Makeup for Acne
Wearing makeup is a very personal choice, but when your skin is breaking out, it can seem like a chore. Speaking from previous experience, I’ve felt the need to cover up my red/angry acne-prone skin just to feel normal. My story is not very different from other acne sufferers; most people with acne feel the need to wear makeup to aid in their confidence – but could the makeup you’re wearing be making your acne worse?
“Non-comedogenic” refers to products that are believed to not clog pores. “Comedogenicity” tests were initially performed in the 1970’s on the inside of rabbit ears after it was discovered that rabbits formed blackheads when certain topical products were applied. Blackheads from offending products were seen in as little as two weeks in these rabbit ears, while humans can take up to six months to show clogged pores/blackheads. Although it’s not possible to extrapolate those results to humans in an exact manner, comedogenicity ratings are a good place to start.
Unfortunately, there is no standard or regulation set to categorize this labeling, meaning any product could potentially claim to be non-comedogenic. When choosing a skincare or makeup product, try to look for non-comedogenic products.
Some people like to apply a new product for several days to a small area, to check for adverse reactions. This can help weed out allergic reactions to products – although, those are not common.
Testing a product in a smaller area is not likely to tell you much about its tendency to aggravate blocked pores (comedogenicity) and acne breakout (acnegenicity), as this may take many weeks or months to develop. But of course, feel free to patch test, if you’d like!
Websites for general references regarding comedogenicity include: http://www.cosdna.com/ and http://www.acne.org/comedogenic-list.html.
But you should only use comedogenicity information as a general guideline – your face is not a rabbit’s ear!
All About the Base
*Ideally, you want to make sure your skin is prepped for makeup. The basics involve moisturizer and SPF protection. People with oily skin already have moisturizer "built in," so they can skip applying a moisturizer.
Primers are also optional. Most primers are silicone based; the “original” primer (which many people still use today) is a popular and affordable silicone-based chafing cream. Yes, I said chafing cream, and I’m pretty sure anyone who has picked up a magazine has seen it as a DIY primer or on a dupe list ;)
In any case, primers are marketed to help extend the wear of your makeup and blur pores and wrinkles. Dimethicone, the main silicone in most primers, is thought to be non-comedogenic. Another option would be to use a silicone-free primer, which can be found at your local makeup retailer/drugstore.
Many dermatologists recommend that you use mineral-based makeup for a plethora of reasons:
- Gives a light sunscreen through zinc oxide (additional SPF is still recommended)
- Is non-comedogenic
- Lowers risk of irritation
- Provides a less favorable home for bacteria (compared to liquid foundation)
Liquid foundations are an option for added coverage. Choose a foundation that corresponds with your skin type and needs, and is labeled non-comedogenic.
Take advantage of the generous samples that retailers like Sephora have to offer. Pay attention to the type of dispensing mechanism, as this could lead to increased bacterial growth in your liquid foundation! For example, a pump is usually more hygienic than a screw top bottle that you pour onto the back of your hand or a makeup mixing palette. And of course, make sure hands and tools are kept as clean as possible!
Foundation + Acne Fighting Medication?
Most foundations that are marketed as acne-fighting or blemish-control contain salicylic acid. Salicylic acid (also known as a beta hydroxy acid or BHA) is a keratolytic agent that works by helping shed and peel the outermost layers of skin.
Salicylic acid can be effective against acne, but it does have a drying component. A foundation with salicylic acid may be great for oily skin, but may not be the best choice for someone with sensitive skin, as it might aggravate their already dry skin. If you’re using a dedicated acne treatment, there is generally no need for salicylic acid in your foundation, as it may lead to irritation and redness.
Having read this, if you are still a little confused about your makeup possibly contributing to your acne, an easy experiment would be to leave a certain makeup product out of your routine for a week or two - or longer. Ask yourself: Did my acne improve? Worsen? How does my skin feel? Be your own skin “scientist” and consumer researcher; learn what works best for YOUR skin.
Monica Sanchez, PA-C
Monica Sanchez is a board-certified Physician Assistant at PocketDerm, where patients can see a health care professional online for comprehensive acne and anti-aging treatment. Monica completed her undergraduate studies at Whittier college, graduated with her Master of Physician Assistant Practice at the University of Southern California, and is currently based in San Diego, CA.
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