This is an incredibly sensitive issue for so many women and girls, no matter what their age. We all thought we were done with acne after our teenage years but guess what, nope, it can still come back to haunt any of us, even at a late age. Whether its hormonal breakouts, skin sensitivities, or even an unexpected reaction, episodes of acne can be debilitating and seriously knock your confidence.
Who’s been in that position themselves and not felt like leaving the house? It really can be a significant concern and leave you feeling incredibly deflated and self-conscious. It’s not just the acne itself either; you will most probably be left with some scarring that also requires covering up or treatment.
Before we get to revealing how you can cover acne with makeup, let’s have a quick overview of what acne is and how you can treat it, not just camouflage it.
If you’ve got it currently or ever had it previously, you will know just how unpleasant an acne breakout can be. It’s caused when the tiny little holes in your skin known as hair follicles get blocked for some reason.
That may be because your skin is producing too much sebum (oil) or because you’ve used a product that has plugged that follicle tightly shut. Unfortunately, what they can do, in turn, is protrude outwards forming a visible whitehead or creating a blackhead instead. Either way, this is not pretty and not something that you want the world to see.
Testosterone, your family genetics, and acne
In some instances, like during teenage years, acne is thought to be triggered by a rise in the levels of testosterone that can occur during puberty. All those raging hormones are under attack. This can make the skin unusually sensitive and more prone to creating higher levels of sebum which yes, you got it, lead to pesky breakouts.
There is also pretty conclusive research establishing that if both your parents had acne, you are more likely to suffer from it, too, at a younger age. So if you do have a sudden breakout, you can probably blame the family genetics for that one!
Acne in older women
Why is it, though, that so many women still seem to suffer flare-ups in their older years? Apparently, of all the cases recorded of adult acne, a massive 80% affect women and not men. Good job really, as we’ll go on to discover, at least as a woman it’s more socially acceptable to cover yours up with makeup.
It’s no surprise that yet again we have our hormones to thank (or not thank, as the case may be). Women are far more likely to have an unexpected and isolated bout of localized acne just before their periods, when they are pregnant, or if they are suffering from a pretty common condition known as polycystic ovaries.
Are there any other triggers to be aware of?
Well yes, there are, and that’s why it’s important to understand how best to tackle covering up your acne with makeup as you don’t want to inadvertently worsen the condition by applying too much of the wrong products. Some cosmetic products are comedogenic, which means they block the pores. If you’re not thoroughly cleansing your skin after wearing such a product, you could be contributing to acne flare-ups.
Certain medications you might be on can also lead to breakouts. It’s also quite likely to find localized spots where you might have a pressure spot, so for example if you wear a backpack or a headband and you are sweating excessively in that place you might find you have more surface acne.
So now that we’ve taken a look at some of the causes let’s move on next to looking at how we can camouflage it.
Oh, the wonders of makeup! Seriously, it really can cover a multitude of sins and transform you beyond recognition. While that is all, of course, temporary and will sadly have to be washed off at the end of the day, being able to disguise your pimples and acne scarring for a few hours can be such a bittersweet relief for so many sufferers.
How to cover acne with makeup
Let’s get to it then. Assuming that you are not an Instagram makeup artist or one of the hugely successful vloggers out there on the internet, you are going to need a routine that is relatable and easy to follow.
You most likely don’t have three hours to spare every morning to perfect your face, so you need to have a set of easy to follow stages that will have you feeling more confident again. So let’s break it down a little and work out a plan that can fit in with your busy schedule.
Start out fresh-faced
Before you begin its best to ensure that your skin is prepped and preened and perfectly clean. You want to provide the right canvas for applying your products so cleanse, tone, and moisturize your face before you get started.
It may seem odd, but even if you do have oily skin, you still need a good moisturizer. It’s an essential part of maintaining healthy and hydrated, youthful looking skin so make sure that you have invested in one that is right for your unique skin type.
Time to prime
Next up to create a flawless end finish you should apply a primer. This creates a beautiful canvas for the rest of your makeup and will also give it that all-important staying power. After all, you don’t want to be repeating this entire process after lunch!
So purchase a primer and make sure you get into the habit of using this. You can apply to your clean, dry skin with your fingertips then wait a few minutes for it to be fully absorbed before moving on to the next stage.
Grab your concealer
Don’t be worried about applying too much concealer at this stage either. You can put plenty on to cover up those pesky breakouts. Concealers come in all kinds of shapes and sizes from sticks that you can apply directly onto the skin, to creams in pots. Make sure that you thoroughly cover each side of your blemish by going over it with a criss-cross X pattern.
As we are talking breakouts and therefore broken skin, it’s best to use a cotton swab to extract fresh product if your concealer is in a jar. Even better still, a concealer brush dipped directly into the concealer then applied to the skin in the same criss-cross motion will do the trick.
You need to pat the concealer into the skin now, being careful to press rather than to drag or rub your product. You want to achieve an even and natural looking finish, not have visible or streaky concealer over your face, so take time to do this stage correctly. Again, if you are using the pads of your fingers, ensure that you have thoroughly cleansed them first.
It’s a good idea to move onto your under eyes next as it gives your concealer time to adequately set in place (what’s known as “cooking” in the beauty industry) before you then move on to the heavy duty foundation stage.
Plus, sadly from time to time we all suffer from dark circles and puffy eye bags, so chances are your eyes could also do with a little bit of TLC. You want the under eye concealer to do the exact opposite of the one you’ve used on your blemishes. Yes, you want it to conceal, but you also want it to brighten and reveal the beauty of your pretty peepers.
Blot your base to set in place
Before you move on to applying your foundation, give your face a quick blot with a tissue. That way you will absorb any excess moisture and ensure your skin is now perfectly prepped for the next crucial stage.
Right, it’s time to bring out the big guns! It’s foundation time. We’ll cover more on foundations later but for the purposes of running you through the critical stages, let’s assume that you are using a liquid foundation and applying it with a stippling brush. This is important, as you want to get an excellent blended coverage with an airbrushed effect. Now is not the time to go rubbing a heavy thick product into your skin with your fingertips.
You also want to ensure that you don’t remove any of the concealer that you’ve already applied by being too heavy handed, so easy does it. Stipple the product into your skin in gentle, round motions. This also means that you can keep on top of the amount of coverage you have, building it up rather than layering it on.
Time to set your excellent work in place
Just wait a couple of minutes first so that your foundation has had a chance to cook a bit. Now you can apply either a pressed powder or a finely milled loose powder like a delicate dusting of icing sugar to your face to finish off your look to a tee. The powder will give your foundation a little bit of extra staying power and also help mattify your overall complexion.
Spray and Seal
Before you move on to the main event, your lips and eyes, it’s a good idea to finish off with a fine mist of a refreshing setting spray. This will help your make up to stay fresh and avoid any cakey-ness or crepiness that might develop during the course of the day. It’s also a great idea to take your spritz out with you. Pop it into your handbag for an enlivening little facial mist later in the day. Your skin, your sense, and your makeup will thank you for it.
If you are concerned about what feels like unsightly lumps and bumps, then try out a bold lip color or a dramatic eye. Either of these techniques will detract attention away from your skin surface and bring a bit of wow factor.
So we’ve looked at the crucial stages we recommend you follow in order to disguise acne with makeup, let’s take a look next at some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes down to the kind of makeup products that you should be investing in and using. We mentioned that word “comedogenic” earlier, and that is something that you really want to steer well clear of if you are already suffering from acne and blemishes.
Anything that is too thick and clogs your pores even further isn’t going to do you any favors. Although makeup can be your friend when it comes to disguising acne, it can also sadly be your foe, too, so it’s important to know what to wear and what to avoid.
What to wear and what to steer clear of?
This featured as stage two above in our recommendations of a good makeup routine to follow, so it’s no surprise then that we are suggesting you invest in a good Primer if acne is a concern of yours. A Primer will prep your face and already help do part of the job of smoothing away any imperfections. So do make sure that you have a good Priming product in your beauty arsenal.
Opt for one that has a blurred soft focus effect to even further disguise uneven texture, minimize large pores, and also diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A good primer is like a canvas for your makeup. Go for something that has a hint of hydration in it, too, and is non-irritating. That way, you will immediately get some “on the spot” relief.
Ditch the Glitz
Tempting as it may be especially given the current trend in makeup, be careful about going too glowy! While it might seem like a good idea to have killer cheekbones that you can see illuminated from outer space, anything that has a high shimmer factor is just going to draw even more attention to those unwanted blemishes.
If you’ve taken care to follow our steps to disguise them, the last thing you now want to be doing is throwing a high beam spotlight on them! Much as you might love the dewy, luminous look, it will just emphasize even more any surface imperfections.
Keep it Matte
Products that have a more matte-like quality and texture are far better for use on acne prone skin. They can absorb light, and therefore they help to even out textured areas so that they aren’t as visible. If you have lots of prominent acne scarring too, you can go for a high coverage super matte base that has plenty of pigmentation, and this will very nicely disguise any problematic areas.
Don’t be put off by the word matte. It doesn’t mean heavy. There have been so many advancements today in skincare technology that you can have full coverage makeup which still simultaneously happens to be light on your skin. That’s the wonder of science!
Be selective with the areas you highlight
We already mentioned the “glitz” word, and we know that it’s hard to step away entirely from the highlighter! It really can do wonders for brightening up a dull complexion, and there are plenty of women out there for whom the highlighter is their essential go-to product. Just use a highlighter more discreetly and lightly if you do have visible acne scarring.
Dust it onto areas that you do want to draw attention to and steer clear of applying it to the areas that you don’t. We do all love a little bit of an accentuated cheekbone after all, so be mindful of adopting a “less is more” attitude toward your highlighter.
Stipple it, don’t swipe it
Acne scarring does need to be treated with a gentle and respectful hand. Be careful to lightly press, blend, and meld your product to your skin rather than massively buffing and swiping it over your pimples which will make them look even angrier. Cool, calm, and light to the touch- that needs to be your technique.
What do the dermatologists recommend?
As you are probably already aware, finding the right products to use if you are prone to acne and breakouts of pimples and blemishes can be problematic. That doesn’t mean to say, though, that you shouldn’t and can’t wear foundations, but you need to think carefully about the ones that you do use.
Dermatologists would recommend that you went for oil-free formulations and of course that does make a lot of sense. They also advise seeking out something that has an active ingredient like salicylic acid which might sound scarier than it is. Something with this in the formulation will not only conceal but also treat, which is excellent!
It can be a vicious circle and a bit of a dilemma
Acne prone skin and full coverage makeup don’t go all that well together unless you are following our tried and tested techniques and invested in the right kinds of products for your skin type. While the obvious reaction when you do suffer a breakout is to turn to the concealer and a heavy caked on base of foundation, you could just end up making the problem even worse. So you do absolutely need to stay away from foundations that clog the skin or powders that might also cause irritations in those prone to skin sensitivities.
So how does salicylic acid work?
Salicylic acid is an ingredient that you will see frequently listed in anti-aging skincare because it’s very effective at promoting skin cell renewal and regeneration. It has an exfoliating property that makes it very good at promoting fresher skin.
That’s why it can also be a tremendous additional active to look out for in your foundation, too. What it will do is help clear your pores which is precisely what you need to be focused on. As we’ve already established, blocked pores are exactly what contributes to acne so doing whatever you can to keep them clean and clear is going to be a winner.
Stay away from silicones
Lots of foundations and filler type products that are used to disguise lines and wrinkles do, in fact, contain something called silicones. Silicones can block pores, leaving your skin more prone to regular and repetitive breakouts and lumpy, bumpy skin, so again, check the ingredients and try to avoid this if you are sensitive.
You might be surprised at this next one, but your packaging is actually essential and not just the ingredients inside your foundation formulation when it comes to battling adult acne. Ideally, you want to be going for something that has a pump dispenser, not a cushion or a bottle, the reason being that you won’t cross contaminate.
If you do have bacteria on your skin and open, painful breakouts, you don’t want to be transferring this into your product so, with a pump dispenser, you don’t have to put your fingers inside the bottle at all. Makes complete sense doesn’t it?
Also be on the look-out for other skin soothing actives that will keep your face feeling fresh. Properties like aloe, chamomile, and witch hazel are well known for their soothing nature and anti-bacterial effects, so they make great extras in cosmetics for acne-prone skin.
Other currently popular additional actives that are worth considering also include Hyaluronic acid which will deliver a real burst of additional hydration to the skin and matrixyl which is highly effective in helping to stimulate collagen production, something that rapidly denigrates the older we get.
What about those of you out there who do prefer the natural look?
If you are more inclined towards a natural look rather than a full face of makeup, then it can be even trickier trying to successfully cover up acne. You want to look good, feel confident, and still have a nice polished overall look, but you maybe don’t want to disguise your complexion completely. Getting that balance right is, of course, very tricky, and it might be something that you learn to perfect over time.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of fabulous tutorials online from women just like you who’ve had to go through the same trials and tribulations. Misapplied, you can end up looking all kinds of wrong with your initial plan to disguise your acne backfiring on you dramatically. Instead, you’ve just waved a massive red flag at your pimples!
So for those natural beauties out there to whom less is more, let’s have a recap. What are the essential steps for a minimal and more flawless looking complexion?
Step 1 – Prep
You can’t get away without the preparation stage. It is of vital importance in creating an overall winning look. Do not under any circumstances, very tempting as we know it might be, pop your pimples!!! We’re not saying “never!” Who can resist a good old pimple popping session after all?
However, don’t be tempted to have a little squeeze just before you are about to apply your makeup and get ready to go out. You want calm, clean, and happy skin, not angry, red, or aggravated skin. Plus, you really should never apply makeup to skin that is irritated or broken which is precisely what it will end up being if you go for a pop!
So wash and cleanse your skin thoroughly with an excellent gentle cleanser that, again, isn’t going to aggravate sensitive skin or cause it to flare up right before you are ready to apply your makeup. You already know that a good cleanse, tone, and moisturize routine is the foundational building block of healthy skin.
Even if you are prone to oiliness, you do still need to moisturize; and always, we repeat always ladies, ensure that you put on some daily sunscreen. You may well not be able to see the rays, but they sure can see you and don’t care what damage they cause.
Step 2 – Base
If space is the final frontier, then the base is your first frontier! Don’t neglect this stage either. Some might argue that a Primer isn’t necessary, but we will have to agree to disagree. We think it’s essential, especially for acne-prone skin. Not only will it give any makeup you do apply extra staying power, but it will also help to soothe and prepare your skin. If you’ve been using an acne-specific cleanser to battle the blemishes, then the chances are that your skin is feeling a bit more sensitive than usual and could be a little rough textured.
A primer will go a long way to helping soothe, smooth, and ease traumatized skin so that you can be gentler with the other products that you apply later. If you didn’t use a Primer, you’d probably end up not only using more product, but also having to apply it far more regularly, neither of which are suitable for problematic skin, so we wholeheartedly recommend investing in a Primer.
Concealing also forms an integral part of your base. Again, this is not a stage that you should skip if you want to deflect attention away from your breakouts. Make sure you purchase an excellent concealer as this is going to be one of your favorite products in the battle to conceal. You should try not to use your fingertips, but instead use a concealer brush so that you can adequately get into, over, and all around your pimples.
This is one stage where yes, you can be a bit more liberal with your application of product. We’re not saying to slap it on! Just really generously cover all those pesky blemishes and blend outwards a little bit further to minimize any hard lines.
A light foundation is going to be your next phase, especially if you are going for the natural, fresh-faced look. You do still want your skin to breath so avoid anything that has an oil base and go for something as light as you are brave enough to try!
Light doesn’t mean lacking color or coverage; it just means a more gentle texture which is just what your skin needs right now. You could use a sponge, blender, or a brush but again, don’t use your fingers. You want to build up your coverage and ensure that it is even.
You might stipple on your chosen foundation a few times, concentrating the product a little more in the areas where you are most concerned. After that, you are good to set with a lovely light final dusting of a super fine powder. Perhaps a final little spritz of some setting spray, too, for good measure and you’re done. Perfectly polished, preened, and perfected without a pimple in sight!
How you choose to make up the rest of your face is then entirely up to you, and what look you are going for. You might prefer to add a slick of mascara and some hydrating gloss to your lips if you are keeping it simple. For those of you that really love and embrace your makeup, be bold and beautiful!
You have just gotten the most exquisite canvas (your skin) ready to work your magic further, so whether it’s a full-on smoky eyed look or a sultry red lip, just go for it. Remember, above all, to love the skin you are in. You are all beautiful, blemishes or not!