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A woman applying makeup over acne- but does makeup cause acne?

Does Makeup Cause Acne?

Sometimes, it might seem like there’s no escaping acne. 

Once we are past teenage breakouts, we may assume we’ll never see a pimple again, but the truth is that acne can come at any age. 

So is it our beloved makeup that is triggering the unwanted bumps and blemishes? Do we have to forgo our favorite foundation in order to achieve clear skin? 

It’s easy to believe that the makeup we love may be causing acne. After all, we put it on our faces, and then suddenly a pimple emerges, as if out of nowhere. Yes, some makeup (even vegan makeup) may cause acne. But when we’re mindful about the products we use and commit to a cleaning routine, we may be able to majorly cut down on the breakouts while still enjoying everything we love about our favorite cosmetics.

While even vegan makeup can cause acne, not all cosmetics trigger blemishes. Just as you take care to purchase vegan and cruelty-free makeup, so too can you select products that are unlikely to cause breakouts. Armed with the right information and cleaning routines, you can become empowered to help prevent blemishes from appearing.

How does makeup cause acne?

Acne is caused by plugged follicles in the skin, often clogged by oil, hair, and dead skin cells. Hormones can also play a major role in the emergence of acne, which is why we often associate outbreaks with particular times in our lives (during puberty and menstruation, for example). 

Makeup can cause acne when it clogs pores or when we spread dirt and bacteria on our skin by using dirty brushes and sponges. It’s easy to overlook the washing of our makeup tools, but used over and over again, they could be doing way more damage than you think. 

Certain ingredients are often used in makeup that will likely trigger a breakout, especially if you have more acne-prone skin. Conversely, some cosmetics will help us avoid the clogged pores that can cause blemishes to appear.

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Does makeup make acne worse?

One of the first things we can be tempted to do when we see a pimple forming is to dab on some foundation. But will this make matters worse? Will you be doomed to choose between revealing your acne to the world, or pile on makeup that will make even more pimples appear?

These are common questions. But never fear! You can still wear makeup if you have acne—as long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of pimple popping. With undisturbed acne, it’s fine to go ahead and apply makeup to cover it. Just be sure to select products labeled as non-comedogenic, meaning that they don’t contain any ingredients that might cause pimples and blackheads. With the right cosmetics, you can continue with your regular makeup routine without worrying about triggering breakouts.

The situation gets a bit stickier after you’ve popped or picked a pimple (this is a huge no-no! Although tempting, you should leave your blemishes to run their natural course or risk a worsening infection, prolonged healing time, and even scarring—yikes!).

But if you’ve succumbed to this naughty temptation, avoid layering on makeup to cover it up. 

When it comes to aggravated blemishes that are now open wounds, applying cosmetics on top might delay the healing process even further. Pimple popping happens (don’t be too hard on yourself!)—so when it does, avoid making matters worse and leave the blemish to heal without layers of makeup. Tempting as it may be to slather on foundation, you will be doing yourself a disservice. 

What ingredients in makeup cause acne? 

To find makeup that doesn’t cause acne, you’ll want to select cosmetics labeled noncomedogenic and avoid acne-causing ingredients that may clog your pores. Just as you read labels to ensure your cosmetics are free of animal products and haven’t been tested on animals, you can avoid makeup that causes blemishes by refraining from using products that contain certain ingredients. 

This might seem like a daunting process at first, but with a little practice and persistence, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. Once you find your favorites, stick with them!


When used properly some oils may be healing and help to lock in moisture. But when it comes to an active case of acne, oils should be avoided, since they can clog pores, leading to breakouts. If your objective is to prevent blemishes, look for oil-free products.

Food hacks to help with clear skin, by Kinder Beauty.


Silicone in cosmetics may make for smooth skin, but you’ll want to avoid it when trying to prevent acne. Often found in primers, silicone creates a smooth surface but doesn’t allow skin to breathe, which could lead to breakouts. Note that silicone may also be listed as dimethicone in the ingredients list—so watch out for both on makeup labels!

D & C Red

Often found in blush, these synthetic red dyes, including D&C Red #9 and D&C Red #40, are produced from petroleum or coal tar and are known to cause acne (as well as some other troubling environmental and human health impacts).


Petrochemical ingredients in makeup, including paraffin wax, mineral oil, and petrolatum, are byproducts from the refining of fossil fuels—that’s right, the same stuff that you pump into your car at the gas station. Petrochemical ingredients might help cosmetics to last longer on shelves but they can trigger acne by clogging pores. Skip these for the benefit of your skin and the climate! 

Sodium Chloride

Another name for salt, sodium chloride is sometimes used in makeup as a thickening agent. Unfortunately, salt can clog pores, leading to breakouts.

Isopropyl myristate

Isopropyl myristate is considered to be highly comedogenic, so this is an ingredient to avoid for sure. Sometimes found in lightweight cosmetics and lotions, isopropyl myristate is known to be a potential cause of breakouts.

Vegan and Cruelty-Free Makeup at Kinder Beauty

How to prevent acne from makeup

You can form many habits that will go a long way towards minimizing breakouts. Eating healthy is just one example of a habit that can set you on the path towards clear, healthy skin—remember that beauty begins from the inside out! 

We’ve got some other tips for you that will help you fight off acne that might be made worse by makeup. 

Commit to a thorough nighttime face-washing routine

We’ve all been there. Drained. Sleepy. Maybe a little bit tipsy. It’s been a long day and a long night and we just want to get into bed. Couldn’t I skip washing my face just this once? 

As tempting as it may be to slip into bed without removing makeup and washing your face, this is a crucial step to take towards the prevention of acne. 

When we skip even one washing, then all of the dirt, sweat, and oil that has accumulated during the day stays on your skin, potentially clogging pores and triggering breakouts. 

It takes less than five minutes to protect your skin with a healthy cleansing routine and will be well worth your time and effort. You’ll also avoid those annoying makeup smears on your nice sheets and pillowcases!

Clean your brushes

By using the same makeup brushes and sponges day after day, we invite dirt and bacteria to spread, causing breakouts. 

Luckily, the fix is easy-peasy: simply clean your brushes every 7-10 days using a makeup brush cleaner or gentle shampoo diluted with warm water. 

If you’ve been using your hands to apply makeup, we recommend switching to tools instead. Even when we wash our hands thoroughly, we may be spreading germs to our face by using them to apply makeup. Plus, once you get used to using tools instead of your hands, you may find you greatly prefer the brushes since they offer a wonderfully smooth finish.

Use makeup labeled “non-comedogenic” or “non-acnegenic”

Many cosmetics you’ll find in stores will bear the word “non-comedogenic” on labels, meaning these products will be less likely to clog your pores. 

But you can also be on the lookout for a non-acnegenic label. The major difference between these two terms is that non-acnegenic tends to refer to products that do not have oils, fragrances, or other harsh ingredients that could irritate skin. Non-acnegenic products may also work to reduce the build-up of oil on your skin. 

Read the ingredients list

If you’ve committed to a plant-based lifestyle, you may have already become an expert in studying often long and confusing lists of words on ingredients labels. But the same routine of reading before buying can help save your face from any pimple-y surprises. 

If one of your favorite cosmetics isn’t labeled non-comedogenic, it may still be fine to use when trying to prevent acne breakouts. Simply read the ingredients list and check that it doesn’t contain any of the ingredients that may clog pores and trigger acne. 

Final thoughts

The good news is that not all makeup causes acne. There are a wealth of products to choose from if you’re looking to avoid clogging pores and causing outbreaks. So you can go ahead and wear makeup that you love even when you are suffering through regular breakouts. 

Just as with avoiding animal products, you can steer away from blemish-triggering makeup by scrutinizing labels and ingredients lists. 

Since acne is often caused by dirt and oil that clogs pores, it’s important to wash your face thoroughly at the end of the day, and don't forget to clean those brushes! 

By following these few simple steps, you will help fend off those annoying breakouts while still enjoying beautiful vegan and cruelty-free makeup. 

Acne may be unavoidable at times, but by shopping mindfully and cleaning carefully, there’s a lot you can do to prevent it.

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Maya Gottfried is the author of books for children and adults, including Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary (Knopf) and Vegan Love (Skyhorse).



Non-comedogenic Ingredients and Their Skincare Benefits | Medical News Today 

Skincare 101: A Guide to Skincare for Beginners | Kinder Beauty

5 Foods to Help Clear Your Skin | Kinder Beauty

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