Does Makeup Cause Acne? – How To Avoid Ruining Your Skin With Danger Products

We’re all familiar with breakouts that seem to come out of nowhere. Maybe you wore a full-face of makeup for a few days only to find new, unexpected spots at the end of the week. Thinking back, it always seems like there’s one culprit at hand...

Is your makeup causing that frustrating breakout?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It’s true that your makeup could be part of what is causing your acne.

But don’t let that scare you away from using makeup because it’s not that simple. It’s more than just the makeup that’s causing this kind of breakout.

Let’s get a better understanding of how makeup can cause annoying acne, and what makeup-lovers can do to avoid getting problem areas on their skin.

How Does Makeup Cause Acne?

Let’s say you start using a new foundation, and you love it. You don’t notice it right away, but after a few weeks, your skin has more bumps and spots than usual. You might blame your hormones, diet, or even the weather, but could the culprit be your makeup?

Yes, it could be, but it’s not makeup alone that causes acne. The cause of acne cosmetica, what product-caused acne has come to be called, are the ingredients in the makeup and the reaction that your skin has to them.

So what does that mean for you?

Every body’s skin is different and has different reactions to treatments, makeup, and other products. Skin can be clogged by products containing certain ingredients, makeup containing those ingredients will cause you to break out.

What’s In Makeup That Causes Acne?

Though everybody's skin is different, there are some ingredients that cause negative skin reactions more commonly than others. If you have sensitive skin or are currently dealing with a makeup-breakout, check if any of your products are high in these ingredients.


Even if your product doesn’t smell scented, it probably is. Makeup can smell a bit funky after it is made, so small amounts of fragrances are often used to mask that smell.

Many people have minor allergies to fragrances, so using a product that has a fragrance (no matter how light) can cause a reaction that leads to acne.


Many makeups have oil in them. Oil is not always a bad thing if it’s extracted from a natural plant - it helps smooth your makeup and is also used to blend ingredients properly.

Some products, however, contain mineral oil even synthetic oil. This can cause clogged pores, increase sebum, and the mixture of these things and bacteria will lead to unsightly breakouts. Make sure you check the ingredient list first before buying.


Both synthetic and natural dyes are used in makeup, particularly in blushes, eyeshadows, and bronzers. This is part of how the striking colors are developed.

For makeup users with sensitive skin, however, dyes can cause serious allergic reactions. On top of acne, dyes can also cause blisters and itching.

Polyethylenes, Waxes, and Parabens

Polyethylenes and waxes are often used in some makeup to keep it in solid form. Thick makeup will have these ingredients in them, and putting this makeup on your skin will trap bacteria in your pores, which can cause breakouts.

Parabens are used in makeup to keep bacteria and mold from forming in the product during long-term storage. While most research points to parabens being safe, there is still a lack of clarity about how much harm added parabens can cause, so avoiding it is the safest choice.

Steps To Take To Avoid Acne Caused By Makeup

You can offset the chance of your makeup causing a bad reaction over time by taking care of your skin properly, especially if you use more than one or two makeup products daily.

Here are a few tips from the makeup experts on how to avoid acne caused by makeup:

1. Remove makeup thoroughly

Always remove makeup before sleeping, and make sure you remove it all. The best way to remove all makeup is to start with an oil-based cleanser that will mix with oil-based makeup and make it easier to remove. Then, use another cleanser to remove leftover particles.

Use a balm-like eye makeup remover in addition to a cleanser that will remove all traces of makeup on your face. It’s important to focus on the eyes because eye makeup is usually waterproof and can become trapped easily.

2. Moisturize daily

To keep your skin at its healthiest, make sure to moisturize daily. While this won’t directly prevent makeup from clogging your skin, healthy skin will be better able to protect itself. As they say, starting with a good base makes the work easier!

3. Use an astringent or toner

Astringents help wipe away any excess bacteria and makeup leftovers, but they can also dry out your skin, so make sure to moisturize or use a product with a witch hazel base to avoid over-drying.

Toners will even out skin tone while also helping to remove excess makeup residue left on your skin after washing.

4. Take break days

While not feasible for every makeup guru, it is good to give your skin a break from makeup a day or two a week. No matter how you apply makeup, your skin isn’t getting as much air as usual, and the products can cause clogged pores that lead to skin damage in the long run. Take cleansing days to help manage the look of your skin.

5. Don’t layer makeup on spots

While instinct is to cover acne breakouts with more makeup, this can actually allow the breakout to last longer. If you can, avoid covering your spots with a lot of makeup, and spot treat instead. You might have to deal with showing a few pimples for a day or two, but the breakout will be over faster since you are not clogging up an already sensitive area.

6. Use a primer

While makeup primer can also cause pores to clog, it can help keep too many products from getting in there. If you use a high-quality primer, you’ll be preventing the other products you layer on top of it from affecting your skin as much. Adding a primer underneath of your makeup routine might be the only solution that you need!

7. Research before your buy

While many people love the convenience of just walking into the store and buying the makeup that appeals to them, you should be careful about what you buy.

Do some research on products before you buy them. There are many makeup forums that you can check to see if a product caused breakouts for some people, what skin-types a product is good for and many other tips.

In particular, look for non-comedogenic products. This is a fancy word that means makeup that won’t clog your pores. While research is not entirely conclusive about non-comedogenic products, your chances of avoiding breakouts will be much higher.

Knowing what to expect from your makeup is important, and knowing what ingredients are inside of a product is essential.

8. Sample it up!

Many companies sell a small sample of their products that will last for one to two weeks. This is often enough time to see if your skin will have a negative reaction to a product or not. Invest in these samples (or, ask for them free!). Use the product for a trial period to discover how your skin will react before buying the full-sized makeup.

Final Tip: Clean Your Brushes

There’s one huge point you need to remember when you wear makeup regularly.

Clean. Your. Brushes.

A lot of makeup fanatics will read this and say, “I know,” only to forget about washing them for weeks on end.

Makeup brushes carry oil, dead skin cells, and other left-overs that will transfer back onto your skin whenever you use a dirty brush, and this can cause serious breakouts. Acne is just one of the many possible negative effects of using dirty brushes.

If you’re suddenly getting acne when you haven’t changed any of the products you are using, there’s a high chance that your brushes are to blame for this breakout!

Keep your brushes clean to help keep your skin clear and glowing. Use a spray-on brush cleaner after using each brush to keep bacteria in check daily. Then, make sure to do a thorough wash of your brushes every 10-14 days.

Do this, and your skin will thank you!


And that’s that!

Makeup lovers: there’s no reason to fear your favorite products or to fear wearing makeup everyday! Be smart about the makeup choices that you make when applying, purchasing, and taking off your makeup, and you won’t have to deal with breakouts.

Makeup is a fun, artistic way to express what you feel like and hide any problem spots, so it’s great to know that makeup on its own isn’t going to make your skin worse for the wear!

So pick up your clean brushes, and go to town with your makeup. Your skin won’t hate you for it!

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