Should I stop wearing makeup if I have acne? Will it make it worse?

Got acne? It’s pretty common. Affecting 80% of teenagers to some degree and 40% of adults. It’s natural, while your face is spotty, red and often a bit oily, to want to cover it up a bit. But I’m often asked, can makeup make acne worse?

By Dr Ginni

While not a lot of studies have been done, most experts agree, foundation can certainly make your acne worse.


Here are my top tips for wearing makeup with acne:

  1. Go for “oil free” or “non comedogenic” foundations. This means they don’t contain ingredients known to cause an acne flare. The term actually isn’t regulated and you have to rely on the honesty of the manufacturer. When it comes to comedogenicity of ingredients, it can be seriously confusing. You can do your own investigation by turning to the ingredient list on the package insert or on the container. Then cross referencing them with a list of comedogenic ingredients that I found here This is for the hard core among you! Focus most on the first 5-7 chemicals on the ingredient list as they have the highest concentrations. Ingredients at the end of the list often make up less than 1% of the total product and don’t necessarily cause a problem. As a rule the higher the number of comedogenic ingredients, the higher the likelihood of a breakout. But it’s not always that simple and some people breakout with seemingly low comedogenicity in their makeup.
  2. Ingredients your skin is sensitive to. Any makeup with ingredients to which you have sensitivity can flare up your acne. That can be anything from an essential oil to a preservative. You will find this out by trial and error so always patch test your makeup before wearing a full face and heading out! Increasingly, researchers find any inflammation can cause an acne flare even without your pores getting clogged by the products.
  3. Don’t ignore sunscreen. Despite Old Wives tales, studies have found no convincing evidence that sunlight improves acne and as the inflammation in the skin makes the condition worse, protecting your skin from sun damage is essential. So either wear a good quality non comedogenic day cream (SPF 15) under your makeup, or opt for a non comedogenic foundation with an SPF of 15 in it.
  4. Keep makeup applicators (brushes/sponges/fingers) clean. Don’t share your makeup brushes with anyone and wash and rinse thoroughly once a week. Acne-causing Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, dead skin cells and oil can stick to your makeup brushes. No study has been done about dirty makeup brushes contributing to acne but it makes sense.


Hopefully, as you start to treat your acne, you’ll naturally have fewer pimples and will need far less makeup anyway! I hope this helps!

Ginni x


If you are looking for a broadspectrum sunscreen, give ESK’s Zinc Shade – it’s non-greasy, giving you a matt look all day and it’s anti-aging too!


Other articles you might be interested in:

  • Ask Dr Ginni: Should I exfoliate if I have acne?
  • Why am I breaking out?
  • Acne: Effective Evidence-Based methods to tackle pimples!
  • Ask Dr Ginni: Does improving skin barrier function improve acne? And how do you do it?





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