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Makeup tips for acne-prone skin

As the holidays approach, dermatologists say it’s okay for acne patients to wear makeup

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Dec. 10, 2019)Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. Since acne-prone skin is sensitive, people with acne may find that certain makeup products, such as foundations and concealers, worsen acne or cause new breakouts. As the holidays approach and people start preparing for parties and other festivities, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say it’s okay for acne patients to wear makeup. The key, they say, is to select cosmetics that don’t cause acne and establish a skin care routine that works for your skin type.

“I get a lot of questions from my patients about whether makeup is causing their acne and if they should avoid wearing makeup to improve their skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Kazin, MD, FAAD. “While some cosmetics do cause acne, you can still wear makeup by choosing your products carefully and following a few simple steps before, during and after your application.”

To wear makeup on acne-prone skin, Dr. Kazin recommends the following tips:

  1. Choose makeup carefully. With so many products available on the market, you may need to try out different makeup to identify the products that work best with your skin type. When selecting makeup, look for products that say “non-comedogenic,” “oil-free” or “won’t clog pores”, as these are less likely to cause breakouts. Consider makeup products that contain salicylic acid, which can prevent and reduce acne. However, keep in mind that products with salicylic acid may cause dryness, especially if you are already using another acne medication. You may want to avoid heavy liquid makeup that can trap dirt and oil and block pores, leading to breakouts. If you notice that your skin breaks out after applying makeup, try to identify the product that is causing your acne and stop using it.
  2. Prep your skin. Before putting on makeup, start with a clean face. Wash your hands, and then use your fingertips to gently apply a mild cleanser to your face. Rinse off with lukewarm water. If you apply an acne medication in the morning, apply the medication after cleansing your face, and then apply a moisturizer that contains sunscreen. Make sure the sunscreen says “broad-spectrum” and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Remember that dry and sun-damaged skin is irritated skin, and irritated skin puts you at risk of getting more acne.
  3. Use makeup applicators. Avoid applying your makeup with your fingers, which can transfer oil from your fingers to your face. Instead, use makeup applicators, such as brushes, to apply makeup directly to your skin. Wash your brushes with soap and water every seven to 10 days to avoid new acne breakouts, since makeup brushes collect product residue, dirt, oil and bacteria. Remember to always be gentle when applying your makeup because excessive tugging can irritate your skin.
  4. Don’t share makeup products or applicators. Acne is not contagious. However, acne-causing culprits, including bacteria, dead skin cells and oil from other people’s skin, can stick to your makeup and applicators. This can lead to new breakouts, so always use your own products and tools.
  5. Remove your makeup before going to bed, including eye makeup. Use an oil-free makeup remover, and then wash your face using a gentle cleanser. Avoid scrubbing your face, even when removing makeup. If you apply an acne medication at night, apply it after cleansing, and then apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer on top of the medication.

“Sometimes, despite a person’s best efforts, acne can be stubborn,” says Dr. Kazin. “If you have questions about what is causing your acne, how to treat it, or how to select skin care products for your skin type, see a board-certified dermatologist.”

These tips are demonstrated in “Makeup Tips for Acne-Prone Skin,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.


Nicole Dobkin, (847) 240-1746, ndobkin@aad.org
Cristina Mutchler, (847) 240-1713, cmutchler@aad.org

More Information
How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes
10 Skin Care Habits That Can Worsen Acne
Acne Resource Center

About the AAD
Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. A sister organization to the Academy, the American Academy of Dermatology Association is the resource for government affairs, health policy and practice information for dermatologists, and plays a major role in formulating policies that can enhance the quality of dermatologic care. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to excellence in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of skin disease; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in medical dermatology, surgical dermatology and dermatopathology; and supporting and enhancing patient care to reduce the burden of disease. For more information, contact the Academy at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the Academy on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1) and YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).