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Cosmetics and Acne… to Use or Not to Use?

By Lisa Massimiano, Licensed Esthetician, Certified Acne Specialist

Owner Skin Smart Salon

Cosmetics and skincare products can cause breakouts in teens and adults who are genetically acne prone. This breakout is referred to as cosmetic acne. 

Cosmetic Acne appears as whiteheads across the cheeks, chin and forehead. However, these bumps may not show up immediately. It can take up to six months before cosmetic acne develops. Because of the time lag, users don’t necessarily associate the make up with the break outs. Not knowing what is causing the problem creates the frustrating cycle of more break outs, more coverage. 

Why makeup can be problematic for acne prone skin.

To enhance appealing texture and easy application, often cosmetics contain fatty acids which wreak havoc on acne prone skin. Many popular cosmetic brands promoting “acne safe” products contain pore clogging ingredients. Beware of “oil-free” claims and other advertising hype like, “non-greasy”, “natural” and “organic” in product labeling. These are marketing terms created to sell products. I advise you to always check the ingredient label before choosing a product. 

Here are a few key ingredients to avoid in your make up if you are acne prone.

Isopropyl Myristate.  This is one of the worst offenders. Used as an emulsifier and surfactant, it helps makeup go on smoothly and gives it a slick, sheer feel. However, this oil penetrates deeply into the follicles and is highly comedogenic.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate.  A pore clogging ingredient used in facial cleansers and shampoos.

D&C Pigments.  These pigments are used for red tints in blushes. The D&C colors contain coal tar derivatives which are comedogenic and can cause white bumps across the cheeks.

Oils.  Coconut oils, often found in “natural” products, and aromatherapy oils are irritating to acne prone skin. However, mineral oil, which is given a bad rap in the beauty industry, does not clog pores and is perfectly safe for acne prone skin.

So what’s a makeup wearer to do?

Loose mineral foundation and blush is safe for acne prone skin and provides good coverage. Also, eye makeup is usually not a problem since there is no oil producing glands around the eyes. But, be careful what you use to remove it. Mineral oil is a safe way to remove eye makeup. 


Questions about acne? Email me at [email protected]. Or call 508 881-1180. Visit my website for information on Skin Smart’s acne program and other services.