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Makeup and Acne

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Acne Cosmetica

Whether it is to conceal the dark marks that are improving, conceal skin redness, or boost self-confidence, you might be using some makeup. Even though acne bumps can’t be covered by makeup, at least it doesn’t look all angry and red. I, too, used makeup when I had acne. It made me feel better.

Having said that, do note that there is a causative relationship between makeup and acne. Acne Cosmetica refers to acne caused by or aggravated by cosmetics. Although it was a major concern in the 1970s and 1980s where dermatologists reported a significant problem, it’s not as prevalent now with improved formulations.

Nonetheless, there are some cosmetic ingredients to avoid when shopping. Comedogenic ingredients are those that clog up your pores and make your acne worse. Manually checking an ingredient list for the presence of comedogenic ingredients can be tiresome, but should be part of the discipline if you want to maintain acne-free skin.

Cosmetic ingredients to avoid

The list is not exhaustive, but according to researchers, these ingredients are high on the list of comedogenic ingredients. Essentially, if you can avoid these ingredients, it would be best but if you are unable to, you may have to test it out on yourself or rely on reviews.

Researchers tested a list of ingredients on live rabbit ears to examine the comedogenicity and irritancy level. (Being an animal lover, I really hate it when cosmetics are tested on animals, which is why Skinlycious is against animal-testing.)

Below is the table of comedogenic ingredients:

Comedogenicity Table
Comodogenic Level Comedogenic Ingredients
Highly Comedegenic Isopropyl isostearate Myristyl Myristate Oleth-3
Laureth-4 Isopropyl Myristate
Comedogenic Acetylated Lanolin alcohol Isopropyl linolate Stearth-10
Isopropyl palimitate Lauric acid Cetyl Acetate
Isotearyl isostearate PEG 16 lanolin Cocoa butter
PPG 5 Cetetg 10 phosphate Myristyl heptanoate Coconut butter
Glyceryl-3-diisostearate Ethylhexy palimitate Isocetyl alcohol
Cetearyl alcohol + ceteareth 20 Oleyl alcohol
Borderline Wheat germ glyceride Oleth-5 PEG 8 Stearate
Evening primrose oil Laureth-23 Decyl Oleate
Dioctyl malate PPG 10 cetyl ether Cotton Seed oil
Hydrogenated vegetable oil Sulfated jojoba oil Corn Oil
Isosteary Neopentanoate Isodecyl oleate Avocado oil
PEG 200 dilaurate Water-soluble sulfer Sesame oil
PPG 2 myristyl propionate Sorbritan Oleate Mink oil
D & C red #3, #17, #30, #36 Glyceryl stearate SE Soybean oil
Myristic acid Stearic acid:TEA Shark liver oil
Butyl Stearate

My current choice of makeup

Currently, I am using Make Up For Ever’s Mat Velvet+ liquid foundation followed by their loose powder. This was highly recommended to me by my Make Up Artist friends. As these do not have SPF protection, I apply Skinlycious 8 in 1 Whitening Sunscreen SPF 41 PA++ before applying the liquid foundation. When I want my makeup to last longer, I add on Skinlycious 7 in 1 Pore Refining Hydrating Serum as a primer before my sunscreen.

In the past, I was using M.A.C. Pro Longwear Liquid Foundation followed by their Mineralize Foundation/loose powder. Even though M.A.C’s liquid foundation does contain one comedogenic ingredient, i.e. polyglyceryl-3 diisostearate, I was still using it as I really liked the coverage and color of M.A.C’s liquid foundation. I have tried other brands of liquid foundation but many either made my skin appear dry (enhancing lines) or cakey but M.A.C’s liquid foundation just glides on providing seamless coverage. However, I did notice that if I wear my M.A.C. makeup for a whole day, when I removed my makeup, I had little bumps (whiteheads) all over my face. I wasn’t too worried as I knew I can get rid of those bumps easily by applying Skinlycious Anti-acne solution. They would be almost gone by the next day after application.

However, I decided to switch to Make Up For Ever although I still prefer M.A.C’s coverage. I did notice the difference after the switch. No more little bumps after wearing makeup for a whole day. Thus, I am sticking to Make Up For Ever until I find something better.

Makeup Removal

Make sure that you do thorough cleansing and removal of your makeup. Even those with tinted moisturizer or sunscreen are considered makeup. Most facial cleansers are not sufficient for makeup removal. You would need to use a makeup remover before a cleanser unless the cleanser specifies that it is able to remove makeup.

Do you know that a cleanser can affect how fast your skin oils up?

I was trying out a pioneer brand of micellar water as a makeup remover. The next morning, I woke up with a very oily complexion. I have yet to wake up with oily skin ever since Skinlycious 7 in 1 Pore Refining Hydrator Serum has controlled my oily skin. It didn’t occur to me it was the Micellar Solution until my skin oiled up again by noon even after I had washed it in the morning. This had not happened to me for a long time.

Thereafter, I recalled how I was trying to formulate a cleanser for normal skin to add to the Skinlycious brand. We were testing out and trying different versions of sulfate-free cleansers with milder surfactants such as Coco Betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate. The first few versions I tried oiled me up by noon. My chemist and I worked closely to improve the formulations. I, with acne-prone and combination skin, have tried 10 different formulations, but all gave me an oily complexion though the last version was not as bad. My best friend, who has normal acne-free skin, went through the 10 rounds of testing with me. The first few versions made her normal skin oil up by noontime as well. However, the subsequent versions did not cause her skin to oil up. That was then when I learnt that a cleanser could totally change your skin structure, possibly altering a normal skin complexion to an oily one.

The birth of Skinlycious Makeup Remover

I don’t like oil and milk makeup removers as they leave an oily feeling on my face right after removing makeup. Since I couldn’t find a makeup remover that I liked, I decided to formulate one.

After 9 month of R&D, testing and getting feedback from my top customers, we finally launched Skinlycious Micellar Cleansing Water in September 2016. We went through rounds of testing as well as voting before we launch. We tested on acne-prone skin because testing on normal skin or even on animals just does not yield the same results. Details of how Skinlycious Micellar Cleansing Water was formulated can be read from this blogpost.

I am happy that I can remove makeup without having eeky after-feel. More importantly, it cleanses well and doesn’t oil up my skin.

Find out more about skinlycious cleansing water


Other Makeup Tips

Remember to Clean Your Makeup Brushes Regularly
You can clean your makeup brush with alcohol. Before I apply my loose powder or blusher, I would brush my makeup brushes on a cotton pad soaked with 70% alcohol to kill any bacteria. Let the alcohol evaporate (which is very quick) and use it thereafter.

Avoid Sponges / Cushions
The sponges and the current trend of cushions are breeding grounds for bacteria. I prefer using my clean fingers to apply foundation and brushes that I can sterilise with alcohol.


James E. Fulton, JR.
Comedogenicity and irritancy of commonly used ingredients in skin care products
J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem., 40, 321-333, November/December 1989

Draelos ZD1, DiNardo JC.
A re-evaluation of the comedogenicity concept.
J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006 Mar;54(3):507-12.