Cosmetics and Acne, the Unfortunate Link

Today’s post is another excerpt from my book Under My Skin about the link between cosmetics and acne.

If an evil genius wished to harm the skin of men and women, he could not have devised a better tool than cosmetics. Rubbing pore-clogging ingredients into the skin is the worst possible thing an acne sufferer can do. Some cosmetic ingredients are so potent that they can induce a form of acne in women who are not otherwise genetically acne-prone. In fact, one out of every three women can expect to be affected by the condition dermatologists are now calling acne cosmetica. It is no small problem. Acne cosmetica affects about 30 million women in the US. While I’m sure no one in the beauty industry set out to intentionally ruin the complexions of millions of women, sadly, it is happening. What originally began as an accident born out of ignorance continues today in the name of commercial expediency.

Who Gets Cosmetic Acne?

Any woman who is genetically acne-prone or suffered acne as a teenager, even if only a mild case, is almost certain to be affected by comedogenic ingredients in cosmetics. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, plenty of women who would otherwise never have acne are exposing themselves to acne by applying comedogenic makeup and skin care products. Young women in the “natural” acne age are the most likely to react badly to comedogenic ingredients. Therefore, teenagers and women in their twenties are the most susceptible to cosmetic acne. And ironically enough, these are the same age groups that adore their MAC.

Cosmetic acne manifests as fairly numerous, slightly elevated small whiteheads, appearing over the cheeks and chin and sometimes the forehead. Periodically, some of these whiteheads turn into inflamed pustules. Women with cosmetic acne often get caught up in a vicious cycle. Because it may take up to six months before cosmetic acne develops from a particular product, a woman is unlikely to connect her makeup use with the acne. The more she breaks out, the more makeup she uses to cover it up—which leads to more blemishes and more covering up. The problem eventually spirals out of control. Already deeply committed to cosmetic use, she is likely to try one cosmetic solution after another, hanging on to the promise of the new products, and each one more expensive than the last—and this whole product frenzy not only depletes your funds, it also only worsens the situation. Thousands of women experience cosmetic acne for as long as 10 or 15 years, never knowing what is causing their constant complexion problems.

How Did the Bad Stuff Get into the Cosmetics?

Cosmetic chemists historically have tried to mimic sebum, the skin’s own surface oil, to derive some of its assumed benefits. Ironically, there is no real benefit to sebum. Another cruel “fact”: The claim that sebum  is necessary for moisturizing the skin is misleading. Children do not produce sebum, yet enjoy moist skin. Sebum doesn’t even prevent wrinkles. Wrinkling or aging of the skin is a reflection of accumulated sun damage and hereditary programming.

Whatever its original purpose, sebum’s various chemical components, such as wax esters and fatty acids, are troublesome. Yet many cosmetics contain these same highly irritating fatty acids, such as stearic acid. Even worse, many cosmetics contain chemical derivatives of these fatty acids, such as isopropyl myristate or butyl stearate, which are even more potent than their parent fatty acids. It is not necessary to understand these chemical names or know how to pronounce them, but it is necessary to avoid them to have clear skin. Make sure to check all ingredient labels when purchasing cosmetics.

Pay special attention to the ingredients listed below, as these are the worst.

• Lanolin

• Isopropyl myristate, isopropyl palmitate and isopropyl isostearate

• Butyl stearate

• Isostearyl neopentanoate

• Myristyl myristate

• Decyl oleate

• Octyl stearate

• Octyl palmitate

• Isocetyl stearate

• PPG2 myristyl propionate

Print out the list and bring it with you when buying cosmetics.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out my eBook, Under My Skin!


13 thoughts on “Cosmetics and Acne, the Unfortunate Link”

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