OK, Exactly How Bad Actually is Makeup for Your Skin?
Main Image – Angelrober/Stocksy
If you’ve ever had a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that your foundation/concealer/mascara might actually be bad for your skin, you’re definitely not alone.
There have been whispers whirling around for years that makeup could cause everything from ageing to acne and inflammation, to name but a few.
But is this the truth, or are we just labouring under a beauty myth?
As a girl who enjoys her makeup, I wanted to get an answer to this one once and for all.
To help out and solve my unanswered makeup questions, I’ve called in advanced aesthetic doctor Dr Sebastian Bejma, and biochemist and aesthetician Valerie Aparovich for the lowdown.
The makeup myth
Luckily, the experts confirm that makeup can’t *really* damage your skin, but that the consequences really come in if you don’t remove it properly or partake in a skincare regimen afterwards.
“Generally it’s not makeup that damages the skin, but inadequate skincare prep, inadequate makeup removal, and using makeup products that are unsuitable for your skin type,” says Aparovich. “If you’re applying and removing makeup correctly, then wearing makeup daily can’t be seen as treating your skin badly.”
“Complete nightly makeup removal is crucial to maintain skin health and visual appeal,” she adds.
The expert continues that double-cleansing is always recommended when you’ve been wearing makeup and/or SPF – one cleanse as a first step to break down and remove products on the skin, and a second to actually cleanse the skin underneath.
And, if you think one cleanse is enough, then you’d be surprised at how much makeup can remain on your skin!
“Removing makeup superficially is better than not removing it at all, but the residue can still compromise the skin, causing blocked pores, blackhead formation, inflammation, irritation, and promoting dullness, an uneven complexion, and dehydration,” comments Aparovich.
“Besides, your night-time skincare products will be unable to fully penetrate the skin, meaning it won’t be able to replenish its moisture levels, soothe, and rejuvenate itself.”
Dr Bejma also tells us about the importance of makeup hygiene to keep your skin in its optimum condition. “By this, I mean to avoid using expired makeup and to ensure that brushes and applicators are cleaned or changed regularly.”
Yep, I’m definitely guilty of not cleaning my makeup brushes often enough.
And it’s not just your makeup tools that need an overhaul every so often, your makeup also has an expiration date. “Dr. Davis says these products are contaminated the moment they are opened. ‘Once a product has been opened, it starts to chemically dissolve, and it also gets exposed to the environment,'” says Mayo Clinic.
Dr Davis also says that she recommends “patients that they go through their cosmetic drawer every six months and get new products.”
Handle with care
Is there anything in makeup itself though that could cause problems?
It turns out yes, and it comes down to keeping an eye on ingredients.
Both experts confirm that alcohols are not beneficial in any way to the skin, with Dr Bejma revealing that they can cause dryness, peeling and flakiness, or do a 360 and stimulate the skin’s oil production, leading to excess sebum. Either way, it’s not something you want to experience.
Dr Bejma also advises avoiding formaldehyde-related preservatives, as they can aggravate the skin. The most common one?
“Oxybenzone. It’s found in sunscreens and can cause allergies and even disrupt hormones – so always check the label of your sunscreen before using it,” he says.
Cleveland Clinic says that “The FDA also called into question the safety and effectiveness of the majority of chemical sunscreen ingredients. It proposed that more research should be done” on ingredients in SPF, including oxybenzone.
Shopping for your skin type
Ok, now we know that makeup isn’t generally a recipe for skin problems but that some ingredients can cause problems.
What about for each specific skin type though?
“Those with dry skin require extra hydration in their makeup products to prevent tightness, patchiness, and a cakey look,” says Aparovich – so consider a serum or liquid foundation with skincare benefits rather than a solid or powder offering to keep your skin hydrated.
“Oily and combination skin types are naturally more prone to breakouts and clogged pores, so they need makeup products without any comedogenic ingredients in the formula,” comments Aparovich.
“The ingredients with high comedogenicity rankings are Theobroma Cacao (Cacao) Seed Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Elaeis Guineensis (African Oil Palm) Oil, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Isopropyl myristate, Myristyl myristate, amongst others.”
Aparovich also recommends those with oily skin use oil blotting sheets, rather than setting powder.
“People with oily skin often tend to apply setting powder to combat shininess repeatedly. Although powders can temporarily mattify oily complexions, absorbing sebum and preventing the makeup from sliding off, they can also create a dense surface mixed with sebum and sweat, which can clog pores.
“The best solution to smooth the makeup and achieve an oil-free look are oil blotting sheets, which help absorb excess sebum without adding another layer of makeup to your skin and over-compromising your pores in the process.”
Dr Bejma also stresses the importance of wearing SPF. “Many people assume that because their foundation contains SPF that it’s protecting their skin from the sun’s harmful rays. However, whilst many foundations do indeed contain SPF, it doesn’t provide enough coverage for adequate sun protection, so it’s always important to wear a separate SPF before applying makeup.”
The ‘break days’ breakdown
I’d often been told that skin needs to ‘breathe’ in between makeup use (ie, give myself a couple of days of makeup-free skin each week). But it seems this one is yet another beauty myth.
Aparovich reveals that it’s not usually necessary to take a break from makeup to benefit your skin, telling us that well-formulated cosmetics with skincare ingredients and SPF don’t tend to impact the skin negatively. “If your lifestyle requires wearing makeup regularly, your skin should be fine in the long run with quality products and thorough cleansing,” she adds.
There is an exception though; Aparovich doesn’t advise wearing heavy evening makeup every day.
“If you’re applying several layers of heavy cosmetics, such as primers, foundations, concealers and setting powders, and wearing them all day every day, then they can create a thick mantle on the skin’s surface and compromise its barrier functions,” she says.
“This can affect your skin’s metabolic and detoxifying processes within the cells, which can lead to degraded skin texture and a lacklustre complexion over time.”
Medical News Today advises that “several substances can play a role in skin aging and damage. Removing or avoiding these substances as much as possible can help maintain skin health.
“There are many things a person can do to promote healthy skin, such as cleansing the skin, staying hydrated, and adopting lifestyle changes such as exercise and avoiding smoking,” it adds.
A cardinal beauty sin
And finally, we know that skin repairs itself at night, so what *actually* happens if you fall asleep with your makeup still on?
This one gets a firm warning from Aparovich.
“Removing all traces of makeup before bedtime is crucial for the skin’s repair mechanisms to work efficiently,” she says. “As we sleep, regenerative processes take place in the skin, accompanied by the synthesis of vital substances and increased blood and oxygen supply to the cells, which promote its rested and refreshed appearance in the morning.”
So you can kiss goodbye to waking up looking as fresh as a daisy!
Just think about where you’ve been in the daytime too – you may have been in contact with air pollutants, particularly if you live in a city, which you’re then smothering all over your pillow. Yum.
“Makeup products mixed with pollutants and sebum will lead to pore blockage, resulting in blackheads, inflammation, and recurring breakouts,” warns Aparovich.
And there’s more. If you’ve ever not bothered to remove your eye makeup at the end of a long day, think again.
“When not removed adequately, eyeliners, mascaras, and eye shadows can cause meibomian gland clogging, which may result in inflammatory conditions such as allergic conjunctivitis and irritant contact dermatitis,” says Aparovich.
In a nutshell? Take your makeup off at the end of every day – and your skin will thank you for it.
It’s good to know that makeup doesn’t generally damage skin.
As long as we remove it properly at the end of every day by double cleansing and partaking in a night-time skincare regimen – whatever that looks like to you – our skin should thank us.
Having said that, I’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on some of the ingredients in my makeup in future. Now, off to deep cleanse my makeup brushes!
Meet the experts
Valerie Aparovich is a certified aesthetician, biochemist, and science team lead at OnSkin, a science-backed cosmetic consultant that provides a safety evaluation of cosmetic products and complete ingredient list analysis.
Dr Sebastian Bejma is an advanced aesthetic doctor and MD of Dr Bejma Medical Clinic, where he offers a range of sophisticated and pioneering technology treatments in order to provide patients with a full 360 approach to their skin health and aesthetics.