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Is Your Makeup Causing Your Acne?


Updated 8/19/17 with THE GOOD list!

I tell my clients that there is no use applying acne medicine at night if harmful cosmetics are going to “poison” their face during the day, so throwing out every bottle and tube of comedogenic products and makeup is a must if you want to get clear for good.

To determine whether or not a product is safe to use, I recommend that my clients check the ingredients of every makeup and skin care product they own against the Pore-Clogging Ingredients handout.

Also, do a “patch test” of any questionable product by applying a bit behind one ear and watching for up to a week to see if you flare up. It’s way better to have acne behind your ears than on your face!

Whether you have severe acne or just that monthly hormonal flare-up, becoming a label detective could be your ticket to clear skin, and the first place you should check are the ingredients in your makeup.

While no one in the beauty industry intentionally set out to ruin the complexions of millions of women, this is exactly what’s happening. The wrong cosmetic ingredients are so potent that they can cause acne in women who are not genetically prone to it.

For many, the words “minerals,” “non-comedogenic,” “oil-free,” “water-based,” “natural,” “eco-friendly,” “organic” and “vegan” are enough to make us feel that the product must be safe for acne, but by following this line of logic we have most certainly been duped.

In fact, the majority of products from the most-trusted makeup companies in the world contain ingredients that can clog pores and exacerbate acne. Here are just a few common makeup products that contain ingredients proven to make acne worse–and some safe picks, too:

Also check out our bareMinerals handout.


THE GOOD

DISCLAIMER: Makeup companies change their ingredients so often we can’t always keep up, and only find out when a client starts breaking out, so the “approved” products listed below may no longer be safe. Always check the ingredient lists on any products you put on your skin against the Pore-Clogging Ingredients List to ensure the products you are putting on your skin are still safe for acne. And please let us know if you come across any products that are no longer approved. Our acne community thanks you for your input!

  • While a product may have been approved in the past, it may no longer be approved because:
  • A new pore-clogging ingredient has come to our attention
  • Our large and active client base begins to have problems with certain products or ingredients
  • Manufacturers change their formulas
  • Sources we previously used to check ingredient lists turned out to be incorrect
  • Just because one product in a line is approved it does not mean the entire line is approved
  • Just because one product is approved it does not mean the matching product(s) are

ANYTIME MAKEUP (no risk for breakouts–wear anytime!)

Pressed Powder:

  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Powder Foundation (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Pressed Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder Dim Light
  • Neutrogena Skin Clearing Mineral Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Neutrogena Healthy Skin Pressed Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Maybelline New York Shine Free Oil Control (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Maybelline Shine Free Oil Control Pressed

Loose Powder:

  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) Mineralogie Loose Mineral Foundation (contains bismuth oxychloride)
  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) bareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation (not READY or Matte) (contains bismuth oxychloride)
  • Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Alima Pure Satin Finishing Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics Natural Loose Mineral Foundation (contains bismuth oxychloride)
  • Colorescience Pro Loose Mineral Powder Foundation Brush (contains bismuth oxychloride)
  • Eminence Sun Defense Minerals (contains bismuth oxychloride)
  • Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Loose Powder (contains bismuth oxychloride)

Finishing Powder:

  • bareMinerals Mineral Veil (Original and Finishing Powder)
  • Youngblood Mineral Rice Setting Powder (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Everyday Minerals Set and Perfect Skin Tint, Pearl Finishing Dust (bismuth oxychloride-free)
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder  (bismuth oxychloride-free)

Concealer:

  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) bareMinerals Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Concealer (Loose)
  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) bareMinerals Well-Rested Eye Brightener (Loose)
  • Alima Pure Concealer
  • Cle De Peau Concealer
  • Bobbi Brown Face Touch Up Stick
  • Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Flawless Wear Concealer

Blush:

  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) Mineralogie Loose Mineral Blush (contains bismuth oxychloride)
  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) bareMinerals Loose Blush (not READY or Matte)
  • Alima Pure Satin Matte Blush
  • Alima Pure Luminous Shimmer Blush
  • Alima Pure Bronzer
  • Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush MOOD EXPOS…
  • SEPHORA COLLECTION Colorful Blush

Bronzer:

  • (CLINIC FAVORITE!) bareMinerals All-Over Face Color
  • Alima Pure Bronzer
  • Hourglass Ambient Bronzer Radiant

Lip Balm/Gloss:

  • Any Lip Stain
  • Any Matte Lipstick
  • Aquaphor Healing Ointment (not Aquaphor Lip Repair)
  • Vaseline

SPECIAL OCCASION MAKEUP (moderate risk for breakouts–use caution)

These products may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the staying power of a primer, the coverage of a liquid or the color of a spray tan; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)

Tinted Moisturizer/Sunscreen:

(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS, BUT SAFER THAN MOST TINTED MOISTURIZERS/SUNSCREENS!) This product may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the color of a tinted moisturizer; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)

  • Neutrogena Visibly Even Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30, 1.7 Ounce
  • TiZo 3 Tinted Sunscreen
  • Cotz Face Sunscreen Natural Skin Tone SPF 40 1.5 oz
  • Cotz Face Sunscreen for Lighter Skin Tones, SPF 40 1.5 oz

Primer:

(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS, BUT SAFER THAN MOST PRIMERS!) These products may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the staying power of a primer; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)

  • Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Light
  • Smashbox Photo Finish More Than Primer
  • Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
  • Maybelline New York Face Studio Master Prime Makeup

Liquid Foundation: 

(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS, BUT SAFER THAN MOST LIQUID FOUNDATIONS!) These products may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want the coverage of a liquid foundation; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using these products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! (see “Silicones” below)

  • Illuminare Concealing Mineral Foundation SPF 20
  • Illuminare Mattifying (Ultimate All Day) Mineral Foundation-Florentine Fair SPF 20
  • Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation Mattifying Oil Free
  • Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation
  • CoverGirl truBlend Liquid Foundation Makeup
  • Dermablend Smooth Liquid Camo Foundation

Self-Tanner:

(WARNING: MODERATE RISK FOR BREAKOUTS!, BUT SAFER THAN A SPRAY TAN!) This product may break you out if used regularly, but is the “least of the worst” offenders on the market for extremely special occasions where you want a tan; for example, your wedding day, prom night, a big interview, college graduation, a dance recital, or senior pictures. When using this products there is always the chance of a “payback breakout” afterwards, so USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!

  • Fake Bake Flawless Darker Self-Tan Liquid

THE BAD

Tinted Moisturizer:

  • Cover Girl CG Smoothers SPF 15 Tinted Moisturiser (Isopropyl Palmitate)
  • EltaMD UV Physical Tinted SPF 41 (Isopropyl Palmitate)
  • Glo Minerals Sheer Tint Base (Isopropyl Myristate)
  • IMAGE I-Conceal (Algae Extract)
  • Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 (Ethyhexyl Palmitate)
  • Lorac ProtecTINT™ SPF 30 – Oil-Free Tinted Moisturiser (Glyceryl Stearate SE)
  • NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30+ (Algae Extract)
  • Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer Tinted Moisturiser (Isopropyl Isostearate)
  • Rae Climate Control Mineral Tint SPF 20 (Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride)
  • Stila Sheer Color Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 (Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride)
  • Trish McEvoy ‘Protective Shield’ Moisturizing Tint SPF 15 (Castor Oil)

Primer:

  • Lorac Primer (Ethyhexyl Palmitate)

Liquid Foundation:

  • Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup (Sodium Chloride)
  • Jane Iredale Liquid Minerals (Algae)
  • L’Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Makeup SPF 17 (Sodium Chloride)
  • MAC Studio Fix (Isostearyl Palmitate)
  • Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse (Dimethicone, Squalane, Jojoba Oil)
  • Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup (Ethylhexyl Palmitate)
  • Organic Wear Liquid Foundation SPF 15 (Glyceryl Stearate SE)
  • Prescriptives Virtual Matte Oil-Control (Algae Extract)
  • Revlon Colorstay for Combo/Oily Skin Makeup with SPF 6 (Sodium Chloride)
  • bareMinerals BARESKIN Pure Brightening Serum Foundation (Coconut Derivatives)

Pressed Powder:

  • bareMinerals READY SPF 20 Foundation (Algae Extract)
  • Mineralogie Pressed Mineral Foundation (Sweet Almond Oil)
  • Pur Minerals 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup Foundation With SPF 15 (Shea Butter)
  • Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder (Isostearyl Neopentanoate)

Loose Powder:

  • bareMinerals SPF 15 Matte Foundation (Lauroyl Lysine)
  • bareMinerals READY Foundation (Lauroyl Lysine)
  • Everyday Minerals (Lauroyl Lysine)
  • Glo Minerals Loose Base (Lauroyl Lysine)
  • Jane Iredale Amazing Base (Algae Extract)

Concealer:

  • bareMinerals Blemish Therapy (Algae Extract)
  • bareMinerals Redness Remedy (Lauroyl Lysine, Oils)
  • Physicians Formula Twins Correct & Cover Cream Concealer (Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Sodium Chloride)
  • Neutrogena SkinClearing Blemish Concealer (Sodium Chloride)

Blush:

  • Everyday Minerals Blush (Lauroyl Lysine)
  • bareMinerals READY Blush (Lauroyl Lysine)
  • NARS Blush (Laureth-4)
  • MAC pressed Blush (D&C Red #30)

Bronzer:

  • NARS Bronzer (Ethyhexyl Palmitate)

Lip Balm/Gloss:

  • Soft Lips (Ethyhexyl Palmitate, Menthol, Squalane, Myristyl Myristate)
  • Blistex Medicated (Camphor, Isopropyl Myristate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Lanolin Oil, Cocoa Butter)
  • Maybelline Baby Lips (Isopropyl Myristate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Shea Butter, D&C Reds)
  • eos Smooth Sphere Lip Balm (Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter)
  • Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Lip Balm
  • ChapStick Classic Lip Balm SPF 4
  • Original Carmex
  • Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer SPF 15
  • Blistex Medicated Lip Balm SPF 15

If you want to check the ingredients on the products you already own and have thrown away the packaging, the best online sources for ingredient lists are ulta.com, walgreens.com, cosdna.com, paulaschoice.com and dermstore.com. If you are prone to breakouts, or your skin has recently gotten worse, it’s worth it to do the research to make sure your makeup isn’t the culprit. To get rid of acne and take charge of your own skin care, always check the label!

  • A note about Lauroyl Lysine: Lauroyl Lysine is an Amino Acid derivative that is made from natural coconut fatty acid (coconut oil, which is highly comedogenic). It is most often used as a hair and skin conditioning agent, although it is also used in the formulation of products by contributing to a product’s texture by helping to gel solvents. Lauroyl Lysine’s comedogenic properties first came to light when acne-prone women began breaking out from Bare Minerals Matte (but not Bare Minerals Original). The only difference in the two formulations is the inclusion of Lauroyl Lysine in the Matte version.
  • A note about Natural Butters and Oils: Natural oils like cocoa butter and coconut oil, which are found in many “organic” skin care lines, can wreak havoc on acne-prone skin. Other oils such as olive and lanolin are mildly comedogenic and can be a problem if formulated with other comedogenic ingredients. The only three safe oils are: sunflower oil, safflower oil and mineral oil. Even jojoba oil, which is a recommended moisturizer on acne.org, is mildly comedogenic.
  • A note about Squalane/Squalene: Squalene from shark liver oil is hydrogenated to form oxygen-stable squalane. Today, squalene and its hydrogenated counterpart, squalane, are obtained largely from olive and other natural oils, which are comedogenic. Of the two, squalene is highly comedogenic and its avoidance is recommended for acneic skin.
  • A note about Silicones: Silicone-based make-up uses a blend of water and silicone as the main ingredient. The most typical silicones are dimethicone and “volatile” silicones such as cyclomethicone and phenyl trimethicone. Silicone provides “slip,” allowing a product to blend over the skin smoothly and evenly, resisting filling in lines or large pores on the face. Many people–myself included–have had severe breakouts from traditional makeup primers like Smashbox Photo Finish, which is a “Holy Grail” product for many people. Silicones can turn real ugly if you don’t cleanse your skin twice a day religiously. They form a “breathable web” that won’t suffocate your skin like petrolatum or waxes, but they still create a protective barrier that can shield your skin from the environment and even comedogenic products that would otherwise break you out. If you don’t apply them to clean skin, you can drive any grime or bacteria deeper into your pores. My best advice is to avoid silicones altogether, or at the very least look for a product that contains only one type rather than several different ones.

Check out our entire line of acne products and get clear, once and for all!