Please note, by “acne prone,” this article is focusing on what is referred to as “common acne”/acne vulgaris. More serious skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and even severe forms acne such as cystic acne should be treated under the guidance of a dermatologist.
Confession time: I have breakout-prone skin. By breakouts, I mean acne. I have battled with it my entire life right up to this current moment. It is overall much better now, but my skin can still go from fabulously perfect and radiant to woefully broken out in seemingly a moment’s notice.
Whether you are suffering from teenage acne or if you are like me, and you are having “adult” acne, it sucks. That said, with proper care, product and makeup technique you really can lessen the impact of acne. Here then are some tips on skincare and makeup for breakout prone skin.
1. (Mostly) everything you’ve heard is true
All the basics you have heard over the years about NOT PICKING at acne breakouts, keeping your skin clean, keep your hands off of your face, changing pillow cases, etc, are true. Additionally — and you should do this whether you have acne-prone skin or not — keep your makeup tools clean. Also, eating well and adequate hydration is always the basis of good skin care, acne or no. (Science says that it is a myth that certain foods cause acne. I’m not a doctor so I will not go there, but suffice to say my skin begs to differ.)
2. Cleanse well but do not over do it
One thing people with acne prone skin often tend to do is go overboard trying to “dry” their skin out. As a makeup artist it is very common for me to see skin that is both oily and dehydrated. You need something that thoroughly cleanses, but does not strip the skin.
When not broken out: When I’m in maintenance mode, I like a non-medicated cleanser like Alba Botanica’s Good and Clean Daily Detox Foaming Cleanser. It clears away excess sebum (oil), lessens redness and irritation, but leaves the skin feeling refreshed and not overly tight. Good for sensitive skin as well (which my skin also can be).
During breakouts: I have to pull out the heavy guns and use a medicated cleanser. The long time winner for me has been Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser. The active ingredient is 10% Benzoyl Peroxide and it starts to clear me up pretty much immediately.
I, personally, cannot use a lot of Salicylic Acid-based products because my skin becomes sensitive. Most normal people, however, find salicylic acid less harsh on their skin than benzoyl peroxide. If BPO gives you a problem try a salicylic based product like Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser.
This really cannot be overstated. Skin NEEDS hydration, and if you give your skin what it needs, it will actually kick up less oil. In fact, I have mentioned before that I actually use facial oils. This may seem counter intuitive for someone with oily skin but it works. If that is more of a leap than you want to deal with, do get in the habit of using a good, hydrating moisturizer on a daily basis. Your skin will love you for it!
Philosophy’s Hope In A Jar is probably their most celebrated product. I even know of one punk-rocker who — while he was a guest judge on a TV show — would not let the makeup artists use any other products on him. Amongst the variations available nowadays are Hope in a Jar Oil Free and Hope in a Jar Daily SPF. In addition to keeping the skin hydrated, both are oil absorbing and leave a matte finish on the skin.
4. Focus on foundation, but do not cake it on
Makeup-wise, when you are in the midst of a breakout, the priority is to make the skin appear as smooth and even as possible. The tendency is to do a heavier overall application, but that can result in undesirable skin texture wherein you may actually bring out the flaws you are trying to hide. Heavy foundation applications may also cause increased oiliness and makeup slip. What you really want to pay attention to is formulation. Oil-based foundations are obviously out, but water-based foundations break down quickly and often do not give the coverage needed. When dealing with breakouts either on myself or on clients I like silicone-based foundations like Face Atelier Ultra Foundation.
If you are like me and hate the feeling of full-on foundation, many BB Creams also have silicone as an ingredient. For us deeper complexion gals I am LOVING Iman Cosmetics Skin Tone Evener BB Cream. It has become my daily go-to.
Warning — Science Alert: Since silicone molecules are larger than skin pores they sit on top of the skin minimizing pores and oiliness and providing a perfecting, protective barrier. You do not need as much product to get a more flawless finish and silicone foundations tend not to break-down as quickly (most makeup primers are silicone based).
5. For heavier/active breakouts you may also need to utilize concealer
Different artists have different techniques, I am a conceal AFTER foundation kinda gal (I like to see what the foundation covers first). I am not a fan of most of the “treat and conceal” concealers I have tried. The formulations are either too light to give real coverage, or the color selection is poor. I suggest going for a professional grade concealer that can get the job done. A little will go a long way, you will not need much because you’ll just be doing spot coverage the way pro artists do, and pro-grade concealers will last a full day into the evening/night. Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier both make excellent concealers and they make them in colors for every skintone, so when in doubt you can always turn to those classics.
6. Powder it up
When used correctly, a good powder smooths everything together for a flawless finish, and makes your makeup last at least twice as long as an un-powdered face. Once again Bobbi Brown (Sheer Loose Finish Powder) and Laura Mercier (Loose Setting Powder) are hard to beat in this category. Both offer the same types of powder that professional artists use made readily available in the mass market. And both leave the skin with a beautiful finish. I do give a slight edge to Bobbi Brown just because she has the colors that pro artists tend to use (pale yellow, golden orange, etc.). If, however, you find all of that too confusing just stick to colorless/translucent and call it a day.
7. Above all else, use clean practices!
All of the aforementioned products are for naught if you do not keep your products clean and you are not sanitary in your application practices. Think like a makeup artist…
- Wash your hands before you apply your makeup or otherwise handle your face.
- Sanitize your makeup after each use, using either alcohol or a sanitization product like Beauty So Clean (I personally just use 70% alcohol).
- Stop using your fingers/hands to get product out the container. Every time you do you are introducing bacteria into your product. Use products in pump bottles, or use a spatula to get to product in jars/pots.
- If you’re a sponge user, just use a new one every day (come on now, they are not that expensive) or if you find that wasteful (because it is) you can get a reusable sponge like a Beauty Blender, and just wash it thoroughly after each use.
- CLEAN YOUR BRUSHES WEEKLY AT MINIMUM. Makeup artists clean during and after every job. Brushes become a Petri dish if they are not washed regularly. Baby shampoo or shampoo-conditioner-in-one products will get it done, but I am quite partial to Clean Brush Shampoo which both deeply cleans and sanitizes your brushes.
What are YOUR favorite tips and tricks for dealing with acne prone skin?