I’m often asked, “Is makeup bad for my skin? Is my makeup clogging my pores? What’s the best way to remove it at night? Is it okay to use every day? What’s the best kind to use for my skin type?” The fact is, you’re wearing makeup on your face for twelve to fifteen hours a day, so for better or worse, it’s definitely affecting your skin more than you might realize. This is why it’s so important to know how your choices are affecting the skin on your face.
In this post, I’ll share twelve common mistakes people make when choosing, wearing, and removing makeup, including my expert tips and solutions to ensure your skin stays in the best possible health with fewer lines, wrinkles, blemishes, and clogged pores.
Twelve Common Makeup Mistakes That are Hurting Your Skin (and How to Fix Them)
1. You Shouldn’t be Going to Bed With Your Makeup On
It’s important to know that your skin is incredibly dirty at night due to:
- sebum (oil) that secretes through your pores
- bacteria from touching your face all day with your hands and dirt under your nails (without even realizing it)
- makeup from setting powders, primers, blushes, and liquid foundations
Letting your skin marinate in dirt, oil, and makeup all day and night can lead to clogged pores, breakouts, and contribute to a dull-looking complexion. It’s so important to cleanse your skin every night and perform a nighttime routine for your skin type.
2. Don’t Count on Cleansing Wipes to Remove Your Makeup
Despite their convenience, I never suggest cleansing wipes for removing face makeup because they don’t truly clean the skin. Instead, they smear dirt, bacteria, oil, and makeup around without lifting anything off. Essentially, using a wipe is like applying cleanser to your face with soap and then not washing it off.
Keep reading to learn how to properly remove makeup from your skin!
3. Stop Wetting Your Skin Before Removing Makeup
Particularly when it comes to removing liquid foundation (and removing water-resistant sunscreens, too), using a cream or lotion-based cleanser is the best product to use for proper removal. However, if you wet your skin with water first and then apply your creamy cleanser, it will be diluted and the makeup will not break down very well, leaving you with unclean skin.
The best way to use a cleanser to remove face makeup is this way:
- Massage a cream-based cleanser onto dry skin (not wet) for thirty seconds.
- Wet your fingertips with water and massage through again for another thirty seconds.
- Rinse well with lukewarm water.
- For complete removal, wipe over the skin with a washcloth, baby washcloth, facial sponge, or cleansing cloth.
4. Stop Thinking Makeup is Bad for Your Skin and That You Need to Let it Breathe
For starters, the skin doesn’t have a respiratory system, so the concept of the skin “breathing” is a myth. The real truth is that face makeup, when in the form of powder or liquid foundation, gives additional protection from the sun (even if it doesn’t list an SPF number). Since protecting your skin from UV light during the day should be the first priority, makeup can be extremely beneficial. Of course, you’ll want to choose the right type of makeup for your skin type to ensure it’s the best fit.
5. Be Careful When Using Primer, Liquid Foundations, Cream Blushes, and Cream-Based Highlighters if You’re Prone to Clogged Bumps
Look at the ‘closed comedones’ in the image below. That’s the skin of singer, Katy Perry. She’s someone who most certainly wears a lot of makeup, and as a result, it is causing her pores to get clogged. (Eventually, those can turn into blemishes as you can read about here.)
If you notice this is showing up on your own skin and you’re using primer, liquid foundations, cream blushes, and cream highlighters, then one or the combination of all of these might be the cause. I certainly understand wanting to have glowing, shiny, light-reflective, and poreless-looking skin, but a lot of the products used to achieve this look will contain many oils and emollients that might not be compatible with your skin. Add in the fact that it’s staying on your face for hours a day, and if you’re a skin type #1, #2, #3, and #4, you’re sure to run into problems. I see this all the time with my clients who wear a lot of makeup.
My best suggestion (if you might now suspect these to possibly be a problem for your skin), is to limit their use and try to figure out which makeup is the cause. There is no one perfect primer or liquid foundation makeup that will work for every skin type, so you just have to experiment. I have found that it’s usually just trial and error. However, I did do an experiment to come up with a list of the best foundations for oily skin.
Regardless, after cleansing your skin at night, applying a product like Rapid Response Detox Masque can be really amazing for keeping pores clean and preventing makeup from causing clogged bumps and blemishes. Just five minutes of it on the skin can do the trick.
Consider looking for makeup formulas that avoid these potentially pore-clogging ingredients (when used in high concentrations):
- Acetylated Lanolin
- Butyl Stearate
- Coal Tar
- Cocoa Butter
- Coconut Oil
- D & C Red Dyes
- Decyl Oleate
- Grapeseed Oil
- Isopropyl Isostearate
- Isopropyl Linoleate
- Isopropyl Myristate
- Isopropyl Neopentanoate
- Isopropyl Palmitate
- Isostearic Acid
- Linoleic Acid
- Linseed Oil
- Myristyl Myristate
- Oleic Acid
- Oleyl Alcohol
- Soybean Oil
Note: I’m generally not into lists like these, and I even hesitated to put this up as so many people take these lists very seriously. The truth is, it’s hard to stereotype ingredients when they all have a specific function, and in the case of the above, these help with spreadability so they have a good purpose. However, in high concentrations, they might (and I say might) cause some problems for some people. As for silicones used in makeup (and skincare), you might be surprised that not all are problematic. Read my post to learn if silicone ingredients cause breakouts.
How Do You Get Rid of These Clogged Bumps?
When it comes to getting rid of these clogged pores once you determine and eliminate the cause, along with adding in a well-formulated, pore-clearing acid-based serum with salicylic acid, should help to diminish these. Read my complete guide to clearing clogged pores—once and for all.
6. Don’t Allow Your Makeup to Interfere With the Natural Healing Process of a Blemish
The goal with any blemish is to make it go away as fast as possible with the least amount of scarring, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that your makeup could be causing a problem. When you have a blemish, there is infection and inflammation, and when makeup and concealer are applied, the oils and synthetic perfumes can travel into the blemish and cause further aggravation. (In addition to touching your face all day with dirty hands!) After applying sunscreen as the last step in your morning routine, wipe the affected area clean with a damp cotton swab. Then, apply a thin layer of a product like Daytime Blemish Gel, an antibacterial gel. This creates an invisible seal over the blemish to prevent makeup applied afterward from disrupting the healing process. Plus, it has other soothing and inflammation-reducing ingredients.
7. You Shouldn’t be Mixing Your Foundation Makeup with Sunscreen
Anytime you purchase a product and you alter its formula, it can change its effectiveness. In the case of sunscreen, it is important to know that the product has gone through rigorous testing and approval by the FDA to ensure it’s truly protecting your skin from the sun. Of all the products you want to be effective, sunscreen is the one. If you’re wanting a little coverage, my suggestion is to find a lightweight foundation and apply it over your daily sunscreen.
8. Limit Your Use of Oil-Based Eye Makeup Removers
Removing eye makeup before bed is always necessary, but unless you’re wearing waterproof mascara and need the oil to remove it, I suggest you get into the habit of using a water-based formula. The problem with oil-based removers is that you risk the oil traveling into the eyes and causing unnecessary undereye puffiness. Secondly, if it’s not washed off really well afterward, any eye product applied over top may not be able to absorb as deeply.
Of all skincare ingredients, oils have the largest molecules and anything with a smaller molecule like and eye cream will have a hard time penetrating through.
It’s the same way I feel about how so many people are using face oils all wrong.
9. Stop Tugging on Your Eyes When Removing Mascara and Eye Makeup
Why is the eye area the first place on the face to show aging? It’s because the skin is very thin and it gets the most wear and tear from smiling, squinting, and rubbing. (For those who are taking in and out their contact lenses every day, this adds additional stress to the skin tissue.) It’s very important to be mindful of being delicate with the skin, especially when removing eye makeup. I recommend trying to limit the use of waterproof mascara since it’s so much harder to remove.
Pro tip: Saturate a cotton pad with an oil-free liquid eye makeup remover and hold it onto the eye area for twenty seconds to melt away your eye makeup and mascara before gently wiping away.
Watch how to properly remove your eye makeup without damaging the skin around your eyes.
10. Avoid Removing Your Makeup Immediately Before Going to Bed
What I mean by this is that, ideally, you should perform your nighttime skincare routine earlier in the evening rather than right before your head hits the pillow.
There are two benefits to performing your routine earlier in the evening.
- You’re less likely to be lazy if you do it earlier. Meaning, you might skip out on doing a post-cleanse mask or applying eye cream if you’re exhausted.
- Your skin will be in the best possible place to benefit from your nighttime products. It was always thought that the skin’s repair processes kick in during sleep but it’s now believed to occur when the day goes from light to dark. I discuss this further in this video.
Do your routine earlier and your skin will be better off for it.
11. Don’t Neglect Your Makeup Brushes
I know it takes effort, but if you’re not washing your makeup brushes at least once a month, they are truly filthy and are introducing dirt, oil, and bacteria to your skin every time they are touching your face. This is definitely not helping your skin’s health. Ideally, you would be washing them weekly (or even more often for acne-prone skin types), but if you’re hardly ever washing them, then make it a goal to at least do it once a month. (As I’m writing this, it’s also a reminder that I’m long overdue for washing mine!)
If you’re using a Beauty Blender, be sure to wash those after each use and replace it after three months.
12. Stop Wearing the Same Makeup You’ve Been Wearing for Years
Okay, so this isn’t necessarily a skin issue, but it’s something good to consider. If you’ve fallen into a rut with your makeup and are doing the same look day in and day out, it’s time to freshen things up and get out of a rut. Also, the advancements in makeup in the past few years have been incredible. Primers (as long as they aren’t causing your pores to get clogged) can truly work miracles for giving your skin a much smoother and smaller-pored look. For my skin (I’m a skin type #2), I really like the Dr. Brandt Pores No More Refining Primer as well as Benefit’s POREfessional. These make a significant difference under foundation makeup.
Schedule an appointment with a professional makeup artist and be open to the idea of change.
My wise friend Bethany, an image consultant, says it best: “There is nothing more aging for a woman than never changing her look.” Don’t be afraid of change. Fear of change could be what is holding you back from being your best, most vibrant-looking, youthful self.
So, there you have it. My professional recommendations for things that I don’t do to my skin with makeup, and things that you might consider avoiding, too.
Having healthy-looking skin is not just about using the perfect skincare routine for your skin type, wearing sunscreen, and limiting your time outdoors, but also about having good daily habits that are in the best interest of your skin.
Despite people wearing less makeup now during this pandemic, I hope this gave you some good things to think about!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”