The Makeup Lowdown

A wise person once said that makeup isn’t meant to mask problems, it’s meant to accentuate your best features. But what if makeup is actually making your skin worse? It’s a very real possibility depending on how you use it, so Fit spoke with local experts to provide some makeup advice for maintaining the health of your body’s largest organ.

Wash it off. One of the biggest topics in skincare is sleeping in your makeup. “People think that if you sleep in your makeup your skin is going to fall off in the morning,” said Tim Maurer, president and creator of Mukha Custom Cosmetics & Medi-Spa in the Short North. “What’s really happening is you’re not allowing your skin to regenerate. You’re not going to break out worse, it’s just that your overall skincare health declines every time you do it.”

Generally, your makeup isn’t going to cause clogged pores but going to bed in it will. Clogged pores are usually caused by dead skin buildup (a lack of exfoliation), over-production of oil glands or makeup buildup, according to Molly Lyons, skincare specialist and owner of Skin Oasis.

Cleanse wisely. When choosing a product, look for a cleanser that’s pH-balanced to actually wash the skin without producing dryness, Lyons said. Standard pH for skin is 5.5. It’s OK to first get rid of makeup with an oil-based remover, but you shouldn’t stop there.

Keep it clean. Apply your makeup with a clean brush each time, no reusing. Putting a used brush or sponge to your face can allow bacteria to get in your skin. “Make a habit to make sure whenever you’re using a makeup or foundation brush to wash it off then and there so next time you use it, it’ll be clean,” said Kay Manley, a licensed esthetician and professional makeup artist at K Manley Studio. You can wash brushes with a little bit of baby shampoo, rinse and let dry.

Use protection. Most skin problems are caused by sun damage. Look for moisturizers, foundations, primers and other products that include SPF30 or more, depending on exposure. This will give you both coverage and protection. Aging skin is also caused primarily by sun damage (about 80 percent), which is the reason for most visits by Lyons’ clients.

Timing is key. Like food, makeup has an expiration date. Most mascaras have a shelf-life of two to three months. “Keep track of how old your makeup is, and toss the older things to avoid possible change in color, or worse yet, infections,” Lyons said.

Keep it light. Most of the time, all you need is a little tinted moisturizer. Lyons said being too overdone, especially in the daytime, can cause women to look aged. A subtle, more natural look is going to give a more youthful-looking glow. “Just as you’d give your feet a break from the 4-inch stilettos, give your skin a break from the heavy makeup.”

Moisturize. No matter your skin type, this is crucial. Moisturizer should be applied after cleansing and toning, before any makeup, since water is lost through the skin via perspiration.

The beauty industry can be a tough one to navigate, but take Lyons’ advice: if you react adversely to a product, stop using it because it’s probably not something you want on your skin.

What to avoid in your makeup: You never want to use a product with mineral oil, Maurer said. “It’s made from a byproduct of minerals, [similar] to some things you would put in your car … [it] causes a lot of clogging and irritation.”

You also want to avoid rubbing alcohol, often used to keep products stable or free of bacteria, but it will make the skin surface drier every time you use it. Fragrance is another no-no: Maurer stressed that it does not belong in skincare. “Fragrance is a big problem for allergies, and it causes a lot of issues.”

Ever heard of paraben? Products with this ingredient are used to keep bacteria levels low, but they will also increase your estrogen. The FDA has mandated that paraben be removed from all skincare products in the next five years, Maurer said. The FDA is also requiring the elimination of sulphate – it’s a detergent that causes foaming … gross.

But the ickiest is yet to come – you also want to avoid products with carmine, Maurer said. “It’s a red pigment that the FDA allows us to use in cosmetics crossed with cochineal insect shells … it’s made from cockroaches.” Yep. Have fun cleaning out your makeup bag.