Does Makeup Cause Acne?

Does Makeup Cause Acne?

When struggling with acne, you will do almost anything to avoid a breakout. Depending on the triggers of your acne and the severity of it, this can be frustrating. Since makeup is the best way to cover up blemishes like active red pimples, pimples that are drying up, or old scars, it can seem like a vicious cycle. If makeup does cause acne, then you may be worsening the situation you are trying to solve.

The answer to the question, "Does makeup cause acne?" is not straightforward because there are a lot of factors to consider, from your daily skincare routine to how you apply your makeup to the ingredients in the makeup. 

Consider Your Daily Skincare Regimen

First and foremost, think about your day-to-day skincare regimen. Do you wash all of your makeup off every night before you go to sleep? Do you thoroughly remove waterproof makeup? Since a key trigger of acne is clogged pores or hair follicles, it is essential to remove makeup so it doesn't stay on your face overnight. This ensures that not only makeup is removed but also dirt, sweat, oil, and toxins that your face has accumulated throughout the day.

After waking up, it's important to use a gentle cleanser like Restart + Refresh on your face, as well as a moisturizer and SPF protection before you start applying makeup or primer. If you take all the necessary steps to clean your face every day and still suffer from acne, then it's time to look for other causes of acne.

How Are You Applying Your Makeup?

Before determining if makeup causes acne or not, your application tools could be triggering breakouts. Brushes, sponges, powder puffs and any other delivery methods you use to put on makeup need to be cleaned regularly. Although your face and hands may be clean, this does not ensure that your brushes are always clean. Over time, beauty tools start to accumulate dirt, dust, oils, and bacteria.

Studies show that makeup brushes and sponges can cause acne by spreading irritating bacteria on your skin during application. While it takes longer for bacteria to accumulate on your fluffy powder or blush brushes, more dense tools like foundation sponges can collect bacteria quickly. That's because makeup like foundation is thick and moist, and bacteria thrive in moist environments. This means part of your skincare regimen includes cleaning your makeup tools regularly so they are not a cause of acne.

Clean Pillowcases

In addition to cleaning brushes, make sure your pillowcase is cleaned regularly. For many hours every night, chances are your face is in contact with a pillowcase. During the night, body oil, sweat, old makeup, dirt, and bacteria can be transferred from a pillowcase to your face. Washing pillowcases weekly in hot water on a heavy-duty cycle with a good detergent can go a long way toward preventing acne as part of your skincare ritual.

What's in Your Makeup?

This is perhaps the biggest question to determine if makeup causes acne. Studies show certain ingredients in makeup are more likely to cause acne. Of course, this can vary from one individual to another because each skin type is different, making it more or less susceptible to acne breakouts.

A few makeup ingredients more likely to cause acne are silicones and alcohol. Silicones (also called dimethicone) can be found in thicker types of makeup, like primers and liquid foundations. Due to its thicker consistency, makeup with silicones may clog pores. 

Products with alcohol may lead to dryer skin, and dry skin can lead to breakouts in acne-prone skin. Other products found in makeup that may cause acne are acetylated lanolin, oils like isopropyl myristate and isopropyl isostearate. 

Ideal Makeup for Acne-Prone Skin

Mineral Makeup

Mineral-based makeup is made from natural ingredients and less likely to cause acne. The particles in mineral makeup tend to sit on the face, so it doesn't absorb into the pores. This means clogged pores are less likely. For example, in mineral-based makeup containing zinc, the Zinc particles are too big to get clogged in the pore or hair follicles. This is why many dermatologists recommend mineral makeup for acne-prone clients.

Oil-Free Makeup

Since acne can result from too much oil in the skin, oil-free makeup products can help minimize breakouts. Instead of being oil-based, some makeup lines offer water-based options. If you look at the list of ingredients, oil and silicone should not be among the first ingredients listed.

Acne-Fighting Ingredients

Another makeup option that helps prevent acne is makeup that contains salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is found in many skincare products that heal and prevent clogged pores, blackheads, stubborn acne, and blemishes. At Charette Cosmetics, we use salicylic acid in our Illuminate + Purify Exfoliating Cleanser due to its effectiveness in removing surface oils, unclogging pores, and opening plugged-up hair follicles.


Makeup labels may also tout products as being 'hypoallergenic' which means it is considered more suitable for sensitive skin, therefore, less irritating for acne-prone skin. Hypoallergenic makeup generally contains more gentle ingredients. Even the slightest irritation can trigger acne in acne-prone skin, so this kind of makeup is ideal for specific skin types to ensure makeup is not causing acne.

What Else Can Cause Acne?

Many underlying factors can cause acne, like hormone levels, oil production, diet, environmental elements, allergens, and genetics. Getting to the root of the cause is not always a quick and easy process, so patience is required to determine if your makeup is causing your acne or if it could be something else. A licensed medical professional can give you an official diagnosis and treatment plan. Then you can figure out which makeup best suits your unique skincare needs. 

Charette Cosmetics' Acne Solutions

If you are struggling with acne, Charette Cosmetics offers a line of natural, medical-grade products to help you achieve the clear complexion you desire. From gentle cleansers and moisturizers to an all-in-one Acne-Prone Pack, we invite you to explore our online shop or connect with us on socials to see true skin transformation from real customers.  

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