In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a new week. Welcome. It’s unlikely that you wore makeup last week or the week before that – or even the week before that – with almost everyone now working from home.
Here in Dubai, where it’s not uncommon to see women wearing a full face of makeup to the gym or the grocery store, the sudden change in our beauty routines has been something of a surprising boon for skin health. Free of pore-clogging makeup, our skin is breathing, which is causing it to change and, in some cases, heal. However, that made us question what going makeup-free actually does to your skin, so in order to get to the bottom of things, we consulted the experts.
“Makeup is not necessarily ‘bad’ for the skin, and most people wear makeup without any trouble at all,” says Dr. Daron Seukeran, Medical Director at skincare clinic sk:n. “However, some people can develop sensitivities to certain ingredients found in makeup.” He says there are lots of different preservatives and other ingredients that can cause irritation or contact dermatitis in certain people. For instance, fragrance is the second most common allergen, according to Seukeran. “Dermatologists will sometimes patch-test someone who is having recurrent problems with makeup to check if they’re having allergies.”
The problem starts when you forget to remove your makeup before you fall asleep at night. When this happens, you run the chances of letting the bacteria, oil, and sebum build up on the skin surface and cause a breakout. “Makeup can clog pores and when it’s not removed properly with a cleansing routine, it can build up and create blackheads and spots,” says Chris Luckham, a skin specialist at Foreo.
“Wearing makeup regularly and reusing the same brushes each day can block your pores and introduce bacteria onto your face, which often leads to small, rash-like bumpy pimples,” says Dr. Ophelia Veraitch, consultant dermatologist at Cranley Clinic. She says that it’s a common misconception that the makeup physically blocks the pore – the block is actually made of dead skin cells.
“Irritant dermatitis accounts for the majority of reactions to makeup and other cosmetic products. It can occur in anyone, but is more likely in those with preexisting sensitive skin or those with underlying barrier disruption caused by a condition like eczema or rosacea.” It typically causes an itchy, scaly, and red rash, but can even blister or weep. Veraitch says that while symptoms can occur immediately, it may take weeks or even months to develop with weaker irritants, making it difficult to identify the cause.
“People who stop wearing makeup – especially if the makeup they were wearing was occlusive or comedogenic – tend to notice that their skin looks a lot better after a week,” says Veraitch. “A barrier of makeup can make your skin produce more oil, which can lead to breakouts because there’s a better chance for pores to be blocked over the span of a week.”
That being said, if your skin is still giving you trouble after a week of quitting makeup cold turkey (and you’re tempted to crack out the foundation before you open the door for a supermarket delivery), try giving it a little more time to settle. “A skin cycle is typically around 28 days. The longer your skin can go without makeup, the better it will regulate your skin’s temperature, oil control, hydration, and its natural exfoliation process,” says Veraitch.
“I swear by vitamin C creams in the morning as it naturally helps to boost your glow,” says Luckham. “Ingredients like niacinamide or peptides are also good for their skin illuminating, calming, and revitalizing properties too,” he adds. Meanwhile, Veraitch stresses that while we’re all spending more time indoors, it’s still important to implement a thorough cleansing routine each evening. When it comes to removing the day, there’s one method that she suggests your steer clear of.
“I would always advise against using face wipes,” she says. “Essentially, they just move dirt and oil around on the face. The skin around your eyes is extremely delicate, so the rubbing motion alone will drag the skin and can cause premature aging and pigmentation.” Finally, she adds: “Use a broad-spectrum SPF throughout the day to protect your skin from damaging sun exposure and, as always, drink plenty of water.”