Does Makeup Cause Acne?

What do you think about when someone mentions “makeup”? Do you immediately envision a woman with flawless skin? If so, then you are not alone. In the past, makeup was seen to enhance one’s appearance and cover up flaws that they may be self-conscious about. 

However, nowadays, many people see makeup as an essential part of their everyday routine, and it is used for more than just aesthetic purposes. 

For example, makeup is frequently used to correct certain imperfections such as acne or dark circles under the eyes. Despite its current popularity, there is some debate about whether or not wearing makeup can cause acne breakouts.

How Do Cosmetics Cause Acne?

There is some evidence suggesting that certain makeup ingredients can be comedogenic or clog pores, leading to an accumulation of dirt and bacteria, eventually causing a breakout. This is not always true, however. 

Despite their popularity, there have been no scientific studies confirming whether or not specific brands of makeup will affect your complexion for better or worse.  However, makeup can also clog pores if not adequately removed on a daily basis. 

If you are wondering, yes, there is a difference between cleansing your skin and removing makeup. Makeup should be removed entirely from the face before going to sleep for pores to have time to breathe throughout the night. 

The best way to prevent potential acne breakouts through makeup is by reading labels carefully while shopping for products. Ingredients such as alcohols, mineral oils, fragrances, dyes, etc., often cause problems with sensitive, acne-prone skin types. 

In contrast, some other ingredients like glycerin or fatty acids help moisturize dry patches of skin that may lead to blemishes. The next step would be finding out what type of product works.

How To Tell If Makeup Is Causing Your Acne

An excellent way to tell if your foundation or mascara is causing an issue with your skin would be by doing a “patch test” for seven days straight. In order to save yourself time I highly suggest using one of GoodGlow’s vetted acne-safe foundations. This list includes foundations that work with every skin type and they are highly unlikely to trigger acne breakouts in most people.

If you do not see any change in appearance on blemishes after seven days, your acne was likely caused by something other than your makeup. 

Makeup can contribute to acne, but it is not the only culprit. With that said, acne can also be caused by certain active ingredients in makeup. 

So if you are experiencing breakouts, make sure to have yourself tested for allergies or sensitivities to the products you are using.

Tips For Preventing Breakouts From Makeup Products

To begin with, it is essential to know what type of skin you have. Acne can be caused by various factors, including certain makeup products and lifestyle choices, such as smoking or poor diet. 

Makeup containing oil and grease-based ingredients will likely cause breakouts on those who already experience acne because pores will clog up more easily due to these products. However, if you do not suffer from breakout issues when using greasy-based makeup items, they will not necessarily trigger an outbreak. 

If you frequently break out from oil-based makeup you should consider using powder instead of foundation to reduce the oil applied to your face.

This is a great way to cut down on the amount of oil and grease that contact your skin. Another option is going foundation-free for some time – If you have been using makeup daily already, it may be challenging to go without, but give yourself two weeks and then see how things look. You can also try switching to tinted moisturizer to reduce the chances of clogging your pores.

When To See a Dermatologist About Your Skin Problems

If you feel like your skin problems may be caused by makeup, you should schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. They will be able to run tests or prescribe medication so that you can start feeling better quickly. 

This also applies if acne seems worse after using certain products such as foundation, powder, tinted moisturizer, etc. 

Also, remember that some medical treatments (such as isotretinoin) cannot always be prescribed right away because of how serious they are; this drug comes with many side effects, including depression and suicidal thoughts. If these symptoms appear due to using the medications, make sure to stop taking them immediately and inform your doctor.

The Best Makeup Products For People With Acne-Prone Skin

In the past, it was believed that wearing makeup contributed to acne by clogging your pores because of how much you touch your face. 

However, what dermatologists have found is that it’s not so much about whether or not a person wears makeup as an individual with acne-prone skin, but rather which types they choose and when in their lives they wear them. 

For example, suppose you’re going through puberty and experiencing hormonal changes in addition to having breakouts. In that case, this could be a time where wearing certain kinds of foundation can worsen these symptoms. 

Try wearing only a tinted moisturizer or BB cream during your teenage years, and save the full-coverage foundation for later on. If you regularly use self-tanner to hide breakouts make sure it is non-comedogenic and contains gentle moisturizers like aloe vera to minimize breakout potential.

Additionally, I highly recommend using an acne-safe primer to keep a layer of separation between potentially comedogenic makeup products and your skin. The type of primer that works best for you will depend on your skin, the type of breakouts you are dealing with, and the type of makeup you want to use.

However, since you can’t entirely avoid wearing makeup as a woman with acne-prone skin, it’s important to do what you can to reduce its effects by limiting how often you wear oil-based mascara products.

Avoid These Makeup Products That Cause Acne

It’s imperative to avoid particular makeup products that can cause acne. For example, avoid products that contain any of the following ingredients: Oil-based makeup or sunscreen can cause acne. Another way to reduce your chance of getting acne from makeup would be to use oil-free makeup and avoid wearing heavy foundation every day if possible, as this will clog pores even more than normal foundations do! 

This is because oils are comedogenic, which means that they cause pores to become clogged. Another ingredient to avoid in makeup is triclosan, as it has antibacterial properties. While this sounds great, the concern is that it also has anti-androgenic properties, which are properties that block the uptake of hormones. 

For example, triclosan contributes to acne breakouts in women because it inhibits an enzyme called follicular dendritic cells (FDC). FDC is a cell that is important for hair growth and it interacts with a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can cause acne. This is important because these enzymes are necessary for healthy skin. 

Finally, another ingredient to look out for in makeup products is parabens, which is a preservative that is used to extend the shelf life of makeup products. The problem with this ingredient, however, is that it has been linked to increased estrogen levels in women and increased testosterone levels in men. These are linked with breast cancer and may cause hormonal imbalances, leading to or worsening acne conditions.


If you are concerned that a particular product may be causing or contributing to an increase in acne outbreaks, consider trying a non-comedogenic version instead. 

Non-comedogenic just means that it doesn’t clog pores, so it shouldn’t trigger breakouts from being used alone, but if something else in your routine does cause problems for you, removing this won’t solve the problem either! 

Always consult your doctor if you’re concerned about any new products you’re using, and finally, if it’s too late to prevent acne from forming, then try keeping your skin as clean as possible with a gentle cleanser.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will not wearing makeup help my acne?

If you are looking for a way to reduce acne, using less foundation and powder helps minimize oil production on the skin, which can help prevent breakouts. Less is more, as the saying goes, and this is especially true in the world of cosmetics, particularly if you struggle with acne.

Does acne heal faster without makeup?

Yes, and this is because acne is caused by the hair and sebaceous glands blocking your pores. When makeup is applied to the skin with acne, it can further clog these blocked pores, which causes more breakouts. It could also be due to a type of sensitivity to an ingredient in makeup!

Originally Published: November 07, 2021

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi, I’m Sam Wood, the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach at GoodGlow, as well as a best-selling author for one of the top acne books on Amazon. I struggled with acne for over 10 years, and began studying the effects of diet on skin quality while pursuing a degree in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Missouri. After shifting from mainstream skincare trends to in-depth research in medical journals, I experienced significant personal success in managing my acne. This inspired me to start GoodGlow, where I simplify complex scientific findings into easy-to-understand advice. With over 10 years in the field, I’ve helped more than 2,500 people achieve clearer skin through natural, holistic methods, and I’m dedicated to personally assisting those seeking guidance on their acne journey.

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