Breaking Out Under Your Mask?

Regardless of your gender, age, or skin condition, you’ve likely experienced mask-ne at least once since the start of this pandemic. Mask-ne and the effects of mask-wearing on skin are often overshadowed by the looming fear of contracting Covid-19. But it’s high-time we discussed exactly what this modern skin condition is and how we can combat it.

Although mask-ne is partially derived from the term “acne”, the two are not completely interchangeable. Mask-ne is caused exclusively by the use of masks, in fact, it usually starts (or worsens already existing common acne) within 6 weeks of regular mask-wearing. But how exactly do masks cause this skin irritation?

Increased duration of mask-wearing leads to increased friction or pressure on the epidermis, which results in a form of skin acne called “Acne Mechanica” – a term that reflects the mechanical stress that skin is placed under when covered by masks. Furthermore, the heat and moisture trapped under masks alter the pH of skin, interrupting the microbiome balance (if you’ve been following our blogs, you know how important this is!). What’s the source of this heat and moisture? They come from exhalation and perspiration that can’t evaporate off your skin – and yes, as nasty as it sounds, these also contain bacteria which can further irritate your epidermis and aggravate mask-ne.

Another facet we need to consider is Allergic Contact Dermatitis. This occurs when your body decides it doesn’t like a certain substance and has an allergic reaction to it. Harmful chemicals associated with the textile and materials used to make masks can cause your skin to break out in allergic reactions, contributing to mask-ne. Beyond that, tropical climates (shout-out to anyone who’s living in sunny Singapore like me!) and outdoor exposure are risk factors for acne-susceptible individuals, such as active young adults and those who are genetically pre-disposed to acne.

On the flip side, masks are absolutely essential in the fight against the ongoing pandemic. How can we protect ourselves from both Covid-19 and mask-ne? That’s where SAY’s Microbiome-Friendly Maskne-Buster Tips come in play! I’ve split the tips into Skincare Routine advice and Lifestyle advice; read on to find out more:

Skincare Routine

  1. Use our Gentle Face Cleanser to gently cleanse your face while maintaining a healthy skin PH. This low-foaming product is designed to be super delicate so that it cleans your skin without stripping away essential microbes and healthy bacteria!
  2. After cleansing, use our Soothing Moisturize to balance your skin microbiome and strengthen your skin barrier.
  3. Finally, apply sunscreen that is suitable and designed for sensitive skin.
  4. Use our Clay Mask Clarify or Sensitive Clay Mask a few times each week to draw out impurities and absorb excess sebum.


  1. Choose masks made from natural fibres such as cotton, bamboo, and lyocell – these are gentler on skin as compared to synthetic materials.
  2. If using a reusable mask, remember to wash or change daily.
  3. Eat more gut-microbiome-friendly food such as probiotics, omega-3 and 6 supplements, fruits, vegetables, and either animal or plant-derived protein. Stay away from processed food, sugar, salt, and saturated fats.

It might seem that staying safe in this pandemic and preventing mask-ne are locked in a trade-off, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! By being more conscious of the type of masks you use and investing a little more time into your skincare routine, you can protect yourself from Covid-19 while keeping your skin healthy and glowing.


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