaluronic acid makes its skin-softening claims that much more believable.

Beauty products we should avoid.

“Avoid foundation, concealers, powder, BB & CC cream as they clog up the pores and cause acne. Even products intended for anti-aging or acne too as most of these products tend to over-exfoliate or dry out the skin, which can cause more harm than good with a face mask.”

On caring for blemishes.

Common mistakes people might make

“Many tend to D-I-Y, or their own extraction. This definitely leaves scars and marks. It also causes inflammation which in turn causes the manifestation of acne. A better and result-proof choice will be to do regular exfoliation with liquid exfoliants.” — Lily Kew


  • Clay Mask: THREE Purifying Clay Mask, $85 — Perhaps you’re drawn to Japanese skincare products due to their proven efficacy. Well, THREE certainly fits in with this line of thinking, with a clay mask that draws out impurities, excess sebum and dead skin cells from deep within your pores, while also replenishing skin with moisture rich in amino acids. You’ll never feel like your skin’s drying out. 
  • Exfoliator: Kew Organics Sugar Cane Royal Flush Exfoliant, $62.22 — I’d usually be wary of how to go about exfoliating for sensitive skin, but Lily recommends this well-loved, gentle yet effective formula that contains an organic cocktail of good acids. It also “does not irritate the acne but rather encourages skin renewal, removal of clogged pores, acne scars and marks and reduction of pore size”.


  • Whal Myung Minimal Eucalming Patch, $40 — These calming patches from the K-Beauty brand help relieve redness and alleviate breakouts. Each box comes with a 2 set of 15 sheets, for you to place over areas that need immediate soothing, like a sheet mask, giving your skin a moisture boost as well. 
  • RE: ERTH’s Blemish Control, $80 — Touted as the ultimate blemish treatment for clearer pores and eliminating blemish-causing bacteria, this non-comedogenic formula is clinically tested on acne-prone skin, and contains key ingredients of Lysozyme, Colostrum and water-soluble Vitamin A that’s safe for sensitive skin. All in a non-drying, soothing gel texture.
Tip: Oil Works

Skincare pros might already know this, but supplying your skin with oils, despite having oily skin, works. It does sound counter-productive, but here, think about balance. With oils, you’re basically giving skin the nourishment it needs, which balances skin’s pH to prevent further breakout and premature ageing. Look for those that are lightweight and fast-absorbing, without that greasy feel.



  • Huxley Secret of Sahara Oil Essence, $59 — Another of my current favourites this season, Huxley’s cult oil essence is everything it claims to do. With an ideal blend of oil and essence, the serum also contains Prickly Pear Seed Oil and Cactus Extract to both hydrate and nourish the skin; I find that it helps my skin remain in that plump, bouncy and healthy state for longer too.
  • Kew Organics Cell Regeneration Facial Oil Serum, $113.10 — the all-in-one serum helps to treat acne and prevent further breakout with some key ingredients you can look out for. Organic Seed Oils of Camellia is high in antioxidants to heal acne speedily, reduce inflammation and fade scars; Passion Fruit Extract reduces the size of enlarged pores; while it’s worth noting that the 17 organic flower & plant extracts all help to nourish the skin and provide it with essential vitamins, as a hydrating and reliable anti-ageing formula.