Suffering from breakouts under your mask? How to prevent maskne, according to an aesthetic doctor

Reta Lee
·Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
·4-min read
(PHOTO: Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

Maskne is real, my girlfriend quipped. It’s been months since the requirement to wear masks in public was implemented, and we are starting to see the effects of prolonged wear, both good and bad: lower COVID-19 infection counts, as well as maskne, or acne mechanica.

So I turn to Dr Soh Lea Sar, founder and medical director of the Healthsprings group of clinics in Singapore, who shares with me the best treatments on preventing maskne.

Upon my first consultation with her, Dr Soh advises that the Broad Band Light (BBL) treatment is one of the most commonly used treatments in her clinics. BBL is the next-generation of Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy. The treatment uses short blasts of high-intensity light to target skin concerns such as pigmentations; control acne and sebum production; and reduce red vessels and pore size.

Healthsprings Laser & Aesthetic Clinic.
Healthsprings Laser & Aesthetic Clinic.

Getting started with BBL

I happen to check all the boxes mentioned above and Dr Soh is eager to work her magic on me, so I change out into a medical robe and lie on the bed. Dr Soh adds that it only takes one treatment to see major improvements, with “your freckles starting to flake off.” If you’ve not tried any IPL therapy before, you’ll notice a slight burning smell as the light zaps off your facial hair, so don’t be alarmed – your face isn’t on fire.

The BBL treatments work better on light to fair skin tone, and if you’re a woman of colour, Dr Soh recommends the Yellow Photonic Laser instead, as it goes deeper into the skin and bypasses the melanin.

The BBL treatment is minimally invasive and can be done with a quick ‘lunchtime’ appointment. It takes Dr Soh longer to work on me because of my freckles, and she targeted the red vessels around my nose. Upon completion, there is a tinge of redness on my face which then goes away after two hours.

The writer experiencing the BBL treatment.
The writer experiencing the BBL treatment.

Tips on preventing maskne

To look after your skin and prevent maskne, before or after a laser treatment, here are Dr Soh’s tips, which you can use with their Healthsprings Anti Maskne Set, available at her clinics.

1.Cleanse

Clean your face using a pH-balanced, non-drying skin cleanser.

2. Tone

Use a toner to balance your skin’s pH value.

3. Moisturise

Protect the skin’s moisture barrier. Apply light-weight moisturiser and avoid using rich face cream.

4. Repair & protect your skin

Cover any open wounds or cracks in the skin. Apply steroid creams on eczema-affected areas.

5. Wear oil-free sunblock (even when you’re working from home)

6. Most of all, try to avoid wearing makeup. If you have to apply makeup, choose non-comedogenic cosmetics.

7. If you’re suffering from skin irritation, it’s best to visit a doctor to get the problem treated before it gets worse.

8. Consider the type of mask you wear.

You can decide how you want to balance the weight of the mask material with the level of protection it will give you. 100 percent cotton masks allow your skin to breathe, but you will need to keep the mask clean and wash it frequently.

Washable masks, which are softer and made of smooth material, will reduce the friction between the skin and the mask, which is what causes and worsens maskne. You can also apply moisturiser, especially over the area covered by the mask, to reduce the friction.

Dr Soh also recommends their Healthsprings Anti Maskne treatment (S$138), if you’re into relaxing facials. The 60-minute treatment consists of deep detox cleansing, medical-grade exfoliation, multi-wave light therapy (for different skin conditions like acne, pigmentation, pores, redness), a multivitamin mask (to repair, rejuvenate and shield) and a soothing eye and lip treatment.

Verdict after the treatment

Initially, I was feeling uneasy the first few hours after the treatment as the redness was slightly intense. To top it off, I participated in a yoga class with my face down the whole time as I was embarrassed.

The next day, however, you could see some improvements: no redness, and no discomfort from the topical anaesthetic. My freckles got darker, scabbed and slowly peeled off over the next few days. As for the unsightly acne and scars (I picked at them!) around my jawline, they had been been removed, showing smoother texture.

I applied sunscreen judiciously now that my skin is lighter and smoother.

The trial price for the BBL treatment starts at S$280. The Healthsprings Laser and Aesthetic Clinic is located at 541 Orchard Rd, #11-01 Liat Towers, Singapore 238881.