Does makeup cause acne?

What to do about makeup breakouts.

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Curology Team
Apr 24, 2020 · 3 min read

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Many of us have been stuck in the dreaded makeup-breakout cycle: you dab on a little foundation to cover your breakout, but then your breakout gets worse, so you dab on a little more. Repeat until infinity. If you’re ready to hop off that merry-go-round, we’re here to help!

One option is to break up with your makeup altogether. If that sounds good to you, go for it — we’re big fans of the no makeup look. But if you’re not ready to go au naturel, we get it. Just like your skincare routine, applying makeup can be a fun, relaxing way to pamper yourself and get an instant confidence boost. Plus, plenty of products won’t cause breakouts — it all depends on the ingredients.

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What’s the deal with makeup and breakouts?

So, let’s ask the big question up front: is makeup bad for your skin? The short answer is no — most of the time. It’s a bit of a misconception to say that all foundations cause acne, and some foundations can even benefit your skin (like those with added sun protection). It’s not the products themselves that can cause breakouts, but their ingredients. Some of these ingredients are comedogenic (pore-clogging) and can contribute to the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

Want to find non-comedogenic makeup, stat? First, you’ll need to read the fine print on those ingredient labels. Then, we recommend you trust in the genius of the CosDNA test:

Step 1: Find your product’s ingredients. They’re usually listed on the brand’s official website or on the product itself.

Step 2: Go to CosDNA.com. Copy and paste the ingredients on the page “Analyze Cosmetics.”

Step 3: Look at the “acne” column. This rates how pore-clogging an ingredient is on a scale from 0–5.

We recommend avoiding ingredients with a rating of 3 or higher in the acne column. Same goes for the irritant column if you’re experiencing redness, dryness, or other signs of irritation. The acne rankings are based on data from comedogenicity studies, and those studies rated at 5 are the worst offenders in terms of clogging pores.

Want to learn more? Read our guide to acne-friendly makeup.

The best makeup for acne-prone skin

If ingredient analysis isn’t your thing, the Curology blog has your back. We curate a no-breakout makeup series where we review non-comedogenic beauty products. Here are a few that cover the basics:

We add reviews of new products regularly in our beauty column, and we take requests! Leave a comment and let us know what you’d like to see reviewed next.

We love your face

The first step of every good makeup routine is to show your skin a little love — especially if you’re dealing with a breakout. Unfortunately, even if we use non-comedogenic makeup, our acne might not go away on its own. Cleansing and moisturizing your skin also preps your face to be a great canvas, whether that’s for your radiant smile or your gorgeous makeup look.

If you need help building a skincare routine that’s right for you, Curology is here to help! Our custom approach to skincare is led by dermatologists, and each Curology member is paired with one of our in-house medical providers who’ll help you determine what’s best for you. Your Curology provider will prescribe you a mix with 3 active ingredients for your unique skin needs. You can also try our gentle cleanser and your choice of moisturizer at no extra cost. Sign up for a free month of Curology and just pay $4.95 + tax to cover the cost of shipping/handling.

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