What is the point of spending so much time on your daily skin care regime only to put junk on it and ruin all the progress.
There’s no use putting on serums and masks if harmful cosmetics are going to “poison” your face during the day.
Whether you have perfect skin, occasional hormonal flare-ups, or severe acne...becoming a label detective could be your ticket to clear and healthy skin.
The first place you should check are the ingredients in your makeup!
Any non-cleansing product applied to the skin has the potential to clog your pores, whether it’s makeup, sunscreen, or even the dirt on your hands. This type of acne is caused by products on the skin, referred to as “acne cosmetica”. Acne cosmetica generally appears rash-like in the form of irritated tiny red or pink bumps. The oil-prone areas of your face – such as the forehead, chin, and nose – are especially susceptible to acne cosmetica, as they can be more irritated by the additional oil provided by makeup. The bumps may or may not be filled with pus, and have the potential to itch or create a rough appearance. Makeup varies tremendously between brands in terms of quality and ingredients, but using the wrong product (or failing to take the product off!) can certainly aggravate breakouts.
While no one in the beauty industry intentionally set out to ruin the complexions of millions of women (I hope), this is exactly what is happening. The wrong cosmetic ingredients are so potent and usually on your skin for more than 8 hours which can cause breakouts in women who don’t normally experience them.
Consumers have become smarter, but so have companies selling the products. Consumers are doing more research, looking at the ingredients and educating themselves more often than before.
But still for so many, the words “minerals,” “non-comedogenic,” “water based,” “natural,” “organic,” “eco-friendly,” and “vegan” are enough to make us feel that the product must be safe for our skin. In fact, the majority of products from the most trusted makeup companies in the world contain ingredients that can clog pores, speed up the aging process, and irritate you skin.
So in short, yes – wearing makeup does cause acne. Or at least it can, but not all the time. The answer is complicated because there are so many factors that contribute to breakouts, and your makeup usage could just be one of them.Keep doing your research (read the ingredients) and don’t believe every “claim.”
When shopping for makeup, avoid products whose formulas contain:
- Fragrances/Dyes: although they make a product smell and appear lovely, fragrances and dyes contain strong chemicals that can be especially irritating to sensitive or acne-prone skin.
- Alcohols: alcohol in makeup is designed to maximize the product's penetration into the skin, providing you with that all-day wear. However, it's an extremely drying compound and can lead to dehydration and irritation.
- Acrylics: acrylics help ingredients stick together, but it's essentially the same as putting plastic on your skin; anything underneath will get trapped and clog your pores.
- Parabens: parabens work to extend a product's shelf life and inhibit the growth of mold, but they can also cause acne by interfering with our endocrine system and triggering a hormonal flare-up.
- Silicones: you'll likely find this ingredient in your foundation or concealers, as they're designed to make your skin feel silky smooth. Unfortunately, silicones contribute to dry skin and clogged pores, which can cause acne.
- Comedogenic Oils: oils can be hugely beneficial, but not if you’re sensitive or acne-prone. Start off with the 3 oils that have the lowest comedogenic rating and if you can tolerate oils that have a higher comedogenic rating it could be worth testing.
ALSO wash those dirty makeup brushes. You know it has been weeks since you have!
DISCLAIMER: Makeup companies change their ingredients so often we can’t always keep up, so the “good” products listed below may no longer be safe. Always check the ingredient lists on any products you put on your skin against thePore-Clogging Ingredients Listto ensure the products you are putting on your skin are still safe for acne. And please let us know if you come across any products that are no longer approved. Our acne community thanks you for your input!
- While a product may have been approved in the past, it may no longer be approved because:
- A new pore-clogging ingredient has come to our attention
- Manufacturers change their formulas
- Sources we previously used to check ingredient lists turned out to be incorrect
- Just because one product in a line is approved it does not mean the entire line is approved
ANYTIME MAKEUP (no risk for breakouts–wear anytime!)
(ONE OF OUR FAVORITES!) Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Powder Foundation (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Pressed Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder Dim Light
- Neutrogena Skin Clearing Mineral Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Neutrogena Healthy Skin Pressed Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Maybelline New York Shine Free Oil Control (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Maybelline Shine Free Oil Control Pressed
(ONE OF OUR FAVORITES!) Mineralogie Loose Mineral Foundation (contains bismuth oxychloride)
(ONE OF OUR FAVORITES!) bareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation (not READY or Matte) (contains bismuth oxychloride)
- Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Alima Pure Satin Finishing Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Alima Pure Balancing Primer Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics Natural Loose Mineral Foundation (contains bismuth oxychloride)
- Eminence Sun Defense Minerals (contains bismuth oxychloride)
- Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Loose Powder (contains bismuth oxychloride)
- bareMinerals Mineral Veil (Original and Finishing Powder)
- Youngblood Mineral Rice Setting Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Everyday Minerals Set and Perfect Skin Tint, Pearl Finishing Dust (bismuth oxychloride-free)
- Tarte Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
(ONE OF OUR FAVORITES!) bareMinerals Well-Rested Eye Brightener (Loose)
- bareMinerals Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Concealer (Loose)
- Alima Pure Concealer
(ONE OF OUR FAVORITES!) Mineralogie Loose Mineral Blush (contains bismuth oxychloride)
(ONE OF OUR FAVORITES!) bareMinerals Loose Blush (not READY or Matte)
- Alima Pure Satin Matte Blush
- Alima Pure Luminous Shimmer Blush
- Alima Pure Bronzer
- Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush MOOD EXPOS…
- SEPHORA COLLECTION Colorful Blush
(ONE OF OUR FAVORITES!) bareMinerals All-Over Face Color
- Alima Pure Bronzer
- Hourglass Ambient Bronzer Radiant
- Any Lip Stain (like Benefit Cosmetics Benetint Rose Tinted Lip Stain)
- Any Matte Lipstick (like Eve Lom Kiss Mix Colour)
- Any Matte Lip Pencil (like NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil and Revlon Balm Stain)
- Any Matte Lip Cream (like NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream and Tarte Tarteist Quick Dry Matte Lip Paint)
- Aquaphor Healing Ointment (NOT Aquaphor Lip Repair)
- Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly
SPECIAL OCCASION MAKEUP (moderate risk for breakouts–use caution)
These products may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the staying power of a primer, the coverage of a liquid or the color of a spray tan; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)
(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS, BUT SAFER THAN MOST TINTED MOISTURIZERS/SUNSCREENS!) This product may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the color of a tinted moisturizer; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)
- Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30, 1.7 Ounce
- TiZo 3 Tinted Sunscreen
- Cotz Face Sunscreen Natural Skin Tone SPF 40 1.5 oz
- Cotz Face Sunscreen for Lighter Skin Tones, SPF 40 1.5 oz
(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS, BUT SAFER THAN MOST PRIMERS!) These products may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the staying power of a primer; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)
- Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Light
- Smashbox Photo Finish More Than Primer
- Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
- Maybelline New York Face Studio Master Prime Makeup
(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS, BUT SAFER THAN MOST LIQUID FOUNDATIONS!) These products may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the coverage of a liquid foundation; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)
- Illuminare Concealing Mineral Foundation SPF 20
- Illuminare Mattifying (Ultimate All Day) Mineral Foundation-Florentine Fair SPF 20
- Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation Mattifying Oil Free
- Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation
- CoverGirl truBlend Liquid Foundation Makeup
- Dermablend Smooth Liquid Camo Foundation
(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS!, BUT SAFER THAN A SPRAY TAN!)This product may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want a tan; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using this products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!
- Fake Bake Flawless Darker Self-Tan Liquid
- ALL MAC makeup
- ALL Beautycounter skincare and makeup
- ALL Clinique skincare and makeup
- Anything “organic” “vegan” or “natural”
- Cover Girl CG Smoothers SPF 15 Tinted Moisturiser (Isopropyl Palmitate)
- EltaMD UV Physical Tinted SPF 41 (Isopropyl Palmitate)
- Glo Minerals Sheer Tint Base (Isopropyl Myristate)
- IMAGE I-Conceal (Algae Extract)
- Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 (Ethyhexyl Palmitate)
- Lorac ProtecTINT™ SPF 30 – Oil-Free Tinted Moisturiser (Glyceryl Stearate SE)
- NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30+ (Algae Extract)
- Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer Tinted Moisturiser (Isopropyl Isostearate)
- Rae Climate Control Mineral Tint SPF 20 (Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride)
- Stila Sheer Color Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 (Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride)
- Trish McEvoy ‘Protective Shield’ Moisturizing Tint SPF 15 (Castor Oil)
- Lorac Primer (Ethyhexyl Palmitate)
- Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup (Sodium Chloride)
- Jane Iredale Liquid Minerals (Algae)
- L’Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Makeup SPF 17 (Sodium Chloride)
- MAC Studio Fix (Isostearyl Palmitate)
- Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse (Dimethicone, Squalane, Jojoba Oil)
- Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup (Ethylhexyl Palmitate)
- Organic Wear Liquid Foundation SPF 15 (Glyceryl Stearate SE)
- Prescriptives Virtual Matte Oil-Control (Algae Extract)
- Revlon Colorstay for Combo/Oily Skin Makeup with SPF 6 (Sodium Chloride)
- bareMinerals BARESKIN Pure Brightening Serum Foundation (Coconut Derivatives)
- bareMinerals READY SPF 20 Foundation (Algae Extract)
- Mineralogie Pressed Mineral Foundation (Sweet Almond Oil)
- Pur Minerals 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup Foundation With SPF 15 (Shea Butter)
- Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder (Isostearyl Neopentanoate)
- bareMinerals SPF 15 Matte Foundation (Lauroyl Lysine)
- bareMinerals READY Foundation (Lauroyl Lysine)
- Everyday Minerals (Lauroyl Lysine)
- Glo Minerals Loose Base (Lauroyl Lysine)
- Jane Iredale Amazing Base (Algae Extract)
- bareMinerals Blemish Therapy (Algae Extract)
- bareMinerals Redness Remedy (Lauroyl Lysine, Oils)
- Physicians Formula Twins Correct & Cover Cream Concealer (Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Sodium Chloride)
- Neutrogena SkinClearing Blemish Concealer (Sodium Chloride)
- Everyday Minerals Blush (Lauroyl Lysine)
- bareMinerals READY Blush (Lauroyl Lysine)
- NARS Blush (Laureth-4)
- MAC pressed Blush (D&C Red #30)
- NARS Bronzer (Ethyhexyl Palmitate)
- Soft Lips (Ethyhexyl Palmitate, Menthol, Squalane, Myristyl Myristate)
- Blistex Medicated (Camphor, Isopropyl Myristate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Lanolin Oil, Cocoa Butter)
- Maybelline Baby Lips (Isopropyl Myristate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Shea Butter, D&C Reds)
- eos Smooth Sphere Lip Balm (Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter)
- Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Lip Balm
- ChapStick Classic Lip Balm SPF 4
- Original Carmex
- Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer SPF 15
- Blistex Medicated Lip Balm SPF 15
If you are prone to breakouts, or your skin has recently gotten worse, it’s worth it to do the research to make sure your makeup isn’t the culprit. To get rid of acne and take charge of your own skin care, always check the label!
A note about Lauroyl Lysine: Lauroyl Lysine is an Amino Acid derivative that is made from natural coconut fatty acid (coconut oil, which is highly comedogenic). It is most often used as a hair and skin conditioning agent, although it is also used in the formulation of products by contributing to a product’s texture by helping to gel solvents. Lauroyl Lysine’s comedogenic properties first came to light when acne-prone women began breaking out from Bare Minerals Matte (but not Bare Minerals Original). The only difference in the two formulations is the inclusion of Lauroyl Lysine in the Matte version.
A note about Natural Butters and Oils: Natural oils like cocoa butter and coconut oil, which are found in many “organic” skin care lines, can wreak havoc on acne-prone skin. Other oils such as olive and lanolin are mildly comedogenic and can be a problem if formulated with other comedogenic ingredients. The only three safe oils are: sunflower oil, safflower oil and mineral oil. Even jojoba oil, which is a recommended moisturizer on acne.org, is mildly comedogenic.
A note about Squalane/Squalene: Squalene from shark liver oil is hydrogenated to form oxygen-stable squalane. Today, squalene and its hydrogenated counterpart, squalane, are obtained largely from olive and other natural oils, which are comedogenic. Of the two, squalene is highly comedogenic and its avoidance is recommended for acneic skin.
A note about Silicones: Silicone-based make-up uses a blend of water and silicone as the main ingredient. The most typical silicones are dimethicone and “volatile” silicones such as cyclomethicone and phenyl trimethicone. Silicone provides “slip,” allowing a product to blend over the skin smoothly and evenly, resisting filling in lines or large pores on the face. Many people–myself included–have had severe breakouts from traditional makeup primers like Smashbox Photo Finish, which is a “Holy Grail” product for many people. Silicones can turn real ugly if you don’t cleanse your skin twice a day religiously. They form a “breathable web” that won’t suffocate your skin like petrolatum or waxes, but they still create a protective barrier that can shield your skin from the environment and even comedogenic products that would otherwise break you out. If you don’t apply them to clean skin, you can drive any grime or bacteria deeper into your pores. My best advice is to avoid silicones altogether, or at the very least look for a product that contains only one type rather than several different ones.