acne cosmetica

What it is: Makeup is so well known for causing acne that it has its own term in dermatology, acne cosmetica. While this problem has subsided somewhat in the past few decades as large brand name manufacturers have become more careful with their ingredient choices, it can still remain a problem for some people. Acne cosmetica is often misdiagnosed as run-of-the-mill acne, but it shows up in different ways and can often be treated simply by no longer using the offending makeup. As opposed to acne vulgaris, cosmetic induced acne tends to show up as lots of little bumps on the skin instead of red, inflamed papules and pustules. It can take up to six months for makeup to cause this reaction, and people will often react by using makeup to cover it up, thus perpectuating the cycle.

What to do: In an ideal world, I like to see people forgo makeup until they get completely cleared up with the Regimen. When makeup is used at the same time as the Regimen, it presents an external variable that is hard to control. Once a person is completely cleared up on the Regimen, then it’s safe to add in makeup, one product at a time. I realize that many people feel that they absolutely must wear makeup. In that case, you can do a few things to reduce the chance that your makeup is causing problems:

1. Avoid well known pore clogging ingredients including anything that starts with “isopropyl”, “isostearyl”, or “myristyl”.

2. Choose a large brand name makeup. Large brand names have more at stake and do not want the reputation of breaking out their customers. Almay in particular is well known for keeping acne-prone customers in mind. Their makeup is normally light and pretty safe. Almay blog post here.

Bottom line: What I want to leave people with here is that makeup can cause problems. If and when it does, it can show up a little differently, as smaller bumps that come “out of the blue”. In fact, it isn’t out of the blue. The makeup has been taking months to cause the issue. If this sounds like something you’re encountering, cease using your makeup, get on the Regimen precisely, and then be patient. It may take a while to get your skin back to its balanced, natural state.

18 Responses to “Acne Cosmetica – a fancy term for how makeup can break you out”

  • Melanie

    Oh no!!!!!! My staple Covergirl Clean foundation has isopropyl all in the ingredient list! And it claims to be non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, fragrance free for sensitve skin :( Oh dear…..

  • Grace

    Sorry, but I totally disagree with you here. Acne is genetic and although some heavy makeups can make one break out, IF NOT REMOVED AT NIGHT, and if skin is not well care for, my doc told me that it is an old wives tale about makeup CAUSING acne. Sure, if you are not on top of taking care of your skin, you slap on makeup and don’t remove it well, you’ll break out. But you can say the same thing about eating dairy or using skin care products like a simple cleanser which may also have “questionable” ingredients.

    I say if you use a decent foundation by a reputable company and take great care of your skin and you’re still breaking out, it’s because of your poor genetics, not because of the makeup. In fact, I’ve heard dermatologists say that today’s makeup foundations have all sorts of ingredients that are GREAT for the skin like niacinamide, retinol, salicylic acid, soy extracts, etc. And they also serve as an important sunscreen against the sun’s rays.

    Today’s make up foundation is not the same as our grandmothers. Thank goodness.

  • Melanie

    Dan,
    Could you expound on what your research has revealed about isopropyl? I can’t find anything regarding this particular ingredient, other than an alcohol association? I’m very interested in learning more about the class of ingredients you referenced above.

  • jessica

    How long would you have to stop using makeup to have these bumps clear up? And what if you use mineral foundation?

  • Ivy

    Dan, oh Dan. When will you start recommending mineral makeup for acne prone skin? Jane Iredale, Youngblood, and Pure Radiance are some brands to start with. These makeups are light (usually powders), come from the earth, cover well, and are super gentle.

    When I started using jane Iredale, it literally cut my acne down by 50%, the rest went away after I finally worked up the courage to go see a dermatologist. And I had bad acne, seriously people thought i had a rash on my face sometimes. All I have now is some minor scarring, and an occasional breakout or two around my period. I think a lot of it had to do with getting off the drugstore, filler laced, liquid foundation.

  • blex

    About 6 months ago I switched from laura mercier make up to almay. I also started using burts bees shampoo and conditioner exclusively. The noninflamed acne on my face reduced by 90% and my bacne pretty much disappeared. I still have hyperpigmentation and I breakout before my period but my skin is looking so much better these days. I love salycilic acid for noninflamed acne and use it to purge my skin. I also don’t pick at my skin as much because there isn’t much to pick at. I’ve dealt with noninflamed acne for almost 14 years, and I realize now that the problems really started when I began using expensive department store foundation, like prespectives. Anyway, almay is inexpensive compared to the department store makeup, so I highly recommend that you at least try it. At first I didn’t like the coverage but now that my skin is looking better, the make up looks great. My ultimate goal is to not need make up, but until then, almay is great. Thanks Dan for the tip! Btw, I use the almay foundation with salycilic acid.

  • Allyson

    Is Bismuth in the Bare Escentuals line known to create problematic acne (nodulocystic, papules, pustules) over a prolonged period of time? I think that it is time for a study, as there are a number of ppl on this site who use this product and are questioning whether it is the product, or just plain old genetics (much like myself!)

  • Ramesh

    Hi Everyone,

    I tried this new powder called ACNE MAGIC , it is superb and very effective . My skin is not that oily which it was before , it smooth and fair . I learnt that pimple on my skin was due to oils coming out it . One day on internet i came to know about this magical product . The manufacturer gave me a trail bottle for free and i found the results were amazing . In the begining i was applying this powder on my face , where the skin was oily and had pimples for 8 to 10 times in a day . It has no side effects too . Now my skin i so clean and nice that girls propose bcoz they find me nice looking . Pls try this powder called ACNE MAGIC , it is just magical .

  • anna

    I have very sensitive skin and non-inflamed acne (with moderate breakouts); I’ve been using Everyday Minerals for several years w/o comedogenic consequence. It provides beautiful, natural coverage and does not contain bismuth oxychloride; only mineral ingredients. Also, they provide a free, sample kit (+s&h). Their prices are about 50% less than Bare Essentials.

    *link edited out*

  • anonymous2

    to me probably the best foundation is bareMinerals by bare escentuals…it covers well and is actually GOOD for your skin! since it is made of minerals it will not only cover but make your skin more attractive looking over time! you can just go to utla that makeup place and get matched.it costs about $18 but it is worth it! I LOVE BAREMINERALS!!! for more info go to *link removed*

  • Anonymous

    I use Physician’s Formula mineral powder foundation, and I use ProActiv Sheer Finish Mattifying gel as a base.

  • sunny day

    Bsimuth- may cause cystic ance is also in Youngblood. I used Youngblood for a couple of years until I found out it contains Bismuth. A good website to check is safecosmetics.org. I emailed them to ask if they use nanotechnology and they never emailed me back!

    I now use pure anada.

  • Anne

    I don’t use foundation makeup, but I do use blush regularly since I’m extremely, extremely pale. I’d like to stress the importance of frequent cleaning of makeup brushes and makeup tools. Use good brushes and clean them regularly with a good brush cleaner. It’s also important to throw out and replace all makeup after it passes a certain age (since I only use blush and it doesn’t sit for long, I don’t remember the recommended length of time). And buy a new, inexpensive makeup case every so often—they get very dirty and are overlooked as a source of bacterial contamination.

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  • db

    This is very true. I used a really good paraben, silicon, dimethicone (silicon), sulphate, mi (methylisothiazolinone) and bismuth oxide free foundation. Then they stopped making the same formula kept the name and pumped full of nastiesb which wasn’t even non condemgenic.
    Without realising the effects of these chemicals i mentioned earlier i bought a normal ‘non-comdegenic’ foundation and bare minerials. over a period of 6 months small bumps formed over my for head and cheeks. Then chin and neck. Make up only highlighted them and made them worse. Iv been on antibiotics for over a year, which did nothing.
    Even though the new foundation claims to Not b pore blocking the key ingredients I mentioned above were in it. My shampoo, conitioner, face wash and moisturiser all had some of these products in too. Iv switched to organic shampoo and conitioner (naked shine), cleanser and moisturiser by green people (oy moisturise and cleanse). Iv tracked down my old foundation online (old formula) rimmel stay matte with chamomile cucumber and Cotton and bought faerie mineral foundation (no bismuth oxide like bare minerals).
    With the oy cleanse and moisturiser and stay matte foundation plus the shampoo and conitioner my skin is seeing an improvement. I’m yet to try the minerals. Check ur products even if they state organic or non pore blocking they can be. It’s frightening!

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