Anyone who has ever had acne knows that makeup can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy. The right amount of makeup, done with the right technique and the right tools can disguise the redness, the bumps, the scars, the unevenness - but ... when done improperly, makeup can look cakey and can make your pimples even more noticeable.
1. As always, it's important to start with a fresh canvas.
I feel like this should go without saying, but I know a lot of people who throw a fresh coat of makeup on even though they haven't cleansed, moisturized or exfoliated. Cleansing and moisturizing are a must. You don't want sweat, debris or dry, flaky skin getting in the way of your perfect canvas, especially if you have acne - any bump or flake of skin is going to make your makeup look imperfect.
While exfoliating isn't crucial per se, it is important. For those who wear makeup daily, it's not a good idea to exfoliate every time you apply makeup. However, if you notice your skin is flaky and dry, you might want to consider exfoliating before you start.
2. Always start your makeup application off with a good primer - always.
Whether your skin is oily (try a matte or shine-control formula), or you want to create a beautiful finish that lasts all day, primer is for everyone. Primers can disguise large pores, hydrate your dry skin, and can even contain pigments to mask redness caused by pimples or scars. I never apply my makeup without applying a primer first. Also, ensure you give your primer a good chance to set before applying your makeup, because you could end up pushing it around when it's still wet, which can lead to an uneven application.
3. Ensure you apply your makeup in the right order - color corrector, foundation, concealer.
First, apply any color corrector where needed - for example, a green color corrector on your inflamed pimples, and then apply your foundation all over. The foundation coupled with the color corrector generally reduces most of the redness from a pimple or uneven complexion, so this way when you follow up with your concealer, you're using it as a finishing touch, rather than having the concealer do all of the heavy lifting before the foundation comes along. This prevents you from overdoing it with your makeup, and will provide a softer, more natural finish as opposed to an obvious cakey finish.
4. Choose the right color corrector for the job.
When you're looking to cover inflamed, red pimples, reach for a green color corrector. If you have purple or darker-toned scars or hyperpigmentation, use a yellow color corrector. If you're dark-skinned and you have dark hyperpigmentation, try an orangey-pink color corrector
5. Choose the right color of foundation.
All you need to do is figure out your perfect foundation shade with the three-swipe test. If you're between a few shades, swipe them all along your jawline/neck to see which one melds perfectly into your skin tone. Voilà, you just found the right foundation shade for you. The wrong color can make your makeup look cakey and your acne more noticeable. If you're not sure, or you feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to go somewhere like Sephora and ask for help. It's sometimes easier for someone else to pick out your foundation.
6. Use a foundation shade with the right undertones for your skin.
There are three classifications for undertones: warm, cool, and neutral. If you have warm undertones, your skin will appear peachy, yellow, or golden. If you have cool undertones, your skin will have a pink, red, or bluish cast to it. If your skin is neutral, then you have a mix of warm and cool tones. Figuring out which undertone you have is crucial because the right foundation undertone complements your skin, while the wrong one can make you look washed out or ashy. Again, this may be something that is difficult to determine on your own, and you may want a little objective help from a friend.
7. Choose the right foundation coverage for your desired finish.
There are three general types of coverage: sheer, medium and full. If you're looking for a lightweight coverage that highlights your natural skin but with a little bit of consistency, opt for a sheer foundation like the one from Mineral Fusion. This is the ideal foundation for a trip to the beach, somewhere you want your makeup to look as light and natural as possible, but with some degree of coverage. Conversely, if you want a little more coverage, for day-to-day wear, for at the office or brunch, then opt for a medium coverage foundation. For this, I like Wet N Wild Coverall Cream Foundation. And alas, if full coverage is what you're looking for, then you need an opaque formula like Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation. Choosing full coverage all the time may seem like a good idea, but often when we attempt to hide our imperfections we just end up making them more noticeable. I find I get the best coverage for my needs right in the middle for everyday wear, but when you're going out at night or you plan on being in a lot of photos, you want a full coverage foundation that's going to keep you looking flawless.
Remember, when it comes to makeup and acne, less is often more.
8. You also need to think about the color of your neck when searching for your perfect foundation shade.
If your neck is much lighter than your face and chest (it might happen when your chin shades it), split the difference and go for a foundation in between the color of your face and neck. This way, everything looks like it blends together seamlessly. And remember, your face stops at your chest, especially if you're wearing a strappy, strapless, or low-cut top. The last thing you want is for your face and neck to look even and your décolletage to be red and splotchy. My face is darker with more flushing than my neck and décolletage, so it's important I choose a shade that matches my neck, which is more natural and untouched than my face.
9. When applying foundation, start from the center of your face and work outward.
This leaves you with the most natural finish and prevents mask-like edges of foundation to be visible around the perimeter of your face.
10. Blend foundation seamlessly over your ears and neck.
Imagine seeing yourself in a picture with a flawlessly even face, but your ears look a touch red and your neck is a slightly different color. This tip prevents all of that. One last note: If you're wearing a low-cut top, pat the formula over your chest too, so there aren't any weird lines of demarcation there either. At the same time, it's important to emphasize BLENDING, and not applying more product, because you also don't want it to appear as though you've had to apply makeup on your entire torso just to get that perfect finish. This is why it's important to choose the proper shade, as well, which will hopefully reduce the need to blend too far.
11. Double-check your makeup in natural light.
If you've got a bathroom with poor lighting or no windows, it's a good idea to always double-check in natural light before leaving. This helps ensure you walk out of the house with the right foundation shade, as well as zero telltale signs (like unblended areas) that you just fully made up your face.
12. Opt for light, water-based formulas.
Oil-based formulas aren't "worse" for skin with acne, but they are heavier and can easily be difficult to remove which may lead to more acne. Light, water-based formulas are ideal for oily or sensitive skin, while dry skin types can usually benefit from the heavier, oil-based foundations.
To figure out whether a foundation is water- or oil-based, simply look to the ingredients list. If it's water-based, it will list water as the first ingredient and most likely be labeled oil-free, like the E.L.F. oil-free foundation. If it's oil-based, an oil — like argan oil — will be included in the list of ingredients.
13. Use a makeup sponge to apply/buff out your foundation.
I find that makeup sponges give the best foundation application and coverage for acne-prone skin. It doesn't leave the lines and creases like a brush does. However, if you prefer using a brush like a stippling brush, it's still a good idea to use a sponge to blend out any brush strokes or harsh lines.
I love the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge which is basically a dupe of the Beauty Blender, it leaves my makeup brush stroke-free and flawless.
Some people prefer to use the sponges dampened, and this does help prevent you from using too much product, as well.
14. Apply your foundation with downward strokes.
This helps to avoid highlighting any of the peach fuzz on your face. Unless you shave your face with a facial razor (not always an option for people with acne).
We all have this peach fuzz all over our bodies that we never notice until there's makeup applied in the wrong direction. If you swipe your foundation down, in the direction of hair growth, it will leave a much more natural finish.
15. Use a setting spray.
Just like I never wear makeup without a primer, I also never wear makeup without finishing off with a setting spray. This is important for people with acne, but doubly important for people with oily, acne-prone skin.
Some people prefer translucent setting powders, but every one I have tried has had too much pigment in it and it's too dark for my skin. The setting spray prevents the cakey addition of another layer of powder, and I find it works just as well. I like the one from E.L.F.
If you're using a really good setting spray but you still get oily mid-day or need to touch-up your makeup before you go out, use blotting papers, rather than adding another layer of foundation.
Follow these steps & you'll be well on your way to a flawless makeup application that will cleverly disguise your blemishes when you want to. But remember, you're beautiful just the way you are, and you don't need to wear makeup unless you want to!
I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!