Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Meet the team >

What Is The Acne Cosmetics Connection?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Acne and cosmetics are not necessarily incompatible. With a little planning, cosmetics can help you achieve smooth skin even while blemishes are still healing, but you will need to pay careful attention to your daily skin care routine. Here is what is required for effective use of cosmetics in the day of the life of a teen who has acne.

Woman Washing her Face
Always remember to wash off your makeup every night.


  • The most important thing to remember about applying cosmetics to acne-prone skin is to avoid transferring dirt and bacteria to clean skin.
  • Don’t use anyone else’s cosmetics1, especially if they come in a jar.
  • Always use a clean towel, or if that is not possible, use a clean part of a towel you (and no one else) has used before.
  • Always cleanse your skin before applying makeup.
  • It’s always best to use the fewest layers of makeup possible—preferably just one.
  • If you have a gym class or your work out, always take a shower within four hours. This prevents back acne.
  • Don’t forget to remove your cosmetics at night.
  • To maintain clear skin, use a complete acne care system like Exposed Skin Care.

Always Cleanse Your Skin Before Using Makeup

Even before you put on foundation makeup, the very first step in your beauty routine every morning has to be cleansing your skin. There are two essentials for cleansing your skin:

  • Don’t transfer dirt, grime, old cosmetics, or acne bacteria to your skin before or after you cleanse it. Wash your hands before you cleanse your face, and always pat your face dry on a clean towel.
  • Let your cleanser do the work. Rubbing and scrubbing will just injure your skin2 and force it to repair itself by making more oil.

You shouldn’t be able to feel your cleanser working. You can’t really feel dirt removal. What you can feel when a cleansing product makes your face tingle is the death of cells on your skin and in your pores, creating new debris that accumulates in new blemishes. Don’t forget to cleanse over your jawline and on your chin.

Moisturize If You Need It

Teens who have acne are often advised that they need to “dry out” their skin. They really don’t. They need to control excess oil on their skin. If your face tends to shine a few hours after you wash it then you probably have naturally oily skin and you don’t need moisturizer.

If your skin tends to get a duller, grayer color as the days goes on, however, and if you tend to have tiny blemishes on the sides of your face, then you may need to use a moisturizer after you cleanse your face. The purpose of a moisturizer is to lock moisture in your skin, not in your pores. The best products for dry skin on the sides of the face are made with a combination of oil and water.

Never use a moisturizer that contains alcohol3 as it will actually dry out your face. And don’t forget to use your moisturizer after you cleanse your face, when its moisture content is highest.

Foundation Is Fundamental

Foundation makeup4 helps you achieve an even texture and color across your entire face. You can even use foundation to cover up pimples without the often-recommending dabbing of green makeup over red pimples if:

  • You use a slighter more golden tone of foundation makeup than the closest match for your skin color if you have fair or light-brown skin.
  • You use a slightly darker brown tone of foundation makeup that the closest match for your skin if you have Asian or dark skin tones.

The advantage of using green makeup to mask a red pimple is that you can then cover up both the pimple and the green makeup with the foundation that is closest to your natural skin tone. The disadvantage of using green makeup to mask a red pimple is that it is, well, green. If you rub off your foundation makeup or perspiration dissolves it, you may have a green pimple on your face instead of a red one. And that’s kind of noticeable, too.

What Kind Of Foundation Should You Use?

The kind of foundation that will give you the best finish for your skin depends on whether your skin is dry or oily. If you have dry skin, you will tend to have fewer whiteheads and blackheads and more tiny pimples. If you have oily skin, you will tend to have more whiteheads and blackheads and fewer but larger pimples.

Foundation can cover all your acne blemishes, but the wrong product is likely to cause problems5 later in the day. If you have oily skin, use a powder or cream-to-powder foundation. This will keep it from streaking on your face. If you have dry skin, use a cream foundation. This will keep it from clumping, especially over pimples.

One Layer Is Always Better Than Two

The important thing to remember about foundation is not to overdo it. The more layers of cosmetics you put on your face, the more likely they are to clump, cake, flake, or streak. It’s always best to use just one layer of makeup if you possibly can.

Lip Care

Many women use lipstick and some men use lip gloss. There is probably no more problematic area of the face for cosmetics than the lips.

The wax and fragrances used in lipstick and lip gloss, as well as in lip balm, can easily accumulate on the cheeks and chin. The chemicals in these products irritate pores, and the waxes clog them. Many people who use lipstick, lip gloss or lip balm have a special problem with chin acne and acne at the corners of the mouth.

The best way to deal with this acne issue is to use lip products that are all about how your lips look—not about how they smell or taste. The fewer added ingredients there are in your lipstick, lip gloss, or lip balm, the less acne you will have on your chin.

Shaving Products

Many teen males shave. Especially if you have brown or black skin, it is extremely important never to use a dull razor6. It’s OK to use a safety razor, but replace it after two or three shaves. This keeps the razor from bending hairs into follicles that can become inflamed and cause an especially difficult form of acne known as acne keloidalis nuchae.

What about aftershave? If you have reddened skin over your nose and cheeks, don’t use any cologne or after-shave to avoid irritation of your skin.

If You Have Gym Class

If you have gym class, don’t skip your shower7. Sweat can accumulate under tight clothing and shrivel skin like a prune. If you don’t remove dead skin flakes that can get onto your pores while you are working out within four hours of your exercise session, they can get into your pores and cause back and chest acne.

Removing Makeup At Night

Wearing makeup all day won’t seriously set back your acne care. But you simply have to be able to use acne products like benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil at night to help acne heal.

The traditional way to remove makeup is with cold cream. The problem is, then you have to remove the cold cream. Choose a cleanser that removes all your makeup, but without any need to scrub your face8. Scrubbing at night is just as detrimental to your skin. After you pat your skin dry with a clean towel (or at least a clean area on a towel you have used before), then apply acne products that will work all night until it’s time to start the acne care cycle all over again.

It’s a lot easier to keep up with your acne skin care routine if you use a complete acne care system like Exposed Skin Care.


  1. 10 skin care habits that can worsen acne. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  2. Skin care for acne-prone skin. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). 2013.
  3. Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  4. Proper skin care lays the foundation for successful acne and rosacea treatment. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  5. Tailored acne treatments help women address adult acne with the added benefit of improving aging skin. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  6. Cowley K., Vanoosthuyze K. The biomechanics of blade shaving. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2016;38Suppl1:17-23.
  7. Back acne: How to see clearer skin. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  8. I have acne! Is it okay to wear makeup?. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
Comments 0
Comments (0)
Add Comment

Our Mission

To be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of clear, healthy skin.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!