Is There a Link Between Cosmetics and Acne Prone Skin

Many people put some type of cosmetic on their face before they go out.  

After all, who doesn’t want to look their best?  But what about people with acne prone skin?  Is there a link between cosmetics and acne prone skin?  There’s a common belief that wearing make-up can make this common skin condition worse.  


Cosmetics and Acne Prone Skin: What’s the Link?

Is There A Link Between Cosmetics and Acne Prone SkinCosmetics don’t cause acne in the majority of cases.  Acne is triggered by a combination of excess sebum production by sebaceous glands in the skin.  And, abnormal shedding of dead skin cells.  This causes the openings of hair follicles called pores to become obstructed.  

The blocked hair follicle becomes inflamed.  Which leads to the pimples and pustules characteristic of acne. 

Excess sebum production, which triggers the whole sequence of events, is brought on by fluctuations in hormones called androgens.

There is a form of acne that IS caused by cosmetic use.  It’s called acne cosmetica.  Acne cosmetica isn’t very common these days.  Especially since cosmetics are less likely to be formulated with harsh chemicals that can irritate skin and clog pores.  Compared to several years ago.

Still, some make-ups and creams contain ingredients that can worsen acne. Unlike the typical case of acne, acne cosmetica can be “cured” by simply avoiding certain cosmetic products.



Although make-up can’t be blamed for causing acne in most cases, it doesn’t mean that certain products can’t make the problem worse.  People can experience outbreaks when they apply a particular product to their face.  

The cosmetic industry has responded to this problem by offering cosmetic products that are advertised as “non-comedogenic”.  

Theoretically, this means they won’t clog pores.  In actuality, there is no cosmetic product available that’s completely non-comedogenic.  Any substance you put on your skin has pore-blocking potential.  It’s just that some are more likely to do it than others.  


What Are the Best Cosmetics for Acne?

 Ideally, everyone with acne would be cosmetic free.  But….this isn’t realistic.  

In fact, it wouldn’t be a good idea since that would mean to stop wearing a sunscreen to protect skin from sun damage.  The next best thing to facing the world all natural is to choose the cosmetic products you use carefully.


How to Choose Acne-Safe Cosmetics

Be careful of Cocoa Butter, it may cause acne.It’s nice to save money, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

Cheap cosmetics you buy at dollar stores and some drugstores often contain low-quality ingredients that are likely to be pore cloggers. You can reduce your risk of problems by choosing name-brand cosmetics that are labeled non-comedogenic. It’s no guarantee, but you may reduce breakouts if you abide by this simple rule.

Read labels carefully, and avoid products that contain these ingredients: lanolin, alcohols, cocoa butter, derivatives of isopropyl myristate and laureth-4. There are other offenders, but these are some of the major ones.

Some people with acne do well using an oil-free mineral-based make-up since it’s less likely to clog pores.

No matter what cosmetic or makeup products you use, remove it completely at night. Even the least comedogenic product can trigger an acne outbreak if you don’t take it off before bedtime. Even better, cleanse your skin twice a day using a gentle, oil-free cleanser.  Or, try using a mud mask!


The Bottom Line?

 Cosmetics don’t cause the majority of cases of acne, but the wrong cosmetic products can trigger acne outbreaks, especially if you don’t remove them completely at night. Look for name-brand cosmetics that are labeled “non-comedogenic.”

Check the label carefully to make sure it doesn’t contain ingredients that are known acne triggers such as isopropyl myristate.

If you use hair care products, keep them away from your face.



Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice. Leslie Baumann M.D. 2002.

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