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Is makeup bad for your skin?

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If you have acne, eczema, oily skin or dry skin, or any other type of non conformist skin, then you may have decided long ago to cover it up with makeup. If that’s you, you’re most definitely not alone.

Up and down the British isles, tens of thousands of us wear makeup as a kind of ‘mask’ to help cover up spots, acne breakouts, scarring and blemishes. The same goes the world over - not only do we wear makeup as an expression of ourselves, almost as an artform, or to hide the effects of a late night or simply as a routine, we wear it to hide our skin from the world.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that at all. We’re all free to do as we please in our own skin. After all, the majority of women and men that wear makeup do so because it’s a confidence boost, and we’re all for self care.

But sometimes, using the wrong kind of makeup for our skin type could actually be doing us a disservice and making things worse.

So, could the products that you’re using to cover your misbehaving skin actually be what’s causing it to misbehave?

Here’s our take on makeup for non conformist skin.

Makeup: the good bits

Let’s face it, makeup is a good thing on the whole. For those of us that wear it, we feel naked without it. As much as we’d love to have the clear, young skin of a model on a beach in a ‘natural’ shot, we know that a lot of effort has gone into making their skin look natural, both in terms of lighting and filters, and makeup.

Makeup hides dark circles, spots, scarring and to a certain extent, wrinkles and fine lines. A sweep of bronzer can awaken the skin with a sunkissed glow and a slick of mascara can open up tired looking eyes.

So far so good for makeup. But what about the downsides?

Makeup: the not so good bits

Whilst talking about makeup in this article, what we’re really referring to is the makeup that goes on the skin, rather than on the eyes and lips. So we’re talking about the foundations, concealers, blushers, bronzers and powders that we layer on.

Some lipsticks can be very drying on the lips (particularly so, long wear lipsticks designed to stay on through drinking, eating and even kissing). Plus, using eye liners, eye shadows and mascaras increases the risk of developing eye irritations and even eye infections if we use products that have been opened for longer than a year, or we share with others.

But on the whole, it’s the makeup that’s applied directly to the skin that causes the most amount of problems.

Lots of makeup brands contain harsh ingredients, chemicals and toxins, that we’re potentially layering onto our skin each time we apply them. Plus, using unclean, old makeup sponges and brushes to apply our makeup introduces bacteria, dirt and stale makeup to the skin.

All of this can equal bad news for the skin, leading to allergic rashes, spots and breakouts.

What makeup is bad for your skin?

The most common problem associated with using makeup is using makeup that blocks the pores. Oil based makeup, rather than water based makeup, might add a sheen to the face, but it’s also really good at blocking the pores.

This is especially bad news if you already have naturally oily skin. Excess sebum (the natural waxy substance that hydrates the skin) exacerbates acne breakouts by clogging the pores, trapping dirt and cellular debris. This then leads to acne spots and breakouts.

So instead, look for makeup that describes itself as mattifying, oil free, oil controlling, non pore blocking or non comedogenic makeup for oily skin. Also avoid any makeup that contains lanolin or mineral oil.

Also, makeup that contains parabens, sulphates and heavy metals can overload and irritate the skin, leading to contact dermatitis and eczema flare ups if we’re prone to these conditions.

The more natural your makeup brand, the better. So choose brands that celebrate the power of plant botanicals and other natural products to make their makeup kinder to the skin.

Is mineral makeup bad for your skin?

Mineral makeup is makeup that contains iron oxides, zinc oxide, titanium oxide or talc. They’re generally oil free and so are marketed as good for oily, acne prone skin as they don’t block the pores with excess oil.

However, they can be quite heavy on the skin, as in mineral sunscreens, and can therefore overload the skin leading to acne spots and breakouts.

Is talc in makeup bad for your skin?

Just like the mineral makeup mentioned above, talc can be just as heavy when it settles on the skin, so you may find that you’re better off choosing a non pore blocking, oil free, natural foundation.

Are makeup primers bad for skin?

Just like a foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer or powder, a makeup primer needs to be suited to your skin to help it prevent acne spots and flare ups of other skin conditions such as eczema.

Always remove your makeup at night!

Of course, another danger to the skin of wearing makeup is not taking it off at night. We know, after a long day (or long night of partying), taking your makeup off using a proper cleanser (step away from the face wipes, these don’t clean the skin anywhere near well enough!) is the last thing on your mind.

But sleeping in day old makeup is one of the worst things you can do for the skin, especially if you’re prone to spots, acne breakouts or other skin problems.

During the night, the skin sweats, and as we’re not awake to wash this sweat off, it settles on the skin. Stale sweat can block the pores of the skin, and if there’s already a layer of makeup (and grime that builds up on the skin during the day) already on the skin, the sweat will effectively seal it into the pores.

This will lead to blockages and spots. So we repeat, always remove your makeup at night!

Choosing the right makeup and skincare for your skin

We hope this has given you a balanced view on makeup for misbehaving skin. Too often, when we think about skincare, or worse, when we’re sold ‘magic bullet solutions’ to acne prone skin, we’re led to believe that’s all we need to think about.

But decent skincare, designed for skin that doesn’t conform is only part of the way there. (Albeit the most important part, that we’re very proud to be involved with, with our alkaline skincare designed for skin just like yours).

If we think of skincare as the primer, or base coat, we then understand that whatever we add on top of that needs to be equally supportive of our individual skin type. Otherwise, there’s little point feeding and nourishing our skin with our cleansers, toners and moisturisers.

So always consider the right makeup for your skin type, along with your skincare products. Your skin truly will thank you for it.

unsplash-logo Kelly Sikkema
Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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