Make Up Your Mind About Makeup & Acne: Questions Answered

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM, June 12, 2020

Make Up Your Mind About Makeup & Acne: Questions Answered

Acne is the cross that most women bear. According to a study by Tanghetti et al., it affects 12 to 22% of American women, compared to just 4 to 6% of American men. 

Apart from crunching numbers, the same research explored the impact of acne on society. The respondents, all female, suffer from more than 25 visible lesions. Most of them viewed their pimples as troublesome, with some blaming them for their inability to concentrate on work or school. Apart from affecting self-esteem, their acne lesions made them develop anxiety and depression as well.

Due to their profound effects on the psyche, the majority of women choose to conceal their acne scars with makeup. While cosmetics are highly helpful, some experts are concerned that they may 'hurt' the skin as well. 

Question: Can I Wear Makeup If I Have Acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, YES, you can.  However, you need to choose the right kind of cosmetics. If not, you might end up developing more pimples – or what experts call “acne cosmetica”.

As the name suggests, this condition is caused by makeup use. These marks are often found on the chin, forehead, and cheeks. Some can also develop acne near the mouth, which may be due to the irritating qualities of a certain lip product. 

What Makeup to Use

Since some products can harm the skin, experts recommend using certain cosmetics during a bad breakout. Not only are they non-irritating, but they are also less likely to lead to acne cosmetica.

  • Oil-free, lightweight foundation

According to Dr. Kenneth Bowe, lightweight and oil-free foundations work best for acne-prone skin. In his interview with Self Magazine, he explained: “I do suggest that patients select a foundation that’s as light as possible—the less liquidy, the better.

  • Oil-free, tinted moisturizers

A good alternative to foundation is an oil-free, tinted moisturizer. According to Dr. Lily Talakoub, this can be applied over your concealer. Not only will this help provide coverage, but it's also less likely to clog your pores. 

What You Shouldn’t Use

While there are cosmetics that work well during a bad breakout, there are some that can worsen your lesions. As such, here are the makeup products that you need to avoid if you’re suffering from acne:

  • Oil or liquid-based foundations

While a foundation does not cause acne by itself, some products have ingredients that trigger acne. Such is the case with oil or liquid-based foundations. In an interview with Self Magazine, Dr. Mona Gohara remarked that these products can worsen your pimples. 

  • Primers

Primers are considered skin saviors by many. They can help even out the skin tone, as well as smoothen the facial surface. They can also help make your face makeup last longer. Although that is the case, you should hold using your favorite primer if you have acne. According to Dr. Talakoub, it can help promote (if not worsen) acne inflammation. 

  • Powders 

Face powders can help mettle the shine that sebum produces. Sadly, it is this benefit that makes this product bad for your pimples. Since it can clog the pores, Dr. Talakoub recommends staying away from it if you have pimples. Should you continue to do so, you may end up developing more acne lesions. 

More Professional Advice

While you are free to use cosmetics (with caution, of course) amid a breakout, some dermatologists encourage giving your skin a 'breather' for the meantime. 

 For one, some makeup products (such as the ones mentioned) can clog the pores. According to her interview with Self Magazine, Dr. Shereene Idriss explained that they can only worsen inflammation. To make matters worse, they can slow the healing process as well.

Add to that, some cosmetics can contribute to more lesions on the face. According to Dr. Idriss, this happens because “when you have an active breakout, your skin may be more prone to developing sensitivities and irritations.”

With that being said, Dr. Idriss advises leaving pimples – especially the oozing, crusting ones – free of makeup. While it may be tempting to cover these horrendous lesions, makeup can get in the way of the natural mending process. Such products limit the zit's exposure to oxygen, which is essential for speedy healing.

Should you continue to wear makeup on open zits, Dr. Idriss has this to say: “You are indirectly creating an environment prone to irritations, inflammation, and even infections.” 






Other Things You Need To Do

Makeup, without a doubt, does a great job of concealing your acne. However, you shouldn’t rely on the hiding process alone. Here are some  things that you need to do to keep your skin free from blemishes:

  • Treatment is king. 

According to experts, it’s best to treat the area first, or at least proactively as you try to hide them underneath makeup.

AAD recommends using products with Benzoyl peroxide or Salicylic acid. However, if you dislike their side effects, you can also look for more natural remedies. 

For swollen lesions, you may benefit from supplements such as Burdock Root, Curcumin, and Bromelain. These plants come with anti-inflammatory properties that help tame reddened pimples.

For infected pimples, Grape Seed Extract is something you may want to consider. Not only does it help reduce inflammation, but it may also help fight acne-causing germs. 

To prevent more breakouts, supplements such as Chromium Polynicotinate and Vitex agnus-castus remain as good choices. According to studies, these may help promote blemish-free skin. 

  • Wash your face religiously.

This is something that you should know by heart: washing your face before sleeping. 

Make sure to use oil-free makeup removers to prevent further breakouts. Remember to clean your face of impurities in a mild, gentle manner. This will help make your skin breathe and recuperate, so it can be ready for another bout of cosmetic concealing tomorrow. 

  • Clean your brushes!

Another thing that you should do is to wash your brushes and sponges regularly. In her interview with Elle, makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci recommends cleaning powder, concealer, and foundation brushes at least once a week. 

She adds, “For eye brushes or brushes that you’re using for different shades, clean in between uses."

 While it’s best to keep your zits free of makeup, using oil-free, non-comedogenic products can help you greatly. It’s also recommended that you treat your lesions with the right medications and supplements. Coupled with religious face and brush washing, you can achieve blemish-free skin that looks good even without makeup.