Cosmetics & acne


Sunday, June 05, 2016

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THE question is often asked – is my acne made worse by my cosmetics? At the outset it should be made clear that there are some women who can put anything on their faces and never break out with acne, and then there are others for whom the slightest touch will cause an outbreak.

We spend a lot of money to have clean, clear, beautiful skin free of all black spots and scars. And women have used cosmetics as a cover-up from time immemorial to hide flaws on their skin.

We should not dismiss this completely, as a lot of women feel more self-confident with their make-up on, and it helps them get through the day. And as acne is a disease that impacts our self-image and our feelings of worth, the use of cosmetics to cover flaws or faults in our skin is not to be decried.

In the past, doctors would prescribe preparations which were applied twice a day and we would always advise the patient to use the medication first and then apply the make-up over the medicine, and again at night, to carefully remove the make-up and then apply the medicine to the face before going to bed.

Nowadays we advise the patients differently as we are using a lot of Retinoid, for example Retin A, or Adapalene gel like Differin or Deriva or Epiduo, which are used at night. Therefore the patient can use their make-up in the day, remove it at night, and apply the medicine.

Acne caused by cosmetics has its own name – acne cosmetica, and in the past when a lot of cosmetics were very heavy and used a lot of mineral oil and petroleum jelly in their manufacture, we would get a lot of acne from them. But the times have changed and we no longer have these offending products in cosmetics today.

A word of advice to acne patients is to always read the label on cosmetic products; look for terms like non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, non-greasy or non-irritating. All of your make-up, from blush to foundation to eye shadow, must be non-comedogenic, or non-acnegenic, hypoallergenic, non-irritating, and oil-free.

Look for products which are mineral-based, that is, containing zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and silica. Both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide absorb excess oil and will hide inflammation and redness in the skin.


There are some people who think that moisturisers are not to be used by the acne patient. However, moisturisers are an essential part of skin care and there are some medicines like benzoyl peroxide found in Pernox or Epiduo, or the retinoids like Differin or Deriva or Epiduo which will dry out the skin and lead to irritation and some peeling. A moisturiser is essential and will help the skin to hold its water.

Look for products with hyaluronic acid or die methadone, but avoid at all costs heavy, greasy moisturisers with petroleum jelly, cocoa butter, cold cream etc.


You should use a scrub once or twice a week. Do not use a scrub which is too abrasive and which may damage your skin. A gentle, non-abrasive scrub is preferred. Make sure that it matches your skin type – oily, dry, or combination.


Use as little as possible and always remove it at night. Always carefuly blend it into the surface of the entire face and wait for it to dry before putting on the rest of the make-up.


Always try and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. Try and obtain a water-based product. Try also to get a light lotion. Avoid sunscreens with PABA or benzophenone, but instead look for sunblocks with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

If any make-up should cause your skin to become red, itchy or swollen, stop using it at once and check with your dermatologist.

Dr Persadsingh is a skin specialist and author of the book Acne in Black Women. He can be reached at

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