Comedogenic Make-Up Products: Cause Of Acne?

More than half of women use makeup to conceal their flaws and feel more confident.

With 1 in 3 women refusing to step out of the house without makeup, it’s no surprise that the makeup industry is estimated to grow to over 80 billion dollars by 2024.

In spite of all that, the ingredients list on your favorite makeup products could be the source of your acne – even going as far as hindering the progress of your acne scar treatment.

If you consider yourself a makeup junkie who has been hoping to cure their cystic acne for years – perhaps the answer lies in the fine print of your foundation, eyeshadow or blush.

Can makeup cause acne?

The answer is a simple, resounding – YES!

A Brazilian study was able to conclude that 45% of women had adverse skin conditions associated with the cosmetics that they were using – 14% of whom having developed active acne.

In fact, the relationship between acne and makeup seems to be so prevalent that there is actually a term for it – acne cosmetica.

What is Acne Cosmetica?

Acne Cosmetica was first coined in 1972 by a pair of dermatologists who believed that adult acne was primarily triggered by cosmetic use.

Almost three decades later and the moniker still persists – showing up on the skin as numerous tiny, sometimes inflamed bumps and pimples on the cheeks, chin and forehead. It can take several months to fully form, and can occur even in those not predisposed to acne breakouts.

From what we know about acne, it is a result of overactive oil glands and excessive sebum, clogged pores, and a proliferation of the P.acnes bacteria.

Heavy-duty cosmetics such as liquid foundation, makeup primers and cream blushes can oftentimes cause a blockage in the pores due to their thick consistency, resulting in unwanted bacteria growth. Add in other unfavourable conditions such as the hot and humid weather in Singapore and you got the lethal combination of factors that cause acne.

Comedogenic vs. Non-comedogenic

Those who have done their research would have probably heard of the terms “comedogenic” and “non-comedogenic” – essentially, the ability of a product to clog your pores.

Something that you will notice is that comedogenic products tend to be richer in consistency – alluding to the fact that thicker, creamier products are those that are most likely to clog your pores and activate acne.

This is why dermatologists often recommend acne sufferers to grab hold of products that are labelled as non-comedogenic instead – meaning to say that it does not contain any ingredients that give rise to comedones (or pore blockages).

However, take note that not all comedogenic products are completely off-limits – it ultimately still depends on the concentration and combination of the specific ingredients found in the product. So, while it’s best to stray away from those which contain higher concentrations of comedogenic ingredients, those with lower concentrations can still be utilized in order to benefit from its other skin-loving ingredients.

The best way to move forward is to take notice and be more mindful of the products that you put into your basket – here are 5 key ingredients to AVOID if you wish to reduce the chances of an acne flare-up:

1. Stearic acid derivatives

Stearic acid is a very common chemical compound that is used in the manufacturing of many hair and skincare products – including the foundation that you apply on a daily basis.

A common ingredient that you will come across is Isopropyl Myristate – an ingredient that gives makeup its softening and soothing effects on the skin.

Despite that, it is highly comedogenic – sparking off an eruption of pimples, clogged pores and irritated skin when used in the long haul.

Other names for it include isocetyl stearate, isopropyl isostearate and butyl stearate.

 2. D&C Pigments

Certain FDA-approved dyes are actually known to be acne-causing, especially D&C Red #9, D&C Red #27 and D&C Red #40.

Tests that have been done found them to be high on the list of acne-causing pigments, and it is strongly advised to avoid them if you are prone to breakouts.

The best way is to choose makeup without any D&C pigments – and since they are most commonly found in your blushers, it may be wise to turn to more natural alternatives that are non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, non-irritating and oil-free.

3. Silicones & Sulfates

Silicones and sulfates have been getting a bad rap in recent years – and for good reason.

Sulfates have always been touted for its ability to make your skin feel squeaky clean, while silicones are most commonly found in your foundation or concealers to give your skin a silky, smooth finish.

On the other hand, sulfates dry out your skin – causing the overproduction of sebum, while silicones make it hard for your skin to breathe due to the clogging of pores.

Sodium lauryl sulfate and ammonium laurel sulfate are the most common sulfates you will stumble on, while silicones in products include dimethicone, cetearyl methicone and cyclomethicone.

It’s hard to remember all of them – you will be better off simply going for sulfate-free and chemical-free products instead.

4. Fragrances

While fragrances can be both pleasing and attractive – it may be doing more harm than good when it comes to your acne.

Just like every other ingredient mentioned, fragrances like benzaldehyde do the most when it comes to congesting your pores and irritating the skin.

While not all fragrances are linked to acne, it is still important to identify the ones that cause your skin to breakout, so that you are able to avoid them altogether.

5. Natural oils

We are talking the luxurious shea butter, coconut oil and mineral oils.

Yes, they feel absolutely amazing on the skin, but problems arise the moment they are applied on a consistent basis. While many products are now leaning towards using organic and “healthier” ingredients – it is worth taking note that not all skin-loving ingredients are going to be ideal for those suffering from oily, acne-prone skin.

Also known as occlusives, this means that natural oils are great for preventing dehydrated skin and water loss – but it can also clog pores like no other.

The killer? Coconut oil, rated as one of the most comedogenic ingredients on the list.

What’s next?

Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to effective acne treatment.

While it may seem pretty straightforward up to this point, here is the catch: just because you find a product that contains any of the aforementioned ingredients, doesn’t mean that it will cause your skin to breakout in a frenzy.

The best advice is to start a proven laser treatment for acne catered to your specific skin condition. Over at our clinic, we have up to 10 different treatment technologies, including a wide range of skincare, creams and oral medications for treating all types of acne.

How can you do your part? Always be sure to double cleanse after a long day of wearing makeup, and perhaps look into going make-up free on most days! The social stigma surrounding acne is slowly diminishing – the time has come for acne sufferers to embrace their journey and face it with a more carefree attitude.

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