Friday, April 29, 2011

Ten Reasons Why Makeup Always Breaks You Out

It's hard to find the right makeup.  It's even harder to think you've found the right makeup, then wake up to unexpected pimples. 

You're not alone.  I've never met a woman who hasn't had an adverse reaction to a new product she was super excited about trying.  And I know many who think all makeup will cause skin eruptions no matter what brand they choose.

Maybe it's not the foundation's fault.  Maybe it's you that's causing the breakout.

Totally normal habits women have can cause unexpected consequences in your skin's appearance.  Here are ten reasons why makeup can break you out that you never would have considered:
  • (1) You're "warming up" the product.  Many women choose to apply concealer or foundation with their fingers because their body heat makes blending seamlessly a bit easier.  Even if your hands are squeaky clean, this is a bad idea.  You're literally making the product greasier by introducing oils and heat during application.  And to make matters worse, you're less likely to realize that you're using too much product.
  • (2) You do your foundation first.  A lot of us--myself included--love shimmery or dramatic eye makeup.  The fall out may contain mica or other comedogenic ingredients that is overlooked, so start with the eyes on heavy makeup days.
  • (3) You're not following directions.  It's perfectly fine to mix brands and get creative, but sometimes products need to be used as instructed.  Always read the packaging to understand how the makeup should be applied and what to expect it to do, or you could be sabotaging your beauty routine--especially if you've paired products that don't get along with each other.
  • (4)You've got too many layers for one face.  If you're applying serums, moisturizers, primers, foundations, concealers, powder, blush, bronzer, you need to tweak your daytime rituals.  Even if every product is oil-free, a lengthy skincare routine combined with a full face of makeup is just too heavy for most women.  Try multitasking by choosing foundations that provide broad spectrum sun protection like Clinique Even Better Makeup SPF 15 and prepping the skin with a mattifying, skin smoothing treatment like Dr. Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner.
  • (5)You're applying foundation to your lips.  Muting the natural color of your lips for a nude lip may be introducing emollients from your lip balm to your acne-prone skin.  (Your eye cream can cause the same problem.)
  • (6)You're using brushes with natural hairs.  Allergies to cats, dogs, and horses are extremely common, so don't rule out the possibility that you might be allergic to the hairs used in your favorite brush.  Switch brands or try a disposable sponge.
  • (7) You keep your makeup in the bathroom.  Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria that can live in your makeup or brushes, making harmless products acnegenic.  They can also cake up when exposed to humidity, which changes the weight on your skin.
  • (8)You're addicted to trends that don't suit you.  Kim Kardashian and other glowing celebrities have made the matte look less than fashionable these days.  Abusing luminizers and skipping the powder when your face is oily means more touch ups throughout the day and sebum that's out of control.  Try adjusting styles you like to suit your skin type instead of copying them exactly. 
  • (9)You pick products with terrible packaging.  Tubes or bottles with pumps keep foundations and other liquid products from being exposed to the elements.  Any change in formula can cause irritation or clogged pores.
  • (10) Your blending has no rhyme or reason.  Makeup should be applied in gentle downward strokes evenly across the face and stippled over problem areas. Work section by section, then check a magnifying mirror for streaks that may emerge by afternoon before moving on to the next step.  Wiping in every direction all over the face causes you to create too much friction on your skin and waste products.
The bottom line is not to make your makeup routine harder than it needs to be.  If you're struggling to get a product to look the way you want, slow down and try something new.  I know I've been guilty of every single one of these makeup habits at some time or another.  Changing these simple things has saved me from my own complexion, and it may help you too. 

The opinions and advice shared in this blog are for informational purposes only.  The writer is not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned in this post.


  1. Hi! Thanks for writing all these great articles, I've managed to learn so much more about good skincare from reading your blog. I've often noticed that people recommend using mineral makeup instead of liquid foundation, so after I developed a really bad case of acne cosmetica, I started using differin and switched from revlon colorstay to bare escentual's foundation. Now, the original clogged pores are much less, but some days I will still develop a lot of them around my nose bridge and my chin. This led me to wonder, could the primer that I use be causing the clogged pores? After all, primer is a liquid, do could it potentially end up in your pores or might it be something else?

    1. Hey Hannah,
      Depends on the primer! Like moisturizers, foundations, or any other cosmetic, not all primers are created equal, and some are better than others. There are a lot of great ones out there, but if you use one that’s too heavy for your skin or you’re layering too many products on during your morning routine, you may run into skin woes.

      Whether or not your primer contributes to clogged pores usually depends on whether or not you’re removing your makeup properly. You’ll want to use a silicone-based or oil-based makeup remover or make sure your cleanser contains a detergent called "cocamidopropyl betaine." If you’re properly cleansing your skin at night and applying it to clean skin in the morning, then well-formulated primers can be a great way of actually preventing acne cosmetica because they can keep foundations, powders, blushes, etc. from penetrating the pore during the day.

      I highly recommend choosing primers that have skin care benefits, so you can ultimately use fewer products. I genuinely think that finding a primer that can replace your moisturizer and anything else you’d be using in the morning is ideal. There will always be people that cannot handle anything on their skin, but that’s pretty rare.

      From what you’ve mentioned about your skin, it sounds like you have an oilier T-zone—not cosmetic acne. Without knowing your whole routine, I really can’t pinpoint what the issue is, but the nose and chin are trouble areas for a lot of people with combination or oily skin. If you want to let me know what all you’re using, perhaps I could give you a more helpful response. In the meantime, you may want to check out my post titled "Do Silicones Cause Allergic Reactions?"

      Thanks for commenting! Your kind words mean so much!

      Fondly, Elizabeth

  2. Hi Elizabeth!

    I'm not really sure why, but i can't find your post on silicons. I am pretty sure I saw it the last time I was on your blog though.

    After reading what you said, I think part of my problem might have come from having too many layers on my face, and from my make up remover: it's neither oil nor silicon based. I got rather worried about putting more oil on my face so I switched to oil free, but now I don't think it's been doing a very good job.

    For my normal morning routine, I use neutrogena's oil free acne cleanser proactiv toner, kiehl's blemish control daily skin clearing treatment on any zits, neutrogena's hydro boost, and then neutrogena's ultra sheer dry touch sunblock.

    After it's dried a bit, I'll start doing my makeup, with prime time primer (slightly more than a pea sized amount), mineral foundation, and mineral veil.

    My routine after I get home varies slightly because if i get home late, I usually just skip the makeup remover and cleanse with either the neutrogena cleanser or kiehl's ultra facial oil free cleanser. After that, I'll tone with proactiv, apply differin, wait about half an hour, and then moisturise with the hydro boost.

    I can't remember which remover I use, but it's by shiseido and it's not oil-based. I got a bit wary of using anything oil-based after an oil-based bb cream and an oil cleanser broke me out really badly so I got rid of all my oil-based products.

    Thanks for the advice, I'll be heading out to buy new make up remover soon.

    Hannah x

    1. Hey Hannah,

      Thanks for letting me know you couldn't find the post on silicones. For some bizarre reason, it was under drafts. I've "republished" it, so you should be able to find it now. That's really strange, but hopefully everything should be back to normal.

      As for your skin care routine, it does sound like you're using a lot of products. Between the primer, sunscreen, and moisturizer, your skin may be overloaded. Typically we don't need to use a moisturizer during the day if we're using a sunscreen as well. You could try only applying it to the areas where your skin feels tight and uncomfortable.

      Using a toner can help remove any makeup residue, but if you're finding that a lot of product is coming off on the cotton pad, I would consider trying to add back in a makeup remover. They shouldn't be clogging the pore as long as you efficiently cleanse afterward, and the product itself isn't absorbing into the skin when applied to the face or being used too liberally. (My favorite's the Clinique TTDO Cleansing Balm, which I rave about constantly on this blog.) Avoid massaging the skin too much as well. That can be too stimulating and makes the product absorb (when that's not what we want.)

      I also think the Clarisonic is an excellent investment that really helps reduce blackheads--especially around the nose. You may also want to check out the Cover FX Clear Prep Primer, which is a primer and acne treatment in one. That could be a good multitasking product for you that could cut out three of the products you're using in the morning. Hourglass also makes a primer with SPF that is very nicely, as does Clinique.

      Hope this was helpful! Keep me updated on what you decide to do.

      Fondly, Elizabeth

      P.S. Were you using the oil cleanser alone or before another cleanser?