Written by Lisa Allen | Edited by Dr Mark Kapnoudhis
As we’ve talked about in other articles, there are a near-limitless variety of acne causes. Although some of the more common ones such as hormones and certain foods are well known, many people are unaware that makeup and cosmetics are also very common causes of acne.
Acne that is caused specifically by cosmetics is called acne cosmetica. It’s basically a fancy way of saying “your makeup is clogging your pores”. Any acne that is caused by makeup or cosmetics applied to the face is known as acne cosmetica. It is considered to be a relatively mild form of acne, as opposed to more severe types such as cystic acne.
It’s sometimes hard to determine whether or not your acne is being caused by your cosmetics, or if there is another cause, or possibly even both. Existing acne can be made worse with the use of pore-clogging makeup and cosmetics.
Acne cosmetica is most commonly found on the face, but can also appear on the neck, scalp, or other areas of the skin. Any part of your body that you apply a makeup or cosmetic product to is prone to acne cosmetica. Although acne cosmetica is unlikely to lead to scarring, it’s still an annoying condition that no one wants to have to deal with.
Acne cosmetica usually looks a bit different than the more common acne vulgaris. It most often appear as many small comedones, papules, and pustules. In layman’s terms, it’s a bunch of small bumps, rather than large pimples or cysts. There usually isn’t as much redness or inflammation as with other forms of acne, although the skin may feel rough and bumpy to the touch.
Well if you’ve read this far, you already know that acne cosmetica is caused by makeup and cosmetics; that much is obvious. But what specifically about cosmetics is causing acne to form, and do all types of cosmetics lead to acne breakouts? I’ll answer the second question first and say that no, not all cosmetics lead to acne breakouts.
Acne is caused when the cosmetic product gets into hair follicles and pores, clogging them up and leading to oil blockages in the skin and creating a pimple or blemish. Cosmetic products that do this are known as comedogenic. In less fancy terminology: comedogenic products are pore clogging.
Ingredients that include terms such as isopropyl, isostearyl, and myristyl are particularly well known for being pore-clogging.However not all cosmetics are comedogenic, and in fact the ones that aren’t are almost always marked as such somewhere on the bottle or label. Look for phrases such as non-comedogenic or simply won’t clog pores.
If you are leaving your makeup on overnight or for extended periods of time, it is more likely to lead to pimples forming than if you remove it before bed.
The first step towards treating acne cosmetica is figuring out exactly what is causing it. Are you sure that your makeup is the cause of your acne, and not something else entirely? One way to find out is to simply stop using makeup, and see what happens to your skin. Alternatively, you could switch to a non-comedogenic brand of cosmetics to see if you experience any improvement.
Keep in mind that it’s not just makeup, but also hair products, eye creams, moisturizers, or anything else you are putting on your skin or hair that could be causing your acne. No matter what type of products you are using, even if they are non-comedogenic, it’s always a good idea to wash them off every night before bed, and reapply again in the morning. Also, take a few days off if you can bare to and go without any makeup. Your skin will always benefit from a break in cosmetic use.
To speed up your acne cosmetica treatment, you can supplement any of the acne treatments you might use for a different type of acne. Since acne cosmetica is mostly caused by blocked pores, it’s probably a good idea to exfoliate your skin once a week or so, to help get any excess makeup out of your follicles.
If that still isn’t enough, you can add in an acne fighting agent such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to give those zits the final kick in the butt that they need! If you’ve tried all of that and your skin still isn’t as clear as you’d like it to be, then you should really consider seeing a dermatologist. He or she will be able to help you determine the true cause of your acne, and give you access to more powerful and effective acne treatment options than you could get on your own.