Singapore's beauty experts on dealing with maskne and how to do mask makeup

·9-min read
Singapore's beauty experts Sha Shamsi and Larry Yeo.
Singapore's beauty experts Sha Shamsi and Larry Yeo.

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SINGAPORE – It looks like we’re going to be wearing face masks for the foreseeable future, so what should we do about our skincare and makeup while wearing a mask?

We asked two of Singapore’s top skincare and makeup artists - Larry Yeo and Sha Shamsi - some tricky questions including whether or not we still need to wear sunscreen under our masks, what sort of foundation works - or doesn’t work - with a facemask, and how to make the most of our eyes. Here are their answers.

Do we still need to be wearing sunscreen under our masks?

Yes, absolutely! “Sunscreen has to be on when you are wearing a mask - and at home when you are not wearing a mask,” says Yeo. “because sun damage is cumulative and even when indoors UV light does come through and also because we are in an equatorial area where UV radiation blasts basically 365 days.”

Yeo says that even if you are wearing a mask, it only covers part of your face, and who wants to look like we haven’t taken off half of our makeup when we get a top ‘face tan’.

Is maskne real?

Yes, maskne - the acne you get from wearing a facemask - is a real phenomenon.

“It happens because there is a tight-fitting material over the skin,” explains Yeo. “It also occurs on the body too! Like athletes who wear fitted clothes for long hours also get a type of acne on their backs, arms and legs.”

Yeo says that the material acts to trap in sweat and heat, which when mixed with dead skin cells and sebum clog the pores of your skin. This then encourages and causes an increase in bacteria on your skin.

How to deal with maskne?

OK, so that sounds disgusting. How do we deal with maskne? Yeo says that you can try using a more porous facemask like changing to a cloth mask-like silk - from the more dense surgical masks. But, then you might be defeating the purpose of protection with a light mask.

Still, if you aren’t working on the frontlines, a lighter cloth mask is a good option. If you do go that way with a reusable mask (better for the environment anyway), Yeo says you need to remember to wash your mask/s daily with light soap and water. He also says just don’t go out. Limit your time outside so you aren’t wearing a mask all day in Singapore’s humid heat.

“[You can] refresh your face during the day with a micellar water - BioEssence BioWater and Senka Cleansing Water are the more economically priced ones - rinse your face with water after use, and reapply sunscreen,” explains Yeo. “This is to lessen the likelihood of further build-up of bacteria.”

“Drop your complicated steps of regular moisturising when you are wearing a mask; fewer products on the face, the better. On days when you are wearing a mask, do the following steps: Wash your face, put on a hydrating toner (and or day serum), and apply sunscreen directly. Remove all face oils and moisturizers from your routine to prevent product build-up under your mask.”

Makeup by Sha Shamsi. (PHOTO: Sha Shamsi)
Makeup by Sha Shamsi. (PHOTO: Sha Shamsi)

Shamsi suggests using light serums during the day and adding a hydrating, or calming night mask to help your skin recover before the next day of hot, sweaty weather.

If you already have a maskne breakout, Yeo says this will be due to clogged pores. He suggests you try products that have a low-level BHA/AHA - like Pixi Glow Tonic for AHA or Kiehl’s Daily Refining Milk Peel Toner - in the morning. This will reduce the likelihood of clogging. BHA is an active ingredient that is good for both inflammation and unclogging your pores, says Yeo.

He suggests trying either Derma Lab SebumClar Acne Treatment Gel or Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA, as the formulas of both products are hydrating but also good for calming down inflammation when your skin breaks out.

To make sure all the dead skin is gotten rid of, Yep suggest using a gentle physical exfoliator like Foreo Luna 3, on the area of skin under your mask. The silicone tips in the product will prevent over-exfoliation on sensitive skin, but do avoid any inflamed areas, says Yeo.

You can also try a retinol product at night since these products not only clean your pores but can also assist with skin regeneration, says Yeo. And if you have super sensitive skin, Yeo suggests you try ReErth Blemish Control which uses lysozyme to work against the blemish cashing bacteria; you can also use this for day and night skincare.

Make-up with black eyeliner close-up
Make-up with black eyeliner close-up

It’s all about the eyes!

Since people are really only seeing the upper part of our faces right now, it makes sense to focus on our eyes when it comes to using makeup, but what about foundation?

According to makeup artist Sha Shamsi, we shouldn’t be wearing foundation at all right now. First of all, having half a face of makeup - and then taking off your mask to eat - is just plain weird.

“The mask itself is causing a lot of perspiration and [skin] issues,” says Shamsi. “If you are having a meeting or having to go back to work, stick to a very light foundation - full coverage foundations are just going to make any maskne worse.”

Shamsi suggests sticking to a tinted moisturiser or sunscreen if you really feel you need to wear some sort of foundation.

“For light coverage, you can try Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser and Concealer that’s available in nine shades, for pimples and eye bags,” says Shamsi. She also says that self-setting or water-based foundations are another option if you really feel the need for more coverage - try Chanel Ultra le Teint Velvet, Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation, or Shu Uemura Unlimited Foundation.

“Don’t be lazy!”, says Yeo, “we should dress up our eyes, to make the most of being out in public again.”

According to Yeo, just doing your eye makeup is simple and fast: “The brows, eyes, eyelashes, and the undereye area are all you need to do.”

Makeup by Larry Yeo. (PHOTO: Larry Yeo)
Makeup by Larry Yeo. (PHOTO: Larry Yeo)

“Filling in the brows is easy, just pick the type of product you want to use. You can try a sword pencil (ZA cosmetics Dual End Eye Brow), a thin pencil (ZA Cosmetics Brow Liner), brow gel (MAC Eyebrows Big Boost Fibre Gel), a pomade (Tarte frameworker™ Brow Pomade) or a liquid eyebrow liner (Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color).

“Brows are definitely important because they bring your features into focus and since everything else is hidden under the mask, it is obvious that this is an important focal point of the face.

“As for eye shadow, I know it is a very lazy time for most of us. The easiest thing to do is to use a liquid or pencil/stick type of eyeshadow. Just glide it on the lids and simply blend out using your fingers,” explains Yeo.

Yeo says there are heaps of options when it comes to these types of easy application eye shadows, many of which are also long-wearing. Some of his favourites include:

Liquid Eyeshadow

Wander Beauty Exquisite Eye Liquid Shadow

Marc Jacobs Beauty See-quins Glam Glitter Liquid Eyeshadow

Laura Mercier Caviar Chrome Veil Lightweight Liquid Eye Colour

Maybelline Sensational Effects Eyeshadow

Christian Louboutin Beauty Tape à L'Oeil Matte Nude Eye Colour

Cream Eyeshadow

Tarte Chrome Paint Shadow Pot

Mac Paint Pot

Stick Eyeshadow

Nars Velvet Shadow Stick

Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour Eyeshadow

Revlon ColorStay Glaze Stick™ Eye Shadowliner

Make Up Forever Aqua Resist Smoky Shadow

After you have added your eyeshadow, Yeo says just add a simple liner and then layer on the mascara. His favourite right now is a product that has been designed especially for thinner Asian eyelashes - which tend to flop in the heat when using heavier products. “I love the new HeroineMake Micro Mascara in black or dark brown that has a small brush that gets to every part of the lashes while keeping them lifted up,” says Yeo.

Shamshi suggests that if you have smaller eyes, go for a more smoky eye look. “Rim your eyes with a kohl pencil and smudge it a bit; this is also an awesomely fast way to look ‘made up’ when wearing a mask!”

And if you really need to add something to your lips, Shamsi suggests just using a lip stain since it won’t come off so easily.

“The final step is to nicely whisk away any darkness under the eyes with HourGlass Cosmetics Vanish™ Airbrush Concealer,” says Yeo. “There are so many shades in Singapore to match all the skin tones we have here. It’s the perfect, beautiful touch to hide any greyness.”

“Mask on, and you will look fabulous until the end of the day!”

To follow Larry Yeo’s expert tips and information, go to his website at or follow him @larryyeo for daily tips, tricks, new products and opinions.

For more information on Sha Shamsi’s work, go to, and for daily updates on all her latest work, follow her @shashamsi.

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