Updated 10/12/2021. I’m often asked, “Is makeup bad for your skin?” I’m never surprised when people ask this question, especially when there are so many people out there who avoid wearing a full face of makeup every day. They think wearing foundation clogs pores and “suffocates” the skin, so they need to go without it to let their skin “breathe.” The truth is that makeup isn’t as bad for the skin as people think. In fact, it can actually benefit the skin (yes, really!). Keep reading to learn more.
The Most Common Skin and Makeup Myths
As an esthetician, my number one goal is to get clients’ skin clear—free of blemishes and brown spots—so they don’t feel as though they have to hide under makeup. With that being said, I actually encourage my clients to wear foundation every single day, regardless of whether they’re going out or not. It’s actually one of 10 skincare rules I swear by! I’ll explain why, but first, let’s talk about the myths surrounding makeup.
Makeup Myth #1: Foundation Causes Clogged Pores and Breakouts
This isn’t necessarily true. As long as you’re using the right formula for your skin type, it shouldn’t cause any issues. If you have dry or mature skin, I suggest using a moisturizing liquid foundation. If you have normal to combination skin, I suggest using an oil-free liquid foundation. Let’s say you have oily and/or breakout-prone skin. In that case, I suggest using a powder foundation. (Here’s a list of the best foundations for oily, breakout-prone skin.)
Makeup Myth #2: Foundation Stops the Skin from Being Able to “Breathe”
A lot of people believe this myth, but I’m here to tell you that it’s simply that—a myth! The skin doesn’t respire the way our lungs do, so it’s not possible for makeup to “suffocate” it in the first place. I understand some people use the word “breathe” to indicate they don’t want something clogging their pores. In that case, choose the right one for your skin type and you’ll be just fine!
The Reasons Why You Should Wear Makeup Every Day
Reason #1: Foundation Offers Additional Sun Protection
Up until the age of 26, I lived in the North (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts). At age 26, I moved to the South (Dallas and then Austin, Texas, which is where I live now). One thing I noticed soon after arriving in Texas was how much better the quality of skin was for Southern women compared to Northern women. My clients who were 65 and older had a generally smoother texture with fewer signs of visible aging. How could this be? The Texas sun is strong and they’re outside more often, seeing as there’s no snow to trap them indoors in the winter. In theory, Southern women should show more sun damage, right?
Well, I figured it out. It’s because many Southern women wear makeup every single day and they have for years. Over time, makeup has been giving their skin an unknown advantage. You see, the ingredient used in most makeup is titanium dioxide. It’s also an ingredient commonly used in sunscreen. It acts as a barrier between your skin and the sun, protecting against harmful UV rays. How lucky are they to have been wearing sunscreen long before there was an awareness about the dangers of UV exposure?
Even if you wear makeup every day, sunscreen is still necessary. Makeup only serves as an additional barrier, not as the sole barrier. This is important since UV rays are dangerous. They’re also the number one cause of skin aging!
Reason #2: Foundation Offers Blue Light Protection
A study on visible light published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology found that metal oxides commonly used in foundation makeup offered significant protection against discoloration caused by visible light emitted from screens. In fact, this study found that foundation makeup did a better job at protecting the skin from blue light than traditional mineral sunscreens! Since we’re all spending more time in front of screens than ever, this is a pretty exciting discovery. (Read more about blue light and how it affects the skin.)
The Bottom Line
Because of the protective benefits of foundation makeup, I always wear it. On casual days, I wear a mineral powder. On days when I’m working or have an event, I wear a traditional foundation. Either way, I always have some kind of makeup layered over my sunscreen, and I’ve been doing this for years.
One more thing—you’re still getting protection from foundation makeup even if it doesn’t indicate an SPF number on the packaging. If there’s no number, all that means is the product wasn’t FDA-approved through testing as an official sunscreen (it all comes down to the brand’s decision on how they want to market their product). Most makeup contains titanium dioxide, which is a proven UV-protective ingredient and is used in many sunscreen formulas.
Just be sure you’re not relying on makeup alone for sun protection. Instead, think of it as an extra insurance policy for your skin! Remember, it’s much easier (and less expensive) to prevent wrinkles than it is to get rid of them once they appear.
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.”