Avoid these makeup ingredients to avoid acne

Last post, we talked about my frustrating foray into natural makeups.

I have learned that in pursuit of clear skin, it is definitely worth avoiding some of the very chemically derived ingredients in typical makeups.

But then most of the natural ones seem to contain coconut oil, which is rather comedogenic. And this has me stumped now.

But anyway… let’s talk about which chemicals and comedogenic ingredients you definitely want to avoid in your makeup, and why.

First of all, let’s quickly talk about a few key terms before we move forward, so you can understand what these chemical ingredients do to the skin.


Skin dehydrationWhen your skin is healthy, it will lift dead skin cells up and out through the pore (in other words, exfoliating itself and making new skin and collagen).

However, many chemical products will dehydrate your skin (ie. not enough water in the skin layers). When your skin is dehydrated, it will start to trap the dead skin cells and the chemical junk in makeups and other skin care products inside your pores.

Increased Sensitivity

Clogged Pores, Sensitive Red Skin, RosaceaThe chemicals can increase sensitivity in your skin, as well as thin your skin and remove the protective barrier. This means that your skin becomes very reactive to things you put on it.

In response to even the slightest external stimuli, it will start sending more blood flow to the area, making you red and blotchy, bright long lasting hyperpigmentation marks, bigger acne, etc.

Trapped Inflammation

clogged, damaged skin and acneThis increased blood flow described above will get trapped within the pore, which is clogged with dead skin cells, oil, and chemical ingredients, and will simply stagnate there.

This blood flow stagnation will scar the collagen in the pore (collagen being our skin’s support structure), and the scar tissue will die and get trapped inside the pore alongside the dead skin cells.

This results in scarring, pitting, big pores, and lots of redness and breakouts. If scarring isn’t visible on the surface now, it will add up over time.

And if the pressure in the pore gets to be too much, it will become full on inflammation, rupture the pore and spread to the next pore, spreading the problem across your skin.

No Thanks…

Ok, so clearly we don’t want any of that stuff.

And if you’ve been using chemical makeups and creams and washes for years, your skin is likely already in the state described above, and now you need to work on repairing it.

So you need to

  • Stop using the ingredients that did this to you in the first place, and be extremely gentle with your skin
  • Use natural hydrating, healing ingredients to wash and moisturize (honey and an oil like jojoba or argan are perfect examples. If your skin is super sensitive, just use regular raw honey, not manuka, or skip it altogether and just use an oil to wash with), and use a healthier makeup alternative
  • Use papaya enzyme masks, which begin to gently eat away at the old dead skin cells and scar tissue, and helps your skin retrain itself to exfoliate on its own. These don’t necessarily need to be continued forever; just until your skin is functioning properly again.
  • Pair all this with healthy internal lifestyle changes (improving diet, lowering stress, etc) to clear your skin from the inside out too

Okay so let’s get to the ingredients in makeup that you want to be avoiding:



I seal my windows with this stuff
I seal my windows with this stuff

Methicone, dimethicone, trimethicone, cyclomethicone, siloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, silsesquioxane, trimethylsiloxysilicate, methylpolysiloxane, stearoxytrimethylsilane

What they are supposed to do:

make the product and your skin feel silky and smooth

What they actually do:

Apparently silicones are one of the worst ingredients for dehydrating the skin and clogging the pores, which is the beginning of redness, pore scarring, and acne breakouts.



 petroleum products in makeup acne
I fill up my car with this stuff

Paraffin wax, mineral oil, toluene, benzene, petrolatum, and anything that ends in “eth”, “decane”, or contains the words PEG (polyethylene glycol), DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (ethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine), butyl, methyl, propyl, ethyl, ethanol

Examples: propylene glycol, PEG-40, laureth sulfate, phenoxyethanolbutylene glycol or butyl stearate, EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetracetatic acid), isopropyl alcohol, methylparaben, ceteareth-20, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), dodecane

What they are supposed to do:

There are many different uses since there are so many different petroleum products, but often it’s to lock moisture against the skin or as a preservative

What they actually do:

Petroleum derived ingredients are pore clogging and work as a delivery agent, meaning they bring the other junk in the product deeper into the pores. They can also produce 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen and neurotoxin.

Perfumes & Colorants


fragrances and dyes in acne makeupFragrance, parfum, FD&C or D&C followed by a number, for example FD&C Red No. 6 or D&C Green No. 6

What they are supposed to do:

Make the product smell and look nice

What they actually do:

Perfumes and artificial colourants are well documented as being extremely irritating and they will increase skin sensitivity. Many of the dyes are pore clogging.

Also, what they actually use to make the fragrance or colourant doesn’t have to be disclosed. They can contain up to 200 different chemicals in themselves, and often these chemicals are petroleum products or phthalates.



parabens in makeup acnemethylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben

What they are supposed to do:

Inhibits mold growth and extends shelf life of the product

What they actually do:

Are highly toxic and are disrupting to the endocrine system, aka. they’re hormone messer uppers. When you are trying to heal from acne, you don’t want that.



pthalatesDEP (diethyl phthalate), DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate)

What they are supposed to do:

homogenize the product and dissolve solid ingredients. Also used to carry fragrance

What they actually do:

Same as parabens… they disrupt your hormones



alcohols in makeup acne
This stuff should stay at the bar

SD alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, denatured alcohol (alcohol denat.), cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, hexadecyl alcohol, isocetyl alcohol, oleyl alcohol, acetylated lanolin alcohol

What they are supposed to do:

increase penetration into the skin

What they actually do:

Alcohols can be comedogenic, cause a lot of irritation, dehydration, and free radical damage. They are more problematic the higher up they are on the ingredient list.



Acrylics in makeup acne
Acrylics should stay on the canvas

Acrylic/acrylates copolymer, acrylic/acrylate crosspolymer, acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, 2-ethylhexyl-acrylate

What they are supposed to do:

Binds ingredients; suspension agent

What they actually do:

These are plastics; same thing used to make plastic nails. Will get trapped in the pores and clog them

Other Noteworthy Bad Guys

  • Coconut oil and capric/caprylic triglycerides – Whole coconut oil (Coco Nucifera) is considered to be highly comedogenic. Capric/caprylic triglycerides (also known as fractionated coconut oil) has had the pore clogging part of the oil removed, so it is not considered comedogenic
  • Talc – dehydrating to most skin types, which will lead to your skin starting to trap and clog
  • Bismuth oxychloride – often in powder makeup… the crystals are sharp, irritating, and can get stuck in pores. Linked to cystic acne.
  • Oxybenzone – ingredient in chemical sunscreens.. is carcinogenic, causes free radical damage, and increases photosensitivity

Silica and mica are ingredients that are usually ok but can potentially be irritating for some.

In addition to everything listed above, here are more possible pore clogging (aka comedogenic) or irritating ingredients that you should also watch out for if you have problem skin:

Moderate to Highly Comedogenic or Irritating Skin Care Ingredients:

  • acetylated lanolin
  • algae extract
  • algin
  • benzoic acid
  • cajeput oil
  • carrageenan
  • cetyl acetate
  • coal tar
  • cocoa butter
  • coconut butter
  • colloidal sulfur
  • corn oil
  • cotton aws oil
  • cottonseed oil
  • crisco
  • decyl oleate
  • dioctyl succinate
  • glyceryl stearate SE (must have SE after)
  • glyceryl-3-disostearate (must have 3 in it)
  • hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • anything starting with iso (ex. isocetyl stearate, isopropyl myristate, isostearyl acid)
  • lanolic acid
  • laureth 4
  • lauric acid
  • linseed oil
  • mink oil
  • myreth 3 myrstate
  • myristic acid
  • myristyl lactate,
  • myristyl myristate
  • octyl palmitate,
  • octyl stearate
  • oleic acid
  • oleth-3
  • PG monostearate
  • polyglyceryl-3-disostearate (with the 3)
  • potassium chloride
  • PPG 2 myristyl propionate
  • red algae
  • shark liver oil
  • table salt (sodium chloride)
  • sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate
  • solulan 16
  • sorbitan oleate
  • sorbitan sesquinoleate
  • soybean oil
  • steareth 10
  • stearic acid tea
  • stearyl heptanoate
  • sulfated castor oil (not regular castor oil)
  • sulfated jojoba oil (not regular jojoba oil)
  • syearyl heptanoate
  • wheat germ glyceride
  • wheat germ oil
  • xylene

Deciphering the Ingredients List…

What's really in your makeup?
What IS this junk?

So this article obviously didn’t cover every single chemical or ingredient out there… when you look at product ingredient lists, you will find a lot of big words that you aren’t sure about.

And if you try to ask me, I am not going to necessarily know off the top of my head either!

What makes it extra confusing to decipher is that not every ingredient with a big confusing name is bad, because they are often listed in their latin or scientific names. For example, tocopheral-acetate is actually just Vitamin E.

I suggest that if you are thinking about buying a makeup or any cosmetic product, first compare it to this article. If it has a ton of the bad guys right off the bat, throw it aside.

If you find a promising one, then go through every ingredient you don’t know about and google it.

Try to get a feel for what it is, whether it’s considered pore clogging, toxic, or otherwise, and go from there.

Also keep in mind that ingredients are always listed with the highest quantity first, and goes down in order to the smallest amount. So the first ingredient listed is the main ingredient with the highest quantity in the product.

If you come across a “baddie” ingredient it’s going to be less of a big deal if it’s at the end of the list (ex. 0.05% of the whole product), rather than if it’s close to the top (ex. 50% of the whole product).

A Note on Mineral Powder Makeups

Are powder mineral makeups good for acne?Loose, powdery, mineral makeups are often considered a good choice for acne prone skin, and often they are…

The good thing about powdery mineral makeup is that they are the least likely to contain any harmful or pore clogging ingredients, although sometimes people find the minerals irritating.

However, according to Melissa Armstrong (who I learned much of this information on makeup ingredients from), they do not have any natural hydrators in them like the liquids do (ie. like carrier oils).

So sometimes they can absorb too much moisture from your skin, and result in it becoming dehydrated. Especially if they contain clays, like kaolin, which are very absorbant.

According to her, the skin being dehydrated is the first step to it starting to trap dead skin cells and old product, which leads to clogging, redness, and breaking out.

So mineral makeup can be a good choice, but if you find your mineral makeup is drying out your skin, it might not be the best choice.

Next Week

Next week we’ll be taking a look at a few different popular facial makeup products and putting them to the test…. how do their ingredient lists stack up? Can they face the fire?

And the week after that, we’ll hopefully get to the part where we find some makeup brands that are actually ok to wear, although so far the search has proven to be frustrating!

If you think I’ve missed an obvious “bad guy” makeup ingredient that should be included in this list, then let me know in the comments below!