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Understanding the Science of the Makeup Cause Acne Myth

Does Makeup Cause Acne?

Does makeup cause acne is a question that has been asked for decades. The old question, “Does makeup cause acne?” is a loaded question. There isn’t a straightforward answer to that question. In fact, it is an age-old adage that some remember from their teenage years. Mothers would heed this warning because they worried that their makeup-wearing teens were making their acne worse.  

In today’s world of filtered selfies combined with celebrity brands claiming their makeup creates a flawless complexion, our clients have many makeup choices that are less ideal for their skin and their skin goals. As a skincare practitioner, educating your client on the best makeup products for their skin is a must.  

Skin Analysis For Proper Makeup 

Want to answer the question, “Does makeup cause acne?” for your clients? It is important to learn about what clients are wearing for makeup and using for skin care so you can steer them in the right direction. If a client believes makeup may be causing their breakouts or acne, they need to consider your professional recommendation after a thorough skin analysis and an assessment of their current products.


Have them toss out any old makeup products (past two years old) or makeup with missing lids or broken tops.

Clients breakouts can be caused by their skincare, their makeup, lifestyle factors, or a combination of all three. The assumption that makeup breaks out the skin may be an unfair categorization.  

Contribution by Jaclyn Peresetsky

Jaclyn Peresetsky began her career as an esthetician in 2003 and created Colore Me Perfect in 2010. During her day to day interaction with clients, she learned that her clients desperately desired to know their perfect colors and were tired of wasting money on the wrong colors. Her expertise in color from the Columbus College of Art and Design along with her knowledge of skin science from Ohio State Plastic Surgery gave her the know how to begin the journey of creating a color analysis system to define one’s perfect makeup colors, hair color, nail color, and clothing color for all complexions. Being a born entrepreneur, she opened a small color studio followed by opening Skin Perfect Spas and Identity Retail Store.

The additional experience made her realize she needed to define the color analysis system and color palettes even more so she created the patent pending 16 global city palette that encompasses all color characteristics and intricacies of all global complexions. Colore Me Perfect is now sold in spas and salons across the country so more people can discover the power of their colors. Skin Perfect spas continue to thrive and be the research and development headquarters for Colore Me Perfect. Jaclyn’s book, “Discover the Power of Your Colors” is sold on Amazon to color seekers across the world. She is a noted speaker and travels all over the country teaching advanced makeup and skincare techniques. She is opening an advanced esthetic and color school, Skin Perfect University to continue elevating the expertise of the skincare industry.

Formulations Are A Factor 

Most makeup is an easy target as the cause of acne because it is believed to “prevent the skin from breathing”, which means the makeup may be formulated with occlusive ingredients. So the concern is rooted in product formulation, not the actual product.  However, poor product formulations aren’t limited to just makeup. 

Even skincare product formulas that can be occlusive, these occlusive formulations create a non-permeable film on the skin that can wreak havoc on the skin.  Any product that improperly occludes the skin can tap oil, bacteria, and dead skin in the pores and lead to acne breakouts. The occlusive nature of the product is essentially the problem and makeup can get blamed for the acne breakouts. 

There are many skincare ingredients that can be problematic for someone’s skin.  Many dermatologists recommend looking for the words “noncomedogenic” on a product, however, new ingredients can pop up every day and there could be a new ingredient on the market that has not had enough time in newer formulations to determine whether it causes acne breakouts or not.

10 Points To Answer, “Does Makeup Cause Acne”?

1. Occlusive or acne-causing ingredients can be found in skincare products, sunscreens, or makeup so it is important to understand ingredients in all beauty products. 

2. Overly micronized ingredients or nanoparticles can cause clogging as they can easily penetrate the pores and improper cleansing would leave the buildup behind, creating acne. Most importantly, a beauty professional needs to understand ingredients that could be a factor in creating breakouts. These can be in all products, not just makeup. 

I also always recommend that my clients really consider embracing mineral makeup as the main ingredient, zinc, is a larger molecule which makes it difficult to penetrate the pore and its sits on top of the skin and reflects light, making it an ideal skin protecting ingredient.  Zinc is also a soothing ingredient that can really be key in treating hormonal acne.

3. I always recommend my blemish-prone clients remove silicones from their product repertoire just to be safe and then reevaluate how their skin responds.

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4. There are various ingredients that can be comedogenic, however, some ingredients can irritate or sensitize the skin which can lead to inflammation causing breakouts.  Dermatologists will recommend their patients look for products that have the hypoallergenic stamp of approval.  This is a regular term used to refer to the product that has been tested and reviewed for approved use for sensitive skin.  

Mineral makeup can be a good solution for sensitive skin as it typically lacks parabens, binders, and fillers and is hypoallergenic making it the best choice for acne concerns, rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema.   

5. The excess oil on oily skin is “sticky” and can easily trap in germs, bacteria, dirt, and product buildup on and in the skin.  Clients that have oily skin may take time to learn proper cleansing, moisturizing and the right makeup to use for their skin type.  

6. Oftentimes, oily skin clients overuse powders to compensate for their oily skin. They use a filthy powder puff or sponge and pack the powder on throughout the day as the oil tries to shine through. This, of course, can cause congestion between the powder and oil which can breed bacteria and clog pores leading to very congested skin. The root cause essentially is the overproduction of oil. This client needs to use the proper skincare for their oily skin.

7. I recommend a mineral makeup foundation that has salicylic acid to acne-prone clients. Makeup that has these acne-fighting ingredients can be a huge help in treating and preventing acne.  

8. Oily-skin clients should stay away from makeup powders that have the ingredient talc (surface drying which leads to more production of oil) and instead use mineral powders that contain natural minerals that absorb oils which can benefit oilier skin.

9. Dirty tools such as sponges, powder puffs, or dirty makeup brushes can lead to breakouts versus the makeup itself and a client may not realize that they are continually irritating their skin over and over again by using these filthy applicators.  Some clients also may be using their fingertips which can also cause an issue if they do not apply makeup with freshly cleaned hands because they have natural oils and germs on their fingertips that can lead to creating a breeding ground for breakouts.  

10. Improperly removing makeup also can be a challenge for clients that do not realize they should double cleanse when wearing makeup all day as well as sunscreen. Makeup removal wipes should also be off the market as they can push makeup into the skin causing congestion versus using a proper face cleanser with water that can keep the skin clear of congestion.  

Ultimately, the concept that makeup causes acne can be a heated debate since clients who are not using the right skincare for their skin type and condition can create acne all on their own with or without makeup.  Makeup can have added benefits of protecting the skin from trans-epidermal water loss and specifically, mineral makeup has benefits for skin soothing and skin protection against harmful UV rays and pollutants. A client choosing to wear makeup can be good for their skin and good for their confidence.

Education is the most powerful tool that we have in the beauty industry to erase the beauty myths and spread the beauty truth.  Makeup can be a powerful tool in our esthetic tool belt so teach your clients what makeup works best for their skin and you will see a more committed client that will follow your professional advice as well as your recommended skincare regime.   

Everyone wins!

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