Can Makeup Cause Acne Breakouts?

The link between acne and makeup is a rather mysterious one.

While makeup is notoriously blamed to be the main factor that exacerbates acne breakouts, this may not be so true after all.

It really depends on how your skin reacts with the products you are using at the end of the day.

If you are a makeup lover but also someone with problematic and acne-prone skin, you have probably heard the good old:

“your makeup is what’s causing your acne”.

But does makeup really cause acne breakouts? 

Well, maybe, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t find the perfect cosmetic product for you that will not break you out or aggravate your current breakouts.

There are certain foundations out there that can even improve your acne breakouts besides boosting your confidence and self-esteem during your time of need.

In this article, I will tackle one of the biggest concerns of all makeup lovers and put an end to this dilemma once and for all.

Here are the questions you will find answered below.

  • can makeup cause acne breakouts?
  • is it bad to wear makeup when you have acne?
  • does sleeping in makeup cause acne?
  • what makeup ingredients can cause acne?
  • how to prevent acne from makeup?

what you need to know about makeup and acne

NB: What if I told you I can show you how to never have acne again? If you have acne and want it gone, read this message.

Does Makeup Cause Acne?

We put a lot of time, effort, and money into looking beautiful. 

There are billions of dollars being thrown annually for creams, serums, foundations, concealers, and a drawerful of other cosmetics that all have a big bold claim stamped on their packaging, claiming to keep our skin looking clean, smooth, youthful… etc.

Ironically, the very same products you rely on to keep your skin looking its best could be doing exactly the opposite and causing you dreaded acne breakouts.

Unfortunately, the answer to the “does makeup cause acne breakouts?” question isn’t as straightforward as a simple yes or no.

There are a few different factors you must take into account:

  • the type of makeup you are using
  • how often do you clean your makeup brushes
  • how do you cleanse your face

Using the wrong makeup which is not adequate for your skin type could very easily accentuate the pimples you are trying too hard to hide as well as cause new ones to pop up daily.

Additionally, applying makeup with your fingers or brushes that have not been cleaned recently can be a recipe for a total disaster as this practice can allow for germs and bacteria to be spread and cause irritation on your skin.

Once your skin becomes irritated because of bacteria, this will very easily lead to acne breakouts if you already have acne-prone skin.

Makeup brushes that are used to apply foundation or any liquid makeup should be cleaned at least once a week to avoid bacteria buildup.

Moreover, cleansing your face in the evening and removing all the makeup from your face is essential as this will prevent the buildup of bacteria from entering your pores and clogging them, which will eventually trigger an immune reaction that will manifest itself in the form of full-blown acne breakout on your face.

With that being said, as an expert in dealing with pesky and obnoxious acneic skin throughout the years, I would highly recommend the double-cleansing method for effectively removing your daily makeup before you go to bed.

Double-cleansing is a method of cleansing your face twice: once with an oil-based cleanser that will help dissolve the makeup and be easily removed from your face and following it up with a water-based cleanser to thoroughly remove any oily and makeup residues lingering on the skin.

This tactic is going to effectively remove impurities caked onto your face and ensure you have a clean surface to continue with your evening skincare regimen.

Does Sleeping in Makeup Cause Acne?

Does Sleeping in Makeup Cause Acne

Well, this is going to be a straight-up “Yes!” from me.

While sleeping with your makeup once in a blue moon is unlikely to cause long-lasting damage to your skin, you should definitely be mindful and not make this a habit.

Each night you sleep in your makeup out of habit, your pores become more clogged which will eventually result in the formation of micro comedones that will keep growing until it completely blocks your pore and becomes a full-blown, pustular pimple.

Moreover, sleeping in your makeup can result in unnecessary exposure to the free radicals in the environment, which the makeup holds on to.

Free radicals cause the breakdown of collagen, which can result in premature lines and wrinkles on the skin.

Is It Bad To Wear Makeup When You Have Acne?

Is It Bad To Wear Makeup When You Have Acne

So, you have probably heard everyone and their grandma telling you to stop wearing makeup until your skin clears up and that probably makeup is the sole cause of your breakouts.

While this may be partly true as we found out above, the thought of going out during a full-blown acne breakout can be incredibly discouraging.

So what can you do?

The good news is that you can ditch the negativity out of your life once and for all and wear makeup as much as you want.

Learning how to effectively cover breakouts can be an immense confidence boost and positive psychological influence on you during the time of your acne breakout.

We all want to look pretty, right?

However, you will want to choose the makeup you are wearing carefully.

Some cosmetics and specific formulations contain ingredients that can seriously aggravate acne and will leave you nowhere near full recovery.

So, how do you know what ingredients can potentially worsen your acne battle?

What Makeup Ingredients Cause Acne?

What Makeup Ingredients Cause Acne

As a general rule of thumb, you should look for noncomedogenic products that won’t clog your pores and cause a buildup of gunk that will trigger an immune response and manifest itself as a full-blown acne breakout.

Avoid making your skin worse by avoiding foundations that contain:

Isopropyl Alcohol / Alcohol Denat / Denatured Alcohol:

this is a great solvent that doesn’t dissolve in oil or water and is often used to create a cosmetically elegant, fast-absorbing, and thin formulas like a liquid foundation for example.

While it has some antimicrobial benefits, this ingredient is generally problematic as it is drying for the skin.

That is why many gimmicky companies that push anti-acne products use this ingredient as a great selling point that will dry out your acne. While drying your acne into disappearing may sound great to you, this is not a good way to go about clearing them as you can trigger an inflammatory reaction due to excessive skin dryness.


Fragrances are complex combinations of natural or synthetically made substances that are added to cosmetic products to give them a distinctive smell. The problem with fragrance is that it can be made up of 30 to 50 chemicals on average but it can have as many as 200 components.

While fragrance should generally be avoided, let’s be real here, every brand and product uses this ingredient nowadays so it’s near impossible to completely dodge it, however, if your skin is sensitive and acne-prone, opting for products that contain extremely low doses of it should be your way to go about it.

Additionally, check for acne-fighting ingredients in your makeup such as low concentrations of salicylic acid that is going to remove excess oil and gently exfoliate dead skin cells.

Or try a powder over liquid foundation especially if you are trying to combat oily and acne-prone skin.

Powder foundations are less likely to clog your pores due to their larger pigment particles that are unable to penetrate deep enough into the pore and clog it.

Additionally, avoid products with a dewy finish as this could end up looking greasy midday and stick to something that is oil-free and delivers a matte finish instead.

Moreover, check out my article on how to prepare oily skin for makeup for more information on the topic mentioned.

The Acne Solution: Your Ultimate Guide To Flawless Complexion

An extensive, no-nonsense course showing you how to never have acne again, from a licensed Esthetician specializing in oily/acne-prone skin.

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