It’s a classic conundrum: you use makeup to cover up your acne breakouts … then the makeup seems to make you break out even more. While there certainly are a handful of ingredients (hello, mineral oil) that are decidedly incompatible with acne-prone skin, go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief—not all products are the enemy! Read on to learn how to navigate the beauty counter like a pro, “clean” your beauty routine, and take another step toward getting and keeping the clear complexion of your dreams.
TIP #1: BUY NON-COMEDOGENIC
The simplest rule of thumb? When you’re buying products for your face—foundation, sunscreen, even moisturizer—look for the term “non-comedogenic” on the label. (FYI: “Comedogenic” is just a scientific way of saying “pore-clogging.”) Non-comedogenic makeup is formulated specifically not to clog your pores.
TIP #2: AVOID PENETRATING OILS
Most cosmetic oils aggravate acne in some capacity, so it’s best to avoid them if possible. But some—like lanolin, a fatty acid that’s commonly found in lotions and sunscreens—are recognized acne triggers. Another one, isopropyl myristate, utilized in foundations to give a smooth, even application, penetrates so aggressively that it’s also used as an ingredient in rust removers. Needless to say, it’s not the best thing for your face.
TIP #3: GO FRAGRANCE-FREE
Fragrance can be a major perpetrator of breakouts—and if you think a product doesn’t contain fragrance because it’s labeled “unscented,” think again! Often, “unscented” is simply code for “fragrance was used to mask the smell of other ingredients.” Everyone is different, and not all fragrances will necessarily make you break out. But why not play it safe by looking for the term “fragrance-free” on your products’ labels?
TIP #4: PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO COLOR COSMETICS
Does your eyeshadow, blush or even face powder have any kind of shimmery finish? Better make sure it doesn’t contain an irritating form of mica, a mineral commonly used by cosmetics companies for this purpose. Given the jagged shape of mica particles, they can cause irritation and clog follicles, and in turn cause breakouts. Similarly, many of the red dyes found in color cosmetics are actually tar derivatives—definitely comedogenic! Another thing? Cream blushes are more likely to have comedogenic ingredients than their powder or gel counterparts—and if you have oily skin, they’re not going to stay put anyway—so it’s best to avoid them in general.
TIP #5: BE CAREFUL WITH EYE CREAM
Given the delicate nature of the skin under your eyes, eye creams are often formulated to be thicker and heavier than regular moisturizers—and they have a way of “traveling” to other areas of your face when you apply them. Make sure yours is non-comedogenic, and don’t get too heavy-handed with the application; just a tiny dab is all you need.
TIP #6: STYLE WITH CARE
Most hair products are full of ingredients that should never touch your skin—so proceed with caution! Cover your skin when you use hairspray, ensure that oils, gels and pomades stay off the skin at your hairline, and when you hit the gym, do so with clean, product-free hair.
TIP #7: BEFORE AND AFTER YOU WORK OUT, WASH
No, sweat doesn’t cause acne. But if you’re acne-prone, it can aggravate your skin—particularly when you throw cosmetics in the mix, even non-comedogenic makeup. Start your workout with a clean face if possible or as fast as fast, make sure to wash or wipe your face right after a workout.
TIP #8: WATCH YOUR MOUTH
Many of us have issues with breakouts around the mouth—and in certain cases, lipsticks, glosses and balms are to blame. The reason? They’re often formulated with comedogenic ingredients like petroleum and wax. And, the more shine they offer, the more likely they are to clog your pores.