Certain blusher shades may cause you to break out more than others. Say what? Absolutely mindblowing … but could it possibly be true?

Before we tackle that unbelievable bit of advice, let’s circle back to the critical issue at hand. We’ve all heard of that old chestnut about cosmetics causing acne, but can it really?

So, can makeup cause acne?

It’s an ugly truth, but the answer, unfortunately, is yes. In one disquieting study, 45 percent of the women tested reported adverse skin reactions to their everyday makeup, with 14 percent developing full-blown acne. Makeup-induced acne even has its own medical monicker: Say “acne cosmetica”.

How to tell if your spots are acne cosmetica or “merely” of the garden variety sort? For starters, you may have a case if your pimples present themselves as pale lumps (sort of like whopping whiteheads) clustered around your chin and cheeks. These breakouts also tend to linger on like an unwanted ex-lover; the result, it seems, of a vicious cycle of slapping on ever more makeup in a desperate attempt to camouflage said acne.

Okay, so now you’re thinking that yes, makeup might be to blame for your blemishes. What next? Here are some proactive steps you can take right now:

#1. Steer clear of these amber alert ingredients

Here’s the thing. There’s no such thing as “acne-proof” cosmetics, so the only recourse we have, really, is to do some skincare sleuthing of our own. Sure, it’s a pain to peruse the labels of everything you purchase, but with practice it’ll become second nature.

With that said, go ahead and memorise these alien-sounding names: Butyl stearate, isopropyl myristate and sodium lauryl sulfate.  Avoid this terrible trio as much as possible, particularly if they pop up in the first five ingredients on the label. Why? They’re proven pore-cloggers and will dramatically increase the likelihood of your makeup breaking you out.

#2. Light is right, and pink is for pimple (!)

Regardless of brand, my personal advice is to always gun for lighter formulas that explicitly advertise themselves as fragrance-free and non-comedogenic (that is, they don’t clog pores).

I have experts backing me up on my light-is-right approach, too. Take it from Teri Tay, Dermalogica Singapore’s education manager, who warns that glitter-festooned festive products are crummy for your complexion: “Generally, makeup that provides ‘full’ or heavier coverage will have a higher chance of causing breakouts.”

Look at these blusher swatches. One of them is more apt to cause acne

Now for a real doozy of a revelation. Remember how I said some blusher shades are badder for your skin than others? It turns out that – drumroll please – pink hues may produce pimples, at least according to Teri of Dermalogica, and I quote verbatim: “For blushers, the pinker the tone, the higher the chances of breaking out as well.” Wow, just wow.

Why on earth should that be? Teri can’t say for sure, but my hunch is it has to do with the particular pigments used in the concoction. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. Cosmetic chemists out there, feel free to reach out if you have a laboratory-backed answer!

#3. Skincare trumps makeup, anytime

I know this story is ostensibly about makeup, but you really do need to get your skin fundamentals down pat if you want your face paint to stick. Asked for the single best tip for acne prevention if we “die-die” must wear makeup, Teri Tay offers just one: “Invest in a good cleansing oil to thoroughly remove all makeup residue before going to bed.”


To that end, try Goodal’s Oil to Foam Cleanser. This hero product from the relative newbie in the K-Beauty scene is so easy to love, with its silky glide courtesy of seven botanical oils specially fermented to coax out their anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory abilities. Beauty bonus: The magical oil-to-foam transformation injects a modicum of fun into an otherwise tiresome chore.


Top up with DHC’s Salicylic Acne Face Wash to get rid of any residual gunk on your face. This gel cleanser comes chockfull with the acne-alleviating superhero salicylic acid, supported by an all-star cast of calming aloe vera and green tea extract.


Finally, do as I do and dab on the thinnest layer of Dermalogica’s Overnight Clearing Gel all over the face. Sequence-wise, I slot this baby in after my softener and serums as a sort of preventative measure, even when I’m enjoying good skin days. The gel contains all manner of good stuff, from the usual suspects like tea tree oil and salicylic acid (again), niacinamide (otherwise known as Vitamin B3) and skin-tightening caffeine.

Voila! Your three-step cheat sheet to spot-free skin. To recap: Scan your labels for comedogenic culprits; opt for lighter formulations where possible, and always address acne at its source via a tailored skincare regime.

As for that bit about pink blusher… Well, it’s your call. No harm giving pink the pink slip and monitoring your mien for improvements. Good luck, guys!

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