Does Foundation Make Your Skin Suck?

Does foundation make your skin suck? The short, the frustrating answer is maybe. It’s possible that your foundation is making you break out, which is a huge bummer. But that doesn’t mean you need to forgo coverage in order to get good skin. Actually, it may be something else you’re doing wrong and not the makeup itself causing all the trouble on your face. (Go ahead, breathe a sigh of relief.) So before you toss your makeup bag and that $40 foundation you just bought, check to see if you’re committing one of these skin care sins.

1. You’re Using The Wrong Foundation

If you feel that your base is breaking you out, it may be because you’re using the wrong one. “Look for a product that is non-comedogenic, meaning it shouldn’t obstruct pores and create acne,” says Los Angeles dermatologist Ava Shamban. This shouldn’t be that hard—these options often clearly say non-comedogenic on the bottle, but it also doesn’t hurt to take a quick scan of the ingredients label just to be sure. While you’re doing that, Shamban says to avoid sodium laurel sulfate, lanolin, coconut oil, and butyl stearate, since they’re the most common pore-clogging offenders. These formulas will tend to be more water-based and lighter in texture, which is another good sign a product won’t produce acne.

2. It Might Be How You’re Applying Your Product

Sometimes it’s not about the foundation, but it’s about what else is touching your face. I’m not psychic, but I know that you’re not cleaning your makeup brushes enough. Literally NO ONE DOES. “You want to wash them once a week,” recommends Shamban. Wow, ok, my entire life has been a lie. The reason is that when your brushes are damp, as they get from liquid makeup, it creates an ideal environment to grow bacteria. Ew. Dr. Shamban also warns against using a compact with a reusable sponge, because touching the applicator to your face and placing it back to the compact can contaminate the product. “Something with a pump is cleaner,” she advises.

3. Sleeping In Your Makeup Is Still The Wooooorst

“Foundation acts like fly paper,” says Shamban. “everything sticks to it—tiny soot particles, air pollutants, car emissions.” Are you horrified? I’m horrified. That’s why sleeping in your makeup is such a huge no-no. You’re leaving all these gross things stuck to your face for extra hours. Up your cleansing game by following your cleanser with a micellar water to make sure you’ve gotten everything off. In a pinch, if you can’t wash your face, it’s still better to use a makeup wipe to quickly get it off than to leave it on all night. 

 4. Makeup Doesn’t Cover Up Bad Skin Care

Keep in mind most makeup floats on top of your skin and can’t fix the fact that you’ve eaten pizza all weekend and haven’t exfoliated since the Obama administration. “I think the biggest problem with foundation is that people use it to cover up all kinds of bad habits,” says Shamban. “When the skin gets dull it’s because it’s not exfoliated or not hydrated.”  Without proper prep, foundation can exacerbate poor tone and texture even though the foundation itself is not the cause. Fix that by exfoliating once a week (either physically with a cleansing brush or chemically with a glycolic acid) to remove built-up skin cells that can congest pores and cause acne and dullness. Every day, you should use an antioxidant to protect your skin against the aforementioned pollution, and be sure to moisturize and use SPF.

5. But Foundation Can Actually Be Good For You, Too! 

The confidence you get from having clear, even skin is a benefit in itself, but certain foundations do even more than that. Mattifying formulas can control oil, and foundations containing sunscreen can, you guessed it, protect you from the sun, which provides longer term benefits to your skin. “Sun damage equals fine lines, wrinkles and brown spots,” says Shamban, which might cause you to want to wear more corrective makeup. The best way to prevent against the damage is, you already know, sunscreen. Options with SPF 30 can go a long way to improving your skin over time.

So now you’re probably wondering what foundations won’t make your skin suck. Don’t worry, I got you. Here are some dermatologist-approved options at a variety of price points, so you can see what works best for you. Everyone’s skin is different, but these options are a good place to start.

It Cosmetics CC+ Cream Oil-Free Matte with SPF 40 — $39

Dermablend Cover Crème Full Coverage Foundation SPF 30 — $39

Clinique Acne Liquid Makeup — $29.50

Dior Backstage Face and Body Foundation — $40

Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation — $66

Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup — $14.59

Images: Kevin Laminto / Unsplash; betches, nottoopretty, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram; It Cosmetics, Dermablend, Clinique, Dior, Oxygenetix, Neutrogena