Love Your Skin: Myths and Truths About Acne & Makeup

The subject of acne and skin care brings up all manner of old wives tales and myths about what causes acne and the best ways to treat it. There are also a broad range of opinions and techniques on the best way to wear makeup, to cover the appearance of acne scars and general blemishes. So we decided to bypass all the white noise, and get some expert advice from Dr. Agnes P. Olszewski.

Questions by Shahada Karim
Responses by Dr. Agnes P. Olszewski

How do you tackle acne over the long term?

Dr. Olszewski- Acne is a manifestation of internal imbalance that leads to overproduction of sebum (skin oil) by sebaceous glands. This extra sebum together with dirt creates an ideal condition for bacteria, which results in inflammation that presents itself as acne (pimples, cysts, blackheads, whiteheads, etc.).

To treat acne, one needs to “re-program” sebaceous glands to produce a “normal” amount of sebum.  So this must be done from the inside out.

So topical treatments are not the answer?

Most topical products and even some systemic products like antibiotics that claim to treat acne only actually address the symptoms of acne. They do this by working to control bacteria, and shorten inflammation time. Unfortunately, it can be a temporary fix. The only real way to treat acne is through prevention, and keeping new pimples from forming.

Plus, most commonly used anti-bacteria ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or antibiotics can cause extreme drying, irritation, and ultimately “age” the skin. Some antibiotics can also cause photosensitivity and make some bacteria resistant to the treatment.

Can makeup cause acne and blemishes?

Applying and wearing makeup by itself will not cause acne. But, wearing the wrong kind of makeup could cause skin problems. If you have acne or acne-prone skin, try to avoid foundations that contain oil or other pore-clogging ingredients. It’s also a good idea to use non-comedogenic makeup products.

It’s also extremely important to make sure you take off your makeup every night. Do not sleep in your makeup; this is a big SKIN SIN. Old makeup will mix with sebum and clog pores, and increase the potential for inflammation.

What about “sweating” in makeup?

It’s also a good idea to go “makeup free” when doing any strenuous physical activity, like exercising. When you’re done with a workout, be sure to rinse your face with lots of warm (not hot) water and use a non-drying soap to get your skin clean. After that, apply your makeup to freshly cleaned and moisturized skin.

How do you cover acne scars and blemishes with foundation without looking like you’re wearing a ton of product?

More is not always better. Using thick layers of heavy makeup to cover the blemishes will only make them more visible.

You can use a small amount of “green” concealer on inflamed pimples or red areas of the face to cancel out the redness. Then add a very thin layer of concealer that matches your skin tone on top of that.

Finish your entire face with a “whipped” or light liquid foundation, preferably with light-diffusion qualities, that evens the texture of the skin. It’s best to use a makeup brush and apply with small, light strokes.

And again (because it bears repeating) do not forget to remove your makeup every night. Use non-alcoholic makeup wipes or makeup remover, and follow with a mild astringent to remove any traces of oil.

*Dr. Agnes P. Olszewski is the founder of AcnEase (

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