While we tend to think of makeup and skin care as two totally different sides of the beauty spectrum, buying them, applying them and storing them differently, they’re actually one in the same and go completely hand in hand. In fact, if you want your makeup to be applied flawlessly, you need to enlist in a solid skin care routine. Likewise, if you don’t want your skin to be totally thrown off balance, and result in breakouts, blemishes and discoloration, to name a few side effects, it’s important that you pay as much time to understand what ingredients might be lurking in your makeup as you do your skin care. “It’s a myth that makeup doesn’t penetrate the top layer of the skin, but it does, and clogged pores, dehydrated skin and acne are some of the problems makeup can cause if the wrong product is used,” says Lily Talakoub, M.D., dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center.
Common Toxic Ingredients in Your Makeup
According to experts, some of the most common ingredients in makeup that can cause skin problems are silicone, dimethicone (which causes clogging and acne) and parabens which can cause allergic reactions. “Parabens are preservatives that fall under the category of potentially ‘endocrine-disrupting chemicals,’ meaning that they mimic estrogen in the human body,” explains Erum Ilyas, M.D., a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology. “Though it’s not clear how much this can impact our risk of estrogen-dependent diseases, such as breast cancer, or if it could take someone with breast cancer and make it more aggressive, we do know that most of the population has been exposed to a significant amount of paraben in many personal care products.”
Other worrisome ingredients you may want to avoid in your makeup products include nickel, which is found in eyeshadows and mascaras and is a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis, fragrance, which is a common source of irritation or allergies for many people, and phthalates, which are usually added to products to make them more flexible such as with plastics. “Phthalates, too, are thought to be an endocrine disruptor, with several inconclusive studies linking them to everything from allergies, male infertility, ADHD and autism,” warns Dr. Ilyas.
Makeup Ingredients to Look for Instead
On the flip side, there are plenty of ingredients found in makeup products that provide benefits to the skin and body overall. Here are some of the top contenders:
This potent hydrator possesses impressive skin benefits, namely due to the fact that it can retain 1000 times its weight in water. “Hyaluronic acid holds moisture in the skin and prevents it from evaporating off the skin’s surface,” says Dr. Talakoub. “Although beneficial, it’s is very hard to get a good amount in makeup, as the makeup often doesn’t sit very well on top of the skin with higher hyaluronic acid concentrations.” For this reason, she recommends using hyaluronic acid in parallel with makeup, allowing it to penetrate the skin through the use of a serum and then applying makeup after.
“Antioxidants are important for our skin to neutralize the damaging effects of the environment on our skin, particularly vitamin C, which boasts the added benefit of preventing discoloration from occurring on the skin,” explains Dr. Ilyas. “Antioxidants also work as anti-inflammatories to reduce the redness and inflammation associated with acne.” Vitamin E is another important antioxidant for the skin, protecting the skin from redness and swelling and cell damage that can lead to skin cancer and wrinkles. “When vitamin E penetrates the skin it can make the superficial layers more hydrated to prevent dry skin that can lead to eczema,” Dr. Ilyas explains. “It has also been used to manage scars and burns given its ability to help soothe the skin.”
Though you may not have realized, plenty of your makeup and skin care products are packed with botanical oils such as aryana oil, marula oil, sunflower oil and rosehip oil. “Rosehip oil has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, as it’s one of few botanical compounds that has been studied and shown to have efficacy in wound healing and as an anti-inflammatory,” says Dr. Ilyas. “In a study on its effects in wound healing it was shown to accelerate and promote wound healing and improve the appearance of scars.” She also explains that it has strong anti-inflammatory properties that make it likely to improve the appearance of the skin and help with hydration.
Physical UV blockers like zinc and titanium dioxide are also incredibly essential, as they are the only sun-protective agents which fully block the entire range of UVB and UVA rays. Dr. Talakoub loves their use in makeup, however, finds that most makeup with sunscreen only has an SPF rating of 15-30. She recommends an SPF of 50 or more used daily and that’s very hard to find.
Looking for the right makeup brands that are not only free from harmful ingredients but offer skin care benefits to boot? Here’s a list of brands that score a dermatologist’s approval.