Should You Stop Wearing Makeup if You’ve Got Acne?

While wearing makeup doesn’t necessarily cause acne, the ingredients in some cosmetics can clog pores, or weaken skin’s natural barrier function — which in turn, can lead to pimples.

So what should you do if you’re breaking out: should you stop wearing makeup altogether? Here’s what you need to know.

A woman applying makeup over acne that can be treated with Acne System by SLMD Skincare

Does makeup make you break out?

To answer this question, we need to back up and remember what ultimately causes acne: clogged pores. It follows that cosmetics containing occlusive (i.e. pore clogging) ingredients can lead to breakouts. Even non-comedogenic makeup ingredients can cause irritation and allergies, which can weaken the skin barrier — and ultimately make skin more susceptible to acne.

What cosmetic ingredients can make you break out?

While everyone’s skin reacts differently, there are a handful of common cosmetic ingredients that are comedogenic, including:

  • Oils: even natural oils like avocado and coconut oil are occlusive.
  • Lanolin: essentially sheep sebum, which can cause both clogged pores and allergic reactions.
  • Silicone: this common skin-smoothing primer is comedogenic.
  • Fragrance and dye: can be comedogenic but more often cause irritation that compromises the skin barrier.

How can you tell if makeup is causing your breakouts?

If you suspect your makeup is making you break out, it’s time to give skin a little breather. Avoid using any cosmetics, including primer, foundation, concealer, bronzer, blush, powders — anything that could be occluding your skin. Giving your face a few weeks off will help you discover if your cosmetics are in fact the culprit.

Once your skin has calmed down, try re-introducing your makeup products one at a time to see if you can pinpoint the problem.

Spot Check Acne Patches, Salicylic Acid Cleanser, BP Spot Treatment by SLMD Skincare

How to cover breakouts without makeup

If you’re used to concealing your breakouts with cosmetics, going cold turkey can be daunting. Stocking up on skincare products containing proven ingredients can help clear skin without covering up:

Dr. Lee’s last word

If you wear makeup, it’s absolutely essential that you remove it thoroughly at the end of the day. Not only can the ingredients be occlusive, but not giving skin a break can make it look duller and older over time. Now if you suspect that your cosmetics are causing your breakouts, it’s fairly simple to figure out: stop wearing the product for a couple of weeks, and see if your skin clears.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


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