Can Makeup Cause Breakouts?

Can Makeup Cause Breakouts?

Posted by Tracey Long on

When you have a skin flare-up, the first thing you want to do is hide. And because staying in bed forever is just not feasible, the next best option is often to cover the redness and blemishes under a thick coating of makeup.

It feels so much better once the bumps and spots are covered and you can head out into the world without feeling like everyone is staring, but can makeup actually worsen the flare-ups, or cause the breakouts in the first place?

It Depends on the Ingredients

“Technically, most makeup doesn't cause acne, but certain ingredients can clog pores, which helps acne-causing bacteria grow,” says Dermatologist David Lortscher.

Senior Clinician Sally Cussell of Rejuv Australia agrees, explaining that most non-mineral makeup is full of inexpensive fillers and ingredients that absorb oil.

“These ingredients can both dehydrate skin and clog pores,” explains Sally, who specialises in treating clients with acne, rosacea and pigmentation. “They can also increase hyperkeratinisation, in which dead skin cells stick together, which causes bacterial build-up in the pores.”

Sally has seen many clients suffering from acne who understandably want to cover their blemishes with makeup. Unfortunately the makeup they were using clogged their pores even more and made their acne worse.

So what can you do if you have problem prone skin and you simply can’t go without makeup?

Look for Noncomedogenic Cosmetics

Thankfully there are now plenty of options for people with sensitive or breakout prone skin. Look for products advertised as ‘noncomedogenic’, which means that the product has been especially formulated to exclude ingredients that can clog pores.

Sunscreens can also contain ingredients that can irritate or clog your skin, so consider swapping to a non-clogging sunscreen as well. You can shop for noncomedogenic foundations and sunscreens on the Allure Beauty website.

 AMPERNA® Sunscreen

Mineral Makeup Might be the Beauty BFF You’ve Been Searching For

Mineral makeup has been around for a while, but you may not be aware that it’s often recommended for people with sensitive or irritated skin.

“I recommend that all my clients switch to mineral makeup,” explains Sally. “This is because mineral makeup generally allows the skin to breathe better because it’s more lightweight and it doesn’t have the artificial fragrances that can irritate certain skin types, or the heavier ingredients that can clog the pores.”

Sally suggests that her clients try brands like Jane Iredale, whose range includes mineral makeup created specifically for those with skin conditions like dermatitis. Furthermore, she advises that they avoid products that contain talc, which dehydrates skin and blocks the pores.

 AMPERNA® Mineral Makeup

Avoid Ingredients That are Known to Clog and Irritate

If you’re set on sticking with the makeup you’ve always used or aren’t keen on changing to mineral, check cosmetic labels to make sure they don’t include any of the following known irritants:


These ingredients help other elements in the makeup to bind together, but they can also clog your pores and trap any dirt and oil already on your skin.


Alcohols are added to cosmetics to aid penetration and provide ‘all day’ coverage, they can really dehydrate and irritate sensitive skin.

Fragrances and colours

Fragrances and colours are included as a way to make your cosmetics look and smell lovely, they contain chemicals, which can exacerbate flare-ups for sensitive or acne prone skin.


These ingredients are a group of man-made compounds that are used as preservatives. They lengthen the shelf life of products and inhibit the growth of mould, but they can trigger hormonal flare-ups.

Man Made Silicones

Man made silicones are added to concealers and foundations to give that silky smooth feeling, they can also dry the skin out and clog pores.

Review Your Skincare Routine

While certain types of makeup can definitely trigger or exacerbate breakouts for some people, simply changing your makeup brand may not be enough to clear your skin. Health, lifestyle, diet and hormonal factors can all impact your skin’s condition, as can your skincare routine.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that if you’re treating your acne and still seeing breakouts, reviewing your skincare routine could be the solution. They list out a range of skincare habits that can worsen acne, providing advice on how to change some habits in order to optimise the process of clearing your skin including:

  • Avoid sharing makeup brushes or makeup because bacteria, oil and dead skin cells from other people can transfer to your skin, causing clogged pores and breakouts
  • Don’t sleep in your makeup, even if it’s non-comedogenic
  • Limit face washes to a twice a day - when you wake and when you go to bed (plus after any sweaty activities)
  • Use a gentle cleanser applied in a circular motion with your fingertips rather than an abrasive scrub
  • Don’t pop or squeeze breakouts as it can lead to the bacteria spreading, worsen the pimples by pushing the clog deeper into your skin, or cause scarring (easier said than done from a former popper!) 

Clinician Sally Cussell is a firm believer in the benefits of practising a good skincare routine in between treatments, but stresses that each routine should be personalised to the individual’s specific skin type and needs.

Read Is it Time to Simplify Your Skincare Routine?

AMPERNA® Gentle Cleanser

In general, she recommends using a gentle cleanser, and cleansing twice if you’re going to wear regular makeup (instead of mineral makeup) to make sure that you get everything off. This helps to remove traces of oil or dirt that can build up over time to clog the pores.

All AMPERNA® products are noncomedogenic and are designed to actively help to calm and soothe breakouts.

When you suffer from sudden sensitised flare-ups or from skin conditions such as perioral dermatitis, dermatitis, eczema and rosacea, you may want to temporarily just cleanse with water.

Download AMPERNA®'s suggested skincare regime PDFs from our Regime page.


Have you used any cosmetics that contributed towards breakouts? Did you find out which ingredient was leading to the irritation?


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