Wouldn’t it be nice if, say, when you turned 21, all of your breakouts
magically went away? And you had clear, smooth, dewy skin that never
suffered from an unfortunate monster zit the day before a big job
interview? (Or a date you’re excited about. Or a trip to the beach…)
Unfortunately for many, acne continues far into our adult decades, and
while makeup itself doesn’t necessarily cause acne, it can make it
worse. That’s why it’s essential to be mindful of what ingredients are
lurking, not just in your go-to moisturizers and cleansers, but also in
your makeup bag. Though there are a variety of factors that could be
irritating your t-zone, from fluctuating hormones to stress, sometimes
the wrong product cocktail on your skin can be to blame. Here are a few
tips on how to protect yourself from misfortune (and let’s face it:
annoying!) breakouts.

  1. Choose “Matte” or “Dewy”
    Even if your bestie swears by a sparkly foundation that mimics a dewy glow, what works for her more tolerant
    skin might not be the best match for skin that’s more prone to acne. That’s why dermatologist Dr. Sharyn
    Laughlin says being a thorough investigator of your pores and tracking your reactions is the first step in defending
    your skin against acne.
    As an example, Dr. Laughlin explains that being aware of your already-oily, shiny skin will keep you from
    purchasing makeup products that add excess lubrication that you don’t need. For oily skin, opt for products that
    say “oil-free” on its packaging and offer a “matte” or “semi-matte” finish instead of “dewy” or “satin.”
    Editor’s Tip: In the market for a new foundation? Here are a few foundation options for acne-prone and oily skin.
  2. Track Where You’re Breaking Out
    Depending on the spots on your face that are more likely to attract a zit (or three), you can identify what product
    is actually causing a reaction. “If your foundation is breaking you out, then you will most likely see the acne fairly
    evenly dispersed around your face. If the bulk of your acne is around your hairline, then it might be more likely
    that your hair care products are involved,” Dr. Laughlin explains.
    However, if you’re seeing more dots around your jawline, Dr. Laughlin explains that your acne could be less
    product-based and more hormonally charged. In this case, you’ll want to see a dermatologist who can
    recommend a solution for you, either via a topical cream or oral prescription.
  3. Change Your Makeup Routine Based on Your Cycle
    Every woman has different indicators that her menstrual cycle is on its way. From sleepless nights and cranky
    moods to a severe craving for pizza. By the time you reach your mid-20s, you’re well aware of your personal
    period’s warning. If you know you’re more likely to get a breakout around that time of month, Dr. Laughlin says to
    make sure your makeup matches your changing hormones. What you wear the other 25 days of the month might
    not be what you need to sport when you’re spotting.
    “If you are wearing the same makeup everyday, then there will be no stopping and starting to acne,” she explains.
    As you anticipate the arrival of your zits, switch to a lighter formula and try to use less makeup when your skin is
    being challenged by your hormones.

Try: glominerals Pressed Base Powder Foundation

  1. Let Your Skin Breathe
    Though it can be difficult to go makeup-free when you’re struggling with acne, Dr. Laughlin says taking a few
    days without makeup on can help your pores heal a little bit faster. On days when wearing makeup is inevitable,
    make sure to cleanse your skin thoroughly at night with a cleanser designed for your oily or acne-prone skin.
    Try: Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel
  2. Avoid Products That Are Occlusive
    Here’s your vocabulary lesson of the day: certain ingredients in makeup—phthalates, paraffin wax, mineral oil
    and petrolatum—can be “occlusive” on your skin. What does that mean? Dr. Laughlin explains these
    ingredients—though common in skin care products—don’t absorb into your skin, but rather, lay heavy on the
    surface. While this shouldn’t be an issue if you have normal to dry skin, this can be problematic for people who
    are prone to breakouts because they create “pools” that eventually settle into pores, clogging them up and
    preventing your natural oils from escaping when they need to.

“These products do not let sebum, which is a natural and normal by-product of the skin, to exit from the pore to
the skin surface. Combined with dead skin cells, the occluded pore becomes infected by bacteria, creating an
inflammatory and immune reaction that becomes the acne lesion,” she explains.
Try: Stila Cosmetics Aqua Glow Serum Foundation

  1. Avoid Alcohol and Other Drying Ingredients
    Though most people will attempt to “dry out” a red, painful zit, Dr. Laughlin says dehydrating your skin can have
    the opposite impact. If the makeup you’re using has drying ingredients, like alcohol, it will prevent your skin from
    completing its natural exfoliating process, which allows dead skin cells to fall off on their own.
    Try: Juice Beauty Serum Foundation
  2. If You Want Makeup With SPF, Look for Zinc
    If you prefer your makeup to have some sort of sun protection, Dr. Laughlin suggests opting for mineral options.
    Most mineral makeup brands will avoid using talc as a binder, which can be irritating to those who have difficult
    skin to begin with. Instead, mineral products are rich in zinc oxide, which is an anti-inflammatory that was once
    used to treat acne via tablets. And when mixed with other subtle ingredients, these more Earth-friendly products
    can give you everything from sun protection to coverage. “Mineral-based makeup with zinc alone or combined
    with titanium dioxide provides a good, balanced UV protection and ‘natural’ coverage for those who might have
    acne,” she says.