How to Build a Skin-Friendly Makeup Routine

Anything that touches our face—should it be a serum, makeup sponge, phone screen, or our hands—affects skin. The average adult face has 20,000 pores, meaning there are 20,000 chances for ingredients, bacteria, or dirt to seep into the skin and either deliver skin-changing results or wreak total havoc. It all comes down to what products you use and knowing how to keep skin healthy and clean (and not touching your face, of course). 

Among the many products we apply to our skin daily, makeup is often included. Similar to skincare, choosing the right products can ensure your makeup routine helps—not hurts—your complexion. Learn how cosmetics affect the skin, what ingredients to look for (and avoid), and tips for ensuring your makeup doesn’t exacerbate existing concerns.

How Does Wearing Makeup Affect Skin?

Foundation, concealer, lipstick, eye shadow, blush...all types of makeup have a unique formula that can affect the skin. Makeup that doesn’t mix well with our complexion can result in acne breakouts, premature aging, inflammation, sensitized skin, dehydration, and more. That’s why when you are experiencing skin issues, it’s so important to consider all the products and ingredients you are applying to your skin (as well as the foods you are eating and the amount of sleep you’re getting). Remember: Everyone’s complexion is different. Trendy makeup products that work for one person may not work well for another. 

Makeup Ingredients to Look For (Or Avoid)

So how do we know which ingredients will work for our skin? The truth is: We usually don’t. Not without a little bit of experimentation, at least. “There are a variety of cosmetic ingredients that can clog pores and irritate the skin”, says celebrity makeup artist and ShikSona Beauty Creative Director Victoria Stiles. “In most cases, irritation depends on user sensitivity. For example, if you have a latex allergy and latex is an ingredient in a cosmetic you wear, that can cause a problem. If you have a gluten allergy, that can be a problem when choosing the right products to put on your skin as well.” On a similar note, if you’re acne-prone or oily, cream-based formulas may not be ideal for you, while dry skin types might avoid powders. 

As for what to shop for, look for ingredients that benefit skin. Diamond Hannah, Product Development Director of clean makeup brand MERIT, suggests “when shopping for makeup, look for hydrating and moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and squalane to keep skin plumped, soft, and supple throughout the day. This will help to keep your skin and makeup looking fresh and not cakey or dried out.” Vitamin E, humectants (like polyglutamic acid), and ceramides are some more to add to the list. When in doubt, we recommend shopping from clean beauty brands that avoid toxic and questionable ingredients—such as parabens, phthalates, talc, and artificial fragrance—that have been known to disrupt skin and body function.

While going completely barefaced may not be feasible for all, another option is to use skincare products that offer makeup benefits while infusing good-for-you ingredients. For a no-makeup look, reach for our
Luminizing Glow Drops in Sheer Golden or Sheer Bronzed. Smooth on for a burst of hydration and antioxidant protection while diffusing imperfections and adding a wash of glow. They're non-comedogenic, too (proven to not clog pores), making them a great alternative to makeup—especially if foundations and creams typically break you out.

Hint: Both shades work on most skin tones and can be mixed together. If you prefer a bit more coverage, add 2-3 drops to face makeup.

Looking for more skincare-makeup hybrids? Our Antioxidant Oil-Serum can be used as a highlighter (just apply on brow bones, cupid’s bow, and the bridge of the nose) while our Tinted Silk Slip doubles as a cream blush; just follow our Marketing Coordinator Adar’s tutorial below.

Dewy summer glow featuring our Silk Slip Tinted Lip Oils! 💄#SummerGlow #TintedLipOil #NaturalGlow #WellVersed

♬ FEEL THE GROOVE - Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

Skincare Products That Help Your Makeup Look Better

Consider your complexion the base for makeup application; by taking good care of your skin, you’re setting any beauty look up for success. Before you reach for the makeup brush, always start with a freshly washed, clean canvas. Use our At-Home Dermaplaning Tool to exfoliate; by sloughing away layers of dead skin cells and peach fuzz, face makeup will apply much more flawlessly. Our Photos, Please mask is another way to give skin a boost before a big event or night out. Leave on for 15 minutes to brighten up drab complexions in a flash.

Another rule of thumb: Always replenish hydration levels before applying makeup. It’s much easier to paint on a smooth canvas than a flaking one, right? Smooth on moisturizer and let it sink in for a few minutes before moving on to foundation. That includes your eyes and lips, too! Swipe on a lip oil and a Smoothing Eye Cream before applying glosses and under-eye concealer.

If you’re wearing makeup during the daytime, don’t forget sunscreen, which can help prevent the marks and spots we may be attempting to covering up in the first place. While SPF-infused makeup may seem like a smart move, experts say these products don’t offer ample protection from UV rays, as mixing its formula with other ingredients dilutes its sun protection factor. Layer sunscreen formulated with ingredients like zinc oxide instead, which plays nicely with makeup. If you’re planning on being outdoors all day, dust an SPF powder over makeup every two hours.

No matter what makeup products you use, some habits can exacerbate existing skin concerns. Follow these rules to keep your complexion happy:

Always remove makeup before bed and/or before working out. Allowing makeup to sit on top of the skin while you slumber or sweat can clog pores, increasing your chance of breakouts and irritation. Double cleansing with an oil-based face wash like Day Dissolve can ensure makeup and sunscreen break downs properly before washing it all away with a water-based cleanse.

If you don’t have any restrictions that you know of, introduce makeup into your routine one product at a time to see how skin reacts. Watch for a surge of bumps, irritation, redness, or acne, which may signify that your makeup does not play well with your complexion. Opting for samples or travel-sized products can be beneficial during this process to avoid wasting formula or spending unnecessary amounts of money.

Clean your makeup brushes regularly. Once a week is recommended, but the right cadence will depend on how often you wear makeup. And don’t share brushes or tools, which can spread bacteria. 

Avoid applying makeup over broken skin, like after popping a pimple or during a psoriasis flareup. That area is an open wound, and filling it with makeup products can stall the healing process. If you really want to cover up a pesky blemish, apply a pimple patch or spot treatment that sits well under makeup first. 

Let skincare sink in first to avoid pilling. While not a concern, per se, it’s frustrating when makeup pills up after application. The best way to avoid this is to let skincare absorb for a few minutes before applying makeup. If that doesn’t work, its formula may simply not be compatible with your skin products. 

Toss expired products because yes, makeup and skincare have a shelf life. Look for the product’s PAO (period after opening), which is often listed on packaging. When in doubt, it’s likely expired if the formula smells funky or the color seems off. Using products beyond their shelf life can cause acne, infections, and rashes. In general, here’s when to toss different types of makeup:

Foundation, Concealer, and Other Cream Products: 12-18 months
Blush, Bronzer, and Other Powder Products: 12-18 months
Mascara, Eye Shadow, and Eyeliner: 3-6 months
Lipstick and Lip Gloss: 12-24 months