Why Makeup Ingredients Cause Acne and Breakouts

My skin has been all over the place for years — some seasons I find it really dry and others times my skin is shinier than patent leather . I’ve also struggled with moderate acne , and it always seems like the moment I change up my makeup routine, my skin automatically reacts in a defensive inflammatory manner. Although I love my face makeup dearly, I’ll be the first to admit that they might be responsible — and Dr. Joshua Zeichner , Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, happens to agree.
“Heavy liquid foundation makeups are a common culprit for acne breakouts,” he says. “If you notice a pimple the day after wearing your makeup, the foundation may be to blame.” This is not to say that foundation and makeup is the sole cause of breaking out, as the severity of acne has mostly to do with the combination of genetics and environment. “For some people, it takes very little to block the pores and develop acne,” Dr. Zeichner says. “And for others, the face almost never breaks out.” Point blank: Everyone’s skin is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
What is universal is the fact that skin changes as we age. “For this reason you may notice that you are breaking out when you never did before or products that caused no problems when you were younger are now leading to acne breakouts,” says Dr. Zeichner. If makeup is breaking you out, you want to make sure you are doing a lot of heavy lifting in your skin preparation before stippling on that foundation.
“To avoid breaking out from your makeup, make sure to prep the skin using a salicylic acid base cleanser to remove excess oil, dirt, and dead cells from the surface,” Dr. Zeichner suggests. It’s also important to use makeup that is labeled as non-comedogenic. “This means that they have been studied and shown not to cause acne breakouts,” he adds. Mineral-based makeup or powder foundations are a great alternative — they are lightweight and sit on the surface of the skin. Another great option is to try using makeup products that will help absorb excess oil, like the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Breakout .
The last two steps Dr. Zeichner urges you to take? Making sure all makeup brushes and sponges are clean and that you wash your face before going to bed. Old makeup, oil and dirt are your enemies here, he asserts, so that’s why it’s important to take these measures on a daily basis. “In some cases, bacteria may even grow on the brushes if they are dirty,” says Dr. Zeichner. “And going to sleep with a full face of makeup on can both transfer it to the pillow and can rub against your face increasing your risk of a breakout.”
But it’s important to add that if you suffer from acne, you can still wear makeup if you love it and feel confident wearing it. “Red angry pimples can be disfiguring and make patients feel very self-conscious,” says Dr. Zeichner. So if makeup is there to help conceal and enhance your natural beauty — why not use it? “I encourage my acne patients to wear makeup if it makes them feel better about themselves,” Dr. Zeichner adds. “It is just a question of choosing the right makeup for acne prone skin .”


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