Does Makeup Cause Acne? Wait, what?

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

This may be one of the most debated issues in the cosmetic world – Does makeup cause acne? You go to any corner of the cosmetic world and you will not get the same answer from two people.Some will say that makeup is a direct cause of acne. Others will say that it is an indirect cause of acne or that it doesn’t cause acne at all. But if you really think about it; this does make sense that makeup would cause acne. You are covering up your pores when you apply makeup and the oil from the pores has no place to escape. It will clog the pores and bacteria will come running to grow right on the surface of the skin and start mushrooming acne all over your face.

The possibility does exist that there is makeup processed that will not cause acne in any form. This could be makeup that is made with ingredients that will absorb deeply into the skin and it will not block the pores. The sebum oil, dirt or other foreign substances that accumulate, on the skin, will be released. Then the acne-causing bacteria will not have a chance to foster any type of acne on the face. For sure makeup probably will not set off any acne producing hormones in the body. Let’s do a little deeper research into the matter of makeup causing acne.

Is Makeup Culprit for producing Acne

Is Makeup Culprit for producing Acne

You may find yourself in a sad catch-22 predicament because you are conscience of acne popping up all over your face. But then you start to worry that if you put makeup on today that it will sprout excessive acne tomorrow. So what are you supposed to do? It is easy to say that you can treat your acne by covering it up with makeup. People (they mean well) who have clear, smooth, soft, and shiny skin can make these statements without thinking about the implications of what they just said. They do not understand the plight of the people who have acne-prone skin who attract acne like it is going out of style. These people know that wearing makeup will only aggravate the acne and inflammation they are already suffering from. The makeup may even start a whole new acne breakout and who wants to deal with more acne? Unfortunately, these people may think that this is the only way out to hide the acne they already have.

You must remember that makeup will cause blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples and like it was mentioned before it will make inflammation worse. The areas of the face such as the nose, cheeks, and forehead are especially prone to develop acne. The oil produced in these areas will clog if makeup is covering pore openings. The oil is excessive in these areas. Add sweat to the equation and you will have acne sprouting in no time. But don’t give up hope because there are practical answers to these very sensitive issues.

Another point is acne can be caused by the fragrances found in different makeup. The scents can irritate the skin making it breakout worse and you could develop more acne.

If the acne runs deep into the skin and stays for a while scarring could occur. If you absolutely cannot stop using facial products you can talk to your dermatologist about what kind of makeup is safe to wear. Obviously, you want to choose makeup that will not interfere with your acne treatment or cause more acne to blossom. You can read labels of makeup as well. Look for ingredients you may be allergic to or will make you break out with acne. You want to buy makeup that is labeled “non comedogenic, fragrance-free, and hypoallergenic” these kinds of makeup will be gentle for your skin and prevent any further acne breakouts.

Skin types play a big factor in how makeup will react with your skin as far as acne breakouts are concerned. If you have oily skin you are more likely to get acne if you clog your pores with makeup. Oily skin already produces more oil than dry skin would. So, if you have oily skin and you wear makeup it is more likely that you will break out with acne than if you have dry skin. Oily skin will produce more oil clogging the pores along with the makeup and acne will result. A person with dry skin can have an acne breakout with makeup but the chances are slimmer of this happening. Dry skin doesn’t produce acne like oily skin does because the pores don’t discharge as much oil. But under the right circumstances makeup can irritate dry skin and cause inflammation and acne breakouts.

How to Prevent Makeup from causing Acne

How to Prevent Makeup from causing Acne

You can still wear makeup even if you have acne-prone skin. You can take steps to prevent acne breakouts from wearing makeup. Be sure to wash your face thoroughly at the end of the day to clear all the makeup from your skin. Failure to do this will give acne-causing bacteria a chance to produce acne in pores that are partially clogged. Some people are sloppy about cleaning makeup off their faces. They leave a film of makeup on their face and the next day they have new acne. Read labels and see if any ingredients will react negatively with your skin. If you notice a certain ingredient on your makeup product and you apply the makeup then you have an allergic reaction. You have an acne breakout then you know you will allergic to that ingredient so, don’t buy any cosmetic products with that ingredient in them.

Look for other ingredients that will make your face breakout and make a note of them. If you need to test out products with different ingredients in them then do so. By this process of elimination, you can find out which ingredients make your skin react and which ingredients will have no effect on your skin. Keep a record of the ingredients that make you break out. Be sure to keep a record of those ingredients that won’t make you break out. No doubt, it will be a time-consuming project but at least you will know what ingredient is safe to put on your skin and which ones are not.

If you are starting fresh and you don’t know which ingredients cause acne and which ones don’t. Then try to get as many free samples of makeup products s you can. Try them all and see if any of them cause to break out in acne. Observe which ones have no effect on your skin. Once you have a very good idea of which ingredients you can tolerate and which ones you can’t you can make better makeup purchases. Make sure you pay attention to brand names as well because one manufacturer may put in an ingredient that doesn’t bother you at all. Next, you try a makeup product made by a different manufacturer with the same ingredient. You have severe acne breakouts it could be this manufacturer is changing the ingredient somehow. This manufacturing change adjusts the ingredient slightly and you break out. Don’t buy makeup products from that manufacturer.

Always be looking for products that are made with organically and naturally based ingredients. Some of the makeup products may have harsh chemicals in them that will react with your face and cause you major acne problems. The more natural you can go the better off you will be especially if you have acne-prone skin. The more natural ingredients will less likely cause your facial skin to have an allergic reaction to them. Natural ingredients may not react with your body either to cause hormonal changes that can induce acne. Harsh chemicals could be the very instigators to react with your body and cause severe hormonal changes. These changes may bring about acne breakouts on your skin. Sometimes you could put so many chemicals on your face your body cannot handle all those reactions then it will react. That reaction will result in acne breakouts

Beware that by putting on heavy coats of makeup you could be aggravating the acne problem. Even using certain combinations of cosmetic products can make your face break out in acne. It makes sense that the more makeup you apply to your face the less chance the pores have to breathe. If the pores clog up they will produce acne on your face. Try applying less makeup to your face and allow your pores to breathe. If the pores are allowed to breathe they will stay open and unclogged. They can’t breathe they will clog and you will have acne.

Your skin may just be able to cope with a certain amount of cosmetic products before it becomes irritated than inflamed. Think about the combinations of makeup products you are putting on your face. The different products could be making your skin have an allergic reaction to them. Try using different combinations of makeup products that will not cause your skin to react to them. Again, you are going to have to experiment but it will be worth it to be free from acne.

If it comes down to it you may want to think about making your own makeup products. Choose the ingredients that smell the best to you and that will not react with your skin. This is where your list comes into play because you will want to study those ingredient lists. You will want to only add ingredients to your makeup formula that will not cause a reaction on your skin.By making your own makeup you will be assured that you are only using products that will benefit your skin and prevent any acne breakouts.

Health professionals say that you should look at ingredients as well when you buy makeup products. For instance, when you shop for foundation try to purchase a water-based foundation. Look for products that have salicylic acid and antioxidants in them. These will fight free radical damage and prevent acne breakouts.

The Other Side

every person’s skin will react differently to makeup

What do we mean by the other side? The other side of the acne/makeup question. Those who say that acne cannot clog your pores and it will not cause pimples. These say that makeup use to contain ingredients that would clog pores but today all of that has changed. Supposedly these days manufacturers produce makeup that contains ingredients that will not clog pores and will not cause acne.

In the old days, makeup was made with ingredients that could clog pores and cause acne breakouts. Another fallacy they say is that if you put on too much makeup it will cause acne. This is simply not the case they claim. Also, a thick layer of foundation will not cause acne either. But they do say that it would look funny if you put on a thick layer of makeup and/or foundation to cover skin that is covered by acne.

There is the case that one person could put on a certain powder, foundation and makeup and have all types of allergic reactions that lead to pimples. Other People will put on the same type of powder, foundation, and makeup and their skin will remain calm. So, this means that every person’s skin will react differently to makeup.

Acne Cosmetica

certain makeup products that will cause acne on the skin

This is a term that describes acne caused by makeup specifically. There are certain makeup products that will cause acne on the skin. It will appear as little bumps below the surface of the skin. Some people even get little whiteheads from wearing makeup. People who don’t normally have acne can get acne from wearing acne. So, it seems like acne can be caused by makeup. There are steps that can be taken to avoid “acne cosmetica”:

1. Pick Your Makeup Products Wisely

Pick Your Makeup Products Wisely

This was mentioned before you need to pick your makeup products wisely to avoid having any acne breakouts. You will need to be a discerning shopper and learn to read ingredient labels on makeup products. Look at hair care products and facial cleansers as well. These types of cosmetic products can cause acne cosmetica too if they have the wrong types of ingredients in them. Part of the prevention is to buy makeup products that are oil free, non-comedogenic, and will not clog pores. Contrary to some professional opinions, these factors do make a difference in causing acne. They will cause acne.

2. Wash Your Face and then Wash Your Face

Wash Your Face and then Wash Your Face

This mean wash your face. Dermatologists recommend you wash your face once in the morning when you go to bed. Once at night when you retire for bed. Make sure you clean out all your pores and free them from left over makeup, powder, and foundation. Look for products that say “oil free, non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic”. Keeping your face washed will go a long way in preventing makeup from causing acne.

3. Apply only your Fingertips to your face

Apply only your Fingertips to your face

You don’t want to scrub your face harshly with cleanser even when you are removing makeup. You will want to use your fingertips only and gently rub the cleanser over your face to remove the makeup. Then you will need to rinse the cleanser off with lukewarm water. Don’t wet your hands and then dig into your face with wet fingers. Just splash the water on your face and then rinse it off. Be careful with your skin. If there is still makeup on your face after using the cleanser than you need to use some makeup remover. Gently dab the makeup remover on your skin where the makeup is still showing. Rinse off the makeup remover.

4. Apply makeup Products Lightly

Apply makeup Products Lightly

This is critical especially if you have acne-prone and sensitive skin. Ever so lightly apply your makeup using your fingertips only. Use light but even strokes to spread the makeup across your face. You would do yourself a favor if you used a makeup brush to apply your makeup. But with the brush, you want to stroke the makeup on gently. You do not want to irritate the skin.

5. Clean Makeup Accessories religiously and Do not Share them

Clean Makeup Accessories religiously and Do not Share them

Highlight these points in your mind that you should clean your makeup accessories once a week. Clean them thoroughly. Do not let other people use your makeup accessories. You see they can leave their dead skin cells on your accessories. Then you use those accessories and you spread their dead skin cells over your skin. Your pores will clog from the dead skin cells and you will have new acne breakouts. Don’t ever share your makeup accessories with other people not even family members. You can spread diseases by sharing makeup brushes like pink eye which is highly contagious. Acne is not contagious. But the dead skin cells are contagious and will cause you trouble with new acne breakouts.


It is my hope that this article has convinced you that makeup can cause acne. There has been several reasons why makeup can cause acne. The other side that says acne cannot be caused by makeup was briefly explored. The evidence for makeup causing acne is weighty and compelling. But you can buy makeup products that contain ingredients that will not cause you to have acne breakouts. Remember that there are methods discussed antiparticle to prevent acne flare ups. There is a condition known as “acne cosmetica” which is acne caused specifically by makeup.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.