Last Updated on November 12th, 2019
We’re just getting the forum for this site set up, but our writer Robert Rister has been getting reader questions about acne for over a decade. Here are some classic questions that get asked over and over again.
A. Guys like Brad Pitt and James Olmos use makeup to cover acne, so there’s no inherent reason you can’t, too, just because you are a guy. If you aren’t familiar with foundation and powders and blush and so on, it’s best to start simple.
If you tend to have isolated breakouts in specific areas of your face rather than all-over acne, then concealer is your best friend. Concealer can come in many forms, including liquid, stick, and powder. Just choose whichever form you’re most comfortable with. Be sure to match the concealer to your skin tone. If you plan to use foundation as well, then it can be a few shades lighter than your skin without causing too much of a problem, but if you want to use the concealer on its own, then you’ll want to make sure it matches your skin tone well. If you have dark skin, you may have trouble finding concealer in the correct shade. We recommend Maybelline FitMe Concealer and NYX Professional Makeup Tinted Skin Veil because they both come in several darker shades, but for the ultimate variety, you can’t beat L.A. Girl HD Pro Concealer. Despite its unfortunate name, considering it is totally acceptable to use regardless of gender, it comes in an unbeatable 48 shades.
The next step up the coverup ladder is foundation. Foundation is just what it sounds like: it’s the first layer of makeup applied to the face after cleansing, patting dry, and moisturizer. If all you want to do is to cover up acne, however, you don’t necessarily have to use it all over your face. If you have dry skin (the kind of skin that tightens up and breaks out in small blackheads and pimples) you should use a liquid foundation. Powder foundation on dry skin can clump and cake. We recommend Neutrogena’s Skin Clearing Liquid Makeup. It actually contains o.5% salicylic acid, so it can fight acne while it conceals it. If you have oily skin you’ll use cream or powder foundation. Liquid foundation on oily skin can streak. One good option is bareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin Clearing Loose Powder Foundation. It also contains 0.5% salicylic acid but it won’t streak on oily skin.
Ideally, you would take a tiny bit of foundation makeup (about the size of an English pea) and put it on the back of your hand. Then you would stir the makeup using a makeup brush to break it up and dab bits of makeup on your blemish without touching it. Then you would use your thumbs to smooth out the makeup around the blemish to blend it into your skin.
You don’t absolutely have to use a makeup brush. You can use your fingers, but it is absolutely essential that you only put clean fingers in makeup. You don’t want to transfer bacteria from your hands into your makeup and then from your makeup back to your face.
Where can you get makeup? The people who run cosmetics counters in department stores and drugstores can be very helpful. They can help you select the right product and the right tint. Just be very sure to clean off the makeup every night and put acne care products on. The less time you spend wearing a cover-up the faster the blemish will heal.
A. No site, including this one, can give you a medical diagnosis. We can suggest the right questions, however.
One possible culprit is sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as sodium dodecyl sulfate and SLS. It’s added to countless oral care products and shampoos to keep the ingredients dissolved. The problem with SLS is that some people are very sensitive to it. The splash of mouthwash or toothpaste over your chin and the sides of your mouth can make you break out. The fix is simple, either stop using products that contain SLS, or make a point of washing your face after you use mouthwash or brush your teeth.
Another possibility is an intolerance to salicylates. These are aspirin-like compounds that are concentrated in dried fruit, especially raisins, blueberries, cranberries, baking powder, and most spices that are derived from the leaves of a plant, especially dill. While the foods that contain salicylates are otherwise good for you, you may have to cut back if they are making your face break out.
Q. Lately I’ve been having a problem with back acne. I don’t get pimples, but I get blackheads that nothing seems to budge. I’m not exactly a teenager. Next week I’ll turn 83. Do you have any suggestions for me?
A. First of all, happy birthday in advance. And be assured that back acne is a common problem after the age of 70.
People who get back acne after 70 tend also to be people who take medications that dry out the body in general. Diuretics and medications for Parkinson’s disease cause dryness all over the body. Autoimmune diseases, which are more common the older we get, also often cause dryness all over the body.
The skin on the back is unusually tough and get unusually dry. This makes it very tight around blackheads that can literally stay in the skin for years.
Probably the best way to deal with the problem is to try a product that contains foaming benzoyl peroxide. You don’t have to be able to reach your back to use it, as long as you can point it at the acne and spray. You leave the benzoyl peroxide foam on your back for five minutes and then take a shower to rinse it away.
Back acne usually requires benzoyl peroxide at any age. Benzoyl peroxide on your face can cause drying and redness and irritation, and when it dries out the skin on your face, new acne blemishes can follow.
Most people in their 70’s, 80’s, and beyond don’t have a problem with acne on their faces, so they should not use benzoyl peroxide on their faces. But if you have skin on your back that is so tough that you have stubborn blackheads, it is not likely that you will have any kind of negative skin reaction from benzoyl peroxide.
Nonetheless, don’t use benzoyl peroxide foam or any other acne care product all over your back without testing a tiny spot first. Apply just a dab of the product you choose to the skin on the inside of your forearm. Wait 24 hours. (For younger people, 8 hours is long enough, but sometimes in older people, skin reactions are delayed.) Then if there are no adverse effects from the test area, then try it on your back—but be sure to take a shower to get all of the product off your back within 5 minutes of application.
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