Wearing Makeup with Acne and NOT Irritating the Skin

wearing makeup with acne without irritating the skin | Mirra Skincare

So I break out, as one normally does sometimes, right? And then I wear makeup to cover up my acne. But then I break out again. Ah, here goes the vicious cycle of your makeup concealing yet causing blemishes. Is there a balance in this? Which products are to blame? Fear not, you shall have your answer soon!

Why makeup can be bad for acne and key practices to avoid breakouts

Makeup can clog our pores and irritate the skin. There’s no avoiding it. When we put on concealer to cover our latest breakout, we can be exacerbating our skin condition, especially since breakouts make our skin more sensitive to irritation (1). 

Another pitfall to wearing makeup with acne is that we often introduce bacteria to our skin. Be honest, how many times do you wash your brushes? Many of us don’t wash them as much as we should, leading to a buildup of bacteria and the development of bumps on our skin (2). 

Lastly, failing to remove makeup can cause acne. Don’t you ever want to pass out after coming home? I sure do. But not taking off your makeup before you sleep will make your skin cry out in pain. 

Best habits when you want to wear makeup with acne:

  1. If the breakout is still fresh, let it heal before you conceal (1).
    • Treat it like you would an open wound.
  2. ALWAYS ALWAYS remove your makeup at the end of the day
    • Use a makeup remover and follow up with your cleansing ritual (2). You may be interested in double cleansing!
  3. Clean your brushes at least once a week (3).
    • Your skin and makeup brushes will thank you.
  4. Don’t apply makeup with your hands
    • Not only can this introduce bacteria to your makeup products, but the oils from your hands will also transfer to your face, causing acne.
  5. If you notice a certain product causing acne, DROP IT
    • You know your skin mood the best. You can even patch test your product beforehand (5). On a clean patch of your face or hand, apply a small amount of product and leave it on for about a day. If you experience any irritation at all, you know that the product just isn’t working out.


The Guide to Wearing Makeup with Acne

Now that we got general guidelines out of the way, let’s go step-by-step into formulation recommendations.


Yikes. If there was a controversial makeup product when it comes to acne, its name would be primer. We often use primer as a way to create a smooth base for the skin. The downside? It can clog pores (4).

Some derms recommend total avoidance of the product (1). Others are okay with primers as long as the ingredients are non-comedogenic and work towards acne prevention. The ideal primer for acne-prone skin gently exfoliates the pores but still hydrates the skin (4). If you opt-out of using primer, be sure to moisturize your face before applying foundation.


Again, the keyword to look for in your formulas is non-comedogenic. Look for light-weight, oil-free foundations that can conceal while letting your skin breathe. Dermatologists advise against super heavy and liquidy foundations (1). 


Concealer is honestly my best friend. When we look for concealers, there are so many options, so what do we choose? Look for a concealer that is non-comedogenic, oil-free, and formulated with acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid. (Seeing a trend here?) Try to avoid drying ingredients such as fragrance and certain alcohol-based ingredients (6).

When it comes to applying concealer, it’s important to find an exact match for your skin type. Furthermore, using a color corrector underneath is an absolute game-changer when it comes to covering up blemishes. Find a green color corrector to block out redness (7).


Be on the lookout for D & C Red 3, 30, 36,40, 27 in your blush (11). These synthetic red dyes are particularly irritating for sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Does consistency (powder, mineral, cream product) matter?

Eh. I see conflicting evidence everywhere. Some sources say powder clogs pores while others say that powder particles aren’t as pore-clogging as liquid products. Some say mineral makeup is more natural and better for the skin while others call B.S. due to certain ingredients and particle size (8).

Your best bet is to search for acne-friendly makeup by scanning the ingredients rather than the consistency. What works best for one person may not work well for another, so testing is also crucial.

wearing makeup with acne and not irritating the skin infographic Mirra

Wearing makeup with acne takeaway:

  • You can’t go wrong with non-comedogenic, oil-free, and acne-fighting ingredients
  • Check out EWG to see if your favorite products are skin-friendly

4 Ingredients that will bother acne-prone skin

This is not the whole list by any means, but here are four major players.

1. Fragrances

I love nice-smelling things as much as the next person, but fragrances are a huge no-no for sensitive, acne-prone skin. They can be irritating, and you might actually find that you’re allergic to a certain one. The safest option is just to go fragrance-free.

2. Silicones

I mentioned this earlier, but silicones are surprisingly found in a lot of beauty products such as primers. Silicones are comedogenic, so steer clear (11).

3. Mica

Mica is commonly found in powder makeup. It’s a known irritant to sensitive skin (10).

4. Lanolin

Lanolin is literal sheep sebum and will definitely cause breakouts (11).  



Wearing makeup with acne can be challenging, but the payoff is so worth it. You don’t have to choose between skincare and makeup; you can have both! Just make sure to be informed about what’s in your makeup. If you don’t know where to start, check out EWG’s website and find their take on your current products. 

Written by Jessica Lu


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  1. https://www.self.com/story/is-makeup-over-acne-harmful 
  2. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/makeup#:~:text=Since%20acne%2Dprone%20skin%20is,acne%20patients%20to%20wear%20makeup.
  3. https://www.allure.com/story/how-clean-are-your-makeup-brus#:~:text=How%20often%20should%20you%20clean,legendary%20makeup%20artist%20Bobbi%20Brown.
  4. https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-primers-for-acne-prone-skin-with-derm-approved-ingredients-13166500#:~:text=Primers%20are%20a%20necessarily%20evil,when%20you%20have%20sensitive%20skin.
  5. https://seoulmamas.com/how-to-patch-test-a-cosmetic-product/
  6. https://www.prevention.com/beauty/makeup/g26558202/best-concealer-for-acne/
  7. https://www.self.com/story/how-to-conceal-pimple#:~:text=Color%20correctors%20are%20%E2%80%9Cso%20helpful,cover%20dark%20spots%20very%20well.%E2%80%9D
  8. https://kjbennett.com/mineral-makeup-fact-fiction/
  9. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
  10. https://www.insider.com/makeup-for-acne-skin-dermatologists-2017-10
  11. https://www.byrdie.com/makeup-to-avoid-for-acne-prone-skin-4777095#fragrances

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