Debunking Acne Myths: Does Wearing Makeup Cause Acne?



Myth: Wearing makeup causes acne breakouts

Acne breakouts caused by makeup and other skin care products, known as acne cosmetica, typically resolve when patients stop using pore-clogging products; however, the overall impact of cosmetics on the development of acne lesions is considered to be negligible. Many cosmetics are not inherently comedogenic and can be used safely by patients in combination with proper skin care techniques.

Although dermatologists may be inclined to discourage makeup use during acne treatment or breakouts due to its potential to aggravate the patient’s condition, research has shown that treatment results and quality of life (QoL) scores associated with makeup use in acne patients may improve when patients receive instruction on how to use skin care products and cosmetics effectively. In one study of 50 female acne patients, 25 participants were instructed on how to use skin care products and cosmetics, and the other 25 participants received no specific instructions from dermatologists. After 4 weeks of treatment with conventional topical and/or oral acne medications, the investigators concluded that use of skin care products did not negatively impact acne treatment, and the group that received application instructions showed more notable improvements in QoL scores versus those who did not. In another study, the overall number of acne eruptions decreased over a 2- to 4-week period in female acne patients who were trained by a makeup artist to apply cosmetics while undergoing acne treatment. These results suggest that acne patients who wear makeup may benefit from a conversation with their dermatologist about what products and skin care techniques they can use to minimize exacerbation of or even improve their condition.

When choosing makeup that will not cause or exacerbate acne breakouts, patients should look for packaging that indicates the product will not clog pores and is oil-free, noncomedogenic, and/or nonacnegenic. Some makeup products are specifically formulated to help camouflage redness and pimples, which can help improve quality of life and self-esteem in acne patients who otherwise may be self-conscious about their appearance. Mineral-based cosmetics containing powdered formulas of silica, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide can be used to absorb oil, camouflage redness, and prevent irritation. Anti-inflammatory ingredients and antioxidants also are used in some makeup products to reduce skin irritation and promote barrier repair. Additional cosmetic ingredients that can affect the mechanisms of acne pathogenesis and may contribute to a decrease in acne lesions include nicotinamide, lactic acid, triethyl acetate/ethyllineolate, and prebiotic plant extracts.

Makeup should be applied gently to avoid irritating the skin. It also is important to remind patients not to share their makeup brushes and applicators and to clean them weekly to ensure that bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil are not spread to the skin, which can lead to new breakouts. Although patients may be compelled to scrub the skin to remove makeup, a mild cleanser should be gently applied using the fingertips and rinsed off with lukewarm water to minimize skin irritation. Any makeup remaining on the skin after washing should be gently removed with an oil-free makeup remover.

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