Is that a Blemish? Makeup and Its Relation to Skin Irritation

Paloma Basilio

Have you ever been caught in a situation when on the day of a big job interview or a date you look in the mirror and see a blemish waving back at you? In a frantic state you reach for the quick fix—foundation, concealer, blush, eye shadow, mascara, and lipstick. Your face is what you first present yourself with, and therefore, you want to make it as perfect as possible. But in doing so you may be causing more damage than good.

Nvate makeup skin irritation, irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, beauty and the brush by Malia Miglino

This is an example of irritant contact dermatitis.

Ever wonder what really goes onto your skin when you apply foundation, blush, or eye shadow? Or what it does to your skin? Makeup looks great when it is applied, but the effects of its application can be ugly if certain precautions are not taken. Many people use makeup to cover up imperfections such as blemishes or rashes, but what if the same makeup we are using to cover up skin issues is what is causing them?

Skin is the most exposed organ of the human body which is why we should take better care of it. Makeup is made of different types of chemicals which can cause allergic reactions to the skin. Irritant contact dermatitis is a mild allergic reaction where the skin feels an itchy or burning sensation, according to Discovery Fit and Health, and allergic contact dermatitis is a more serious allergic reaction to certain chemicals causing itching, swelling, or blisters.

To prevent skin irritations aesthetician for the Polyclinic in Washington, A. Morgan, recommends using “mineral makeup as it is non-comedogenic and works great on inflamed skin, as well as adding mild sun protection. It is better for acne and sensitive skin.”

“[We should] look up the ingredients to see what [makeup is] made up of,” makeup artist and founder of Beauty and the Brush, Malia Miglino, said. “Many people are allergic to Red Dye 40 and do not know it. A lot of makeup contains this dye, so if you notice that you are having issues this could be one of the reasons.”

Nvate makeup skin irritation, irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, beauty and the brush by Malia Miglino

This is an example of allergic contact dermatitis.

Imagine your nose being clogged with chemicals making it impossible to breathe well. Our skin works the same way, but instead of a nose there are thousands of little pores all over the skin. It is these pores that allow the skin to breathe. “Primers such as facial and eye shadow primers contain silicone which creates a coating over the skin, sealing it from sweat, making your skin un-breathable,” Miglino said.

Makeup such as foundation and powders are in direct contact with the skin causing chemicals to clog the pores resulting in breakouts. A helpful tip to keep in mind is to use clean application tools because as makeup builds up on brushes, bacteria is attracted to the brush. It is this bacterium that causes breakouts. Also, “pick an appropriate formulation for your skin and you can always ask for help from a good aesthetician,” said Morgan.

How to Choose the Right Makeup for Your Skin Type

Knowing your skin and what it likes and does not like is a good tip to keep in mind when searching for the right makeup.

Being in the makeup business, Miglino has come across countless makeup brands—having experienced some negative side effects when using a very popular, well-named brand. “I have found that MAC foundations, specifically their Studio FX makeup, have a tendency to make people break out and also have a cakier texture when applied making fine lines more apparent.”

Nvate makeup skin irritation, irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, beauty and the brush by Malia Miglino

Credit: Ambro

She also pointed out that on her clients she likes and always tries to use “oil-free products, mainly because it helps to fight against any breakouts and the end result is a less oily makeup application.”

“If you have oily skin, do not get products containing oil. If you have dry skin make sure you’re using products with moisturizer,” advises Miglino. “My tip to everyone is if you’re going to spend a lot of money on name brand makeup put most of that money into your foundation.”

If you are less trusting of mainstream makeup products, try Neutrogena, Clinique, or Bare Minerals, which have grown in popularity with their acne-fighting products. Miglino said these products have their perks. “Foundations that boast that they help against breakouts usually contain sialic acid which is what is in most acne-fighting creams.”

Miglino recommends using the Bare Minerals brand blush and eye shadows. However, she discourages the use of Bare Minerals foundations as they do not give much coverage. “I think the only useful mineral products are the blushes because they are light and blend easily and the eye shadows because they are so highly pigmented.”

Ultimately, makeup can be a fun thing to experiment with, but we must know what we are putting on our skin and how it can affect us. Before indulging in any new brand of makeup, know your skin and what causes it to have negative reactions. Less is more but, if you absolutely must wear makeup regularly, remember to always wash your face before going to bed “as your skin repairs itself at night,” according to Morgan, and drink lots of water to keep your skin hydrated. Your skin is like your nose and surely you would not enjoy sleeping with a clogged nose. Therefore, you should not enjoy sleeping with clogged pores.

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