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Does using makeup make acne worse?

While acne is often caused by blocked pores heavy makeup can increase the chance of flare-ups, read on to find out whether or not makeup causes breakouts.

Acne cosmetica

The name originally given to acne believed to be caused by makeup was ‘acne cosmetica’. Since, researchers and experts have sought to clarify this term, as acne cosmetica can be caused by any cosmetic product - makeup, cleansers, hair products - and affects areas where cosmetics are most frequently applied, typically the forehead and cheeks. The conclusion from a study in 2013 was that some cosmetic products, including makeup "may" cause acne cosmetica.

Comedogenic levels

It was thought that acne breakouts from cosmetics were related to the comedogenic (clogging of pores) levels of a product, but this theory has been queried as early as 2005, with studies showing that products containing supposedly comedogenic ingredients did not always cause breakouts. Today's research leans towards the theory that too many comedogenic ingredients in one product may lead to acne cosmetica, but that the most important factors when it comes to makeup and acne are application and removal. It is also recommended to avoid products that contain irritants such as alcohols, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor, lemon, grapefruit or lime.

Application and removal

Wearing makeup does not cause acne, but if the products are old or left unsealed, bacteria could develop which might cause your skin to react (inflammatory acne). Similarly, if brushes or your hands are not clean when you apply your makeup, you could be further spreading the bacteria across your skin. Consider using disposable applicators, or washing your brushes regularly and never sharing. Ineffective cleansing can also lead to bacteria building up, entering the pores, and subsequent breakouts, so a regular skincare routine formulated for acne-prone skin is important.

Benefits of makeup

While more research needs to be carried out regarding a correlation between makeup and acne, the psychological benefits of makeup are undeniable. Covering up acne increases confidence thereby reducing stress (a potential trigger for further breakouts) leading to an improved quality of life. Makeup can help conceal the blemishes while the skin undergoes acne treatment. Oil-based foundations might clog the pores, so look for mineral-based coverage instead.

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