Is Your Makeup Causing Acne?

Most teen girls and adult women who suffer from acne develop a sort of love-hate relationship with their makeup. You rely on it to help cover up acne pimples that make you feel self-conscious.

Young woman holding cell phone and applying lipstick
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On the other hand, if you're not careful makeup can actually create more of the very blemishes you are trying to conceal.

How can you ensure your makeup isn't sabotaging your efforts to clear your skin? These six tips will help prevent makeup from breaking you out.

Never Sleep in Your Makeup

Every night before bed, make it a point to thoroughly but gently remove all traces of makeup from your face and neck. Using an oil-free makeup remover minimizes the chances that the makeup will clog the pores, and also removes dirt and excess oil that built up on your skin throughout the day.

No need to scrub at the skin. All you really need is a gentle cleanser and your hands or a soft washcloth. Use a cleanser that includes one of the following terms on its label: "oil-free," "non-comedogenic," or "won't clog pores."

After cleansing, don't forget to apply those acne treatment medications if you have them.

Choose Makeup Labeled Noncomedogenic

Noncomedogenic makeup does not contain ingredients known to clog the pores. Reducing the number of pore blockages is a good place to start when treating acne. The best strategy is to read all the labels on your makeup as well as skin and hair care products.

If you have very mild comedonal acne, sometimes your breakouts will improve just by changing to noncomedogenic makeup.

Clean Your Applicators Frequently

Half of the fight against blemishes is reducing the amount of acne-causing bacteria on your skin -- and makeup brushes and applicators are bacteria magnets. Make sure you're the only one who uses them as sharing makeup and tools may lead to new breakouts.

Wash all makeup brushes with antimicrobial soap at least once each week. For a quick, mid-week sanitization, thoroughly spray your brushes with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and wipe excess alcohol and makeup off with a clean paper towel.

Disposable makeup applicators are a great alternative, especially if you're super busy and find it hard to find time to clean your brushes.

Choose Powder-based Makeup Instead of Liquids

Although liquid makeup gives better coverage, many have an oil base. Definitely not something you want to put on your acne-prone skin.

Instead, consider a powder-based makeup. They feel lighter on the skin, and they have the added benefit of helping to absorb excess oil.

If you really love liquid makeup, that's OK. Just make sure it's a good fit for blemish-prone skin. It should be oil-free and noncomedogenic.

Try Switching Brands

If your acne seems to worsen after wearing makeup for several days in a row, you may want to try a different brand. Certain makeup formulations, even those labeled noncomedogenic, can cause breakouts in sensitive individuals.

If this seems to be the case for you, try another brand. Your skin might tolerate one better than another.

Go Bare Whenever Possible

Leave your face makeup-less at least a few times a week. Allow your skin time to breathe and heal.

If you don't feel comfortable going makeup-free all day, cleanse your face as soon as you get home. This will give your skin a few hours every evening to go bare.

Makeup alone typically doesn't cause a full-blown case of inflammatory acne, so just keeping your skin bare isn't going to be enough to clear up your skin. The tips above are a good foundation for the acne treatment plan that will create real improvement in your skin.

If you're not already using an acne treatment medication, whether OTC or prescription, it's time to start. These will help you get blemishes under control, and most you can use along with your makeup.

Above all, try not to get discouraged. Finding what works for your skin is often a matter of trial and error. But with patience and time, your skin can heal. And you can feel confident with or without your makeup.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Matsuoka Y, Yoneda K, Sadahira C, Katsuura J, Moriue T, Kubota Y. Effects of skin care and makeup under instructions from dermatologists on the quality of life of female patients with acne vulgaris. J Dermatol. 2006;33(11):745-52. doi:10.1111/j.1346-8138.2006.00174.x

  2. Draelos ZD, Dinardo JC. A re-evaluation of the comedogenicity concept. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;54(3):507-12. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2005.11.1058

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.