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All About Acne – Part IV: Cosmetics for Acne-prone Skin

  • Posted on July 1, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Brand CollageAfter my last post I’m sure there was a lot of exasperation, like “what the heck IS safe to use?”  I wanted to give you a list of just some of the foundations I’ve found that do not have the ingredients that may cause irritation and breakouts.  Obviously something may not have any of the Big Nasty ingredients and still irritate your skin, or you might not like the particular formula, but I didn’t want to leave you with only the bad.


High End Foundation


BareMineralsbareMinerals Original Foundation SPF 15

My favorite mineral foundation by far is the Bare Minerals Original Foundation with SPF 15.  This is the foundation that I used through my twenties, and still have in my rotation today.  It has only 5 ingredients.  That’s right – no huge paragraph of hard-to-read chemicals, just 5 simple ingredients – 2 of which are for sunscreen!  The fewer ingredients you have, the less of a chance for irritation.  It also offers 20 shade variations, and those shades are very forgiving.  That means that you don’t have to get a near-exact match in the way you’d expect with a liquid foundation.  They’re very blendable.

Now, I know the price for this foundation can be a deterrent for some.  There may be other mineral foundations out there that are cheaper.  I would caution you to make sure that the brand has no fillers or additional ingredients for shimmer or shine.  Check those ingredients!


Additional Products – I thought it would be helpful to mention that not only does bareMinerals make foundation, they also carry a line of concealers, blushes, bronzers, highlights and basically every type of cosmetic you may want.  Their loose mineral powders have the least amount of ingredients and are the ones that I would recommend.  You can’t go wrong checking out this line.


 Tarte Tinted Moisturizer

Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer

This is my other go-to face product.  It’s not a true foundation; the coverage is too light for that.  But it doesn’t claim to be.  I use this for light coverage when I just want to even out my skin tone and I want something more moisturizing.  This is definitely not a matte tinted moisturizer.  It does have a more satin finish to it.  Sometimes I will layer this with a dusting of the bareMinerals over top.  It goes on easily, doesn’t slide all over my face in a grease fest 20 minutes after applying it, and is great in the summer when I don’t want to have anything heavy on my skin.


Additional Products – Tarte, like bareMinerals, has a whole line of cosmetics you can check out.  Their blushes are beautiful and really do last all day like their name claims.  They have a silicone-free primer called the Clean Slate Flawless 12-Hour Brightening Primer which is a great alternative for oily skin.  Just stay away from the Aqualillies palette!


Drugstore Foundation

Let me tell you, within the category of drugstore brand cosmetics, the selection of “safe” foundations for acneic skin is very limited.  VERY.  LIMITED.  It was surprising to me how many foundations have names that would suggest that they are perfect for acne-prone skin, only to read the ingredients and see several horribly irritating and breakout-causing heavy hitters listed.  That’s why you have to ignore the names, the claims, and go straight for the ingredients.  If you are shopping online and the ingredients are not listed anywhere – skip it.  Move on.  Even if it’s called “Amazing Acne Clearing Best Thing For You Foundation.”  Resist the urge!


Neutrogena Skin Clearing

Neutrogena SkinClearing Oil Free Makeup

This foundation has salicylic acid in it, which is an ingredient that actually helps treat acne.  A word of caution about this one though – it also has Vitamins A, C, and E, which for some people can be irritating (especially the Vitamin A).  I have not tried this foundation personally, so I can’t talk to the formula or the wearability.  I’m basing this solely on the ingredients.


Neutrogena Healthy Skin
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Compact Makeup

Neutrogena gave me two options for the drugstore.  I promise, I looked at other brands and either was not able to get a list of their ingredients or they had some of the Big Nasties in them.  This foundation option has a whopping 55 SPF, which is awesome!  It’s rare that you will see an SPF that high in a foundation.  The down side is that there appear to only be eight color options, catering to the light and medium skin tones.  I haven’t used this foundation to be able to give you an idea of the coverage.  Like the Skin Clearing foundation, I am listing it here based on it’s ingredients.  I’d love to hear if you’ve tried this foundation, or any of the ones I have listed.



Bottom Line

Read the ingredients on any product that is going to be against your skin.  Don’t rely on the name of the product as a guide for what you should be purchasing.  Especially when you are looking at drugstore brands… it is a mine field out there.

It’s important to note that you may have a foundation that you love that might have a questionable ingredient in it.  The best way to test how your skin reacts to a product is to only add one new product at a time into your routine.  Or conversely only take one product away at a time from your existing routine and see if it changes things.  However, if you looked at your skincare and makeup and saw that the majority of the items had Big Nasties in them – STOP USING THEM NOW.  But if you are in love with a particular product, and don’t want to believe it may be hurting your skin, remove it and see if it helps at all.  If you’re following the skincare routine I outlined in my previous post here, your skin should be reacting positively to the changes.  If the foundation was breaking you out, you will see a change.

All About Acne – Part III: Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

  • Posted on June 26, 2013 at 3:46 am

If you haven’t already, check out the previous two posts I’ve written in my series about acne:  All About Acne – Part I:  What Is It and What Causes It? and All About Acne – Part II:  Treatment and Skincare Routine.

Ingredients Collage

Now let’s talk ingredients.  Most people are more aware of ingredients when it comes to our cooking,  but when we walk through the makeup aisles of our favorite stores we tend to be focused on all of the names and claims and rarely take a moment to look at the actual contents of the products.  Fancy packaging and buzz words can sucker anyone into picking up something that might not be the best thing for their skin.

When you have acne or acne-prone skin, ingredients become even more important.  You have to become a detective of sorts and quickly scan ingredient labels, looking for the Big Nasties as I like to call them – the top pore clogging, acne causing, face irritating ingredients.

Keep in mind that a lot of ingredients have similar names but completely different levels of irritation.  Example:  Octyl Salicylate is like a zero out of five on the comedogenic (meaning clogs pores and causes acne)/irritation scale, whereas Octyl Stearate is a five out of five.  It can be confusing and frustrating, but trust me – if you look for the Big Nasties on your cosmetics labels and make some changes if you find you’ve got some shady products in your cabinets, your skin will love you for it and you will clear up the acne even faster.


The Big Nasties – Top Pore Clogging, Acne Causing Ingredients to Avoid

**Remember:  You are looking for these SPECIFIC ingredients to avoid in a product.  Some ingredients have similar names, or are in the same family of the nasties listed but are safe.


Lanolins  (Ranked 4 out of 5 on Comedogenic Scale)

This is used in many soaps, cosmetics and ointments because it is so easily absorbed by the skin.  What is it?  Wool grease.  Literally the fatty wax secreted by sheep’s skin that coats their wool.  Ewww.  Sounds kind of gross when it’s spelled out like that, right?

Specific Versions to Avoid 

  • Acetylated Lanolin
  • Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
  • PEG 16 Lanolin


Isopropyl Myristate (Ranked 5 out of 5 on Comedogenic Scale)

This bad boy and it’s evil band of brothers are synthetic oils that are readily absorbed by the skin.  Even though they are oils, they lessen the greasy feel of cosmetics and give them a sheer, slick feel.  Sounds great right?  Except that it is such an aggressive penetrator that it is the main ingredient in most rust removers.  Yes.  Rust removers.  Not so appealing now.

Specific Versions to Avoid

  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Isostearyl Neopentanoate
  • Isopropyl Isosterate
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Isopropyl Linolate
  • Isostearyl Isostearate
  • Myristyl Lactate
  • Myristic Acid
  • Stearyl Heptanoate


Algae (Ranked 5 out of 5 on Comedogenic Scale)

Now, algae in it’s many forms is not a bad ingredient.  It’s just bad for people who have acne or acne-prone skin.  It helps combat dehydration, is packed with minerals and acts as an antioxidant.  Unfortunately, it can be irritating to the skin, cause blackheads and whiteheads, and aggravate existing acne.

Specific Versions to Avoid

  • Algae Extract
  • Red Algae
  • Blue Algae
  • Kelp
  •  Algin
  • Sodium Alginate
  • Alginic Acid
  • Anything starting in “Laminaria”

Other Heavy Hitters to Avoid (Oils, Alcohols, Pigments)

This is a final quick list of other irritating, potentially acne causing ingredients to look for and avoid.  Unfortunately these are heavily present in a lot of drugstore foundations and moisturizers.

  • Butylene Glycol – This ingredient is on the “watch list.” It’s a common ingredient that has been known to irritate sensitive skin, even though it is a 2/3 on the Comedogenic Scale.
  • Laureth-4
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Potasium Chloride
  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Isodecyl Oleate
  • Ceteareth 20
  • Isocetyl Alcohol
  • Isocetyl Stearate
  • Hexadecyl Alcohol
  • Octyl Stearate
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Peach Kernel Oil
  • Coconut Butter
  • Linseed Oil
  • D&C Red #30
  • D&C Red #36


LabelsProducts That May Break You Out

I wanted to include here a short list of some popular products on the market that contain one or more of the ingredients I listed above.  If it’s something you use and love, I’m sorry!  It may be working against you.  I’m not saying it is the cause of your acne, but it’s something to check out.  If what you use is not listed here, it doesn’t meant that it doesn’t contain any ingredients above.  One thing that I learned is that there are a LOT of drugstore cosmetics that have multiple Big Nasties in their ingredients.  It would be a huge list.  The best thing you can do is look at what you’re currently using to be sure.


Revlon ColorStay Foundation – Contains Butylene Glycol and Sodium Chloride.

L’Oreal True Match Foundation – Contains Butylene Glycol, Isostearyl Neopentanoate, and Sodium Chloride.

MAC Studio Fix Fluid – Contains Butylene Glycol and Algae Extract.

MAC Mineralize Satin Finish Foundation – Contains Butylene Glycol and Potassium Chloride.

Neutrogena Visibly Even Foaming Cleanser – Contains Myristic Acid.

Noxema Triple Clean Antibiotic – Contains Myristic Acid.

Clearasil Daily Face Wash – Contains Myristic Acid.

Laura Mercier Secret Concealer – Contains Isopropyl Palmitate.

Smashbox High Definition Liquid Concealer – Contains Butylene Glycol and Sodium Chloride.


Bottom Line

I know that I gave you a lot of ingredients and that it can be a little overwhelming.  Take some time to look at your foundation, concealer, moisturizer – everything you put directly onto your skin – and make sure that something you are using to cover up your acne isn’t actually causing it or making it worse.  The best thing to do is try removing the particular item from your routine and see if your skin responds positively to the change.