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When wearing makeup might not be the best idea

Daily Maverick logo Daily Maverick 2020-01-22 Nicole Williamson

© Getty According to the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), “the South African cosmetics sector is one of the biggest personal care markets on the African continent, contributing about R25-billion at the retail level and more than R5-billion at the manufacturing level”. 

Makeup is popular for many reasons: it can help uneven skin tone, dark circles under the eyes, enhance eyelashes and eyebrows, add colour on the lips or bronzer on the cheeks and it can help boost confidence. “Grooming rituals can be temporary confidence boosters and studies suggest that the confidence they inspire is itself attractive,” says assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and a research psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Nancy Etcoff in the New York Times. But whatever the reason behind many of us applying makeup, there are times when using cosmetics can negatively affect the health of the skin.

According to Cape Town-based aesthetic medical practitioner Dr Alek Nikolic, wearing makeup should be avoided when the skin barrier is compromised, which means when the skin is sensitised or inflamed, when you have eczema, contact dermatitis, rosacea (redness and bumps on the nose, chin, cheeks and forehead), or when it has been sun damaged. Nikolic adds that, due to certain allergens (dyes, colour additives and natural rubbers such as latex), as well as a risk to clog the pores, wearing make-up can potentiate inflammation and breakouts. 

“Fragrances and preservatives are the most common ingredients that sensitise the skin and cause reactions,” he says. 

In addition, using cosmetics during gym workouts, after a facial peel, or while taking a dip in a chlorine-based swimming pool is not recommended, as it may result in harmful effects on the skin including infections, contamination and increased exposure to bacteria. It can also lead to blocked pores, which makes the skin more prone to congestion which, in some cases, causes acne, blackheads and whiteheads. So, when and why is it sometimes better to go bare faced than wearing makeup? We explore.

After micro-needling or chemical peels

Micro-needling and chemical peels are non-invasive facial procedures that cause superficial damage to both the epidermis, the outer layer of skin, and the dermis, the layer that lies beneath. In turn, the physical trauma on the skin promotes collagen production as the skin rebuilds itself, resulting in a smoother surface with reduced appearance of blemishes including scarring and fine lines.

Whereas micro-needling uses multiple tiny needles to penetrate and puncture the skin, medium and deep chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution, such as salicylic, or glycolic acid to exfoliate and temporarily damage the outer layer of skin. The main reason to avoid wearing makeup during, or after these procedures is the risk of infection.

“By removing the outer layer through a chemical peel, we expose the skin to the bacteria typically found in the makeup,” explains Nikolic. Wearing makeup during the procedure might also affect the way the peel penetrates to the correct depth, reducing the efficacy of the results. 

However, the risk of infection with micro-needling is much higher as there are open wounds, albeit small, on the skin. Nikolic advises that wearing makeup during this process can force the makeup into the deeper layers of skin, which may cause “serious inflammatory reactions from allergic and/or contact dermatitis to foreign body reactions”.

“Applying regular makeup will allow the ingredients and particles including any bacteria to enter the open ‘micro holes’ in the skin. This will lead to infection, dermatitis and inflammation.”

As these small open wounds can take up to eight hours to close, use of cosmetics should be avoided until such time as the skin has healed in order to limit the risk of infection. He advises that makeup should only be applied 24 hours after the treatment.

At the gym, or during exercise

If you are a sworn makeup fanatic, you might be tempted to wear makeup even while working out, yet this may not be optimal for the health of your skin.

Exercising generally leads to sweat which, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, when combined with oil, dirt and bacteria on our skin, can lead to breakouts and acne. Wearing makeup while breaking a sweat could lead to the bacteria being trapped between the epidermis and the layer of foundation, resulting in clogged pores and skin irritations. 

The key to avoiding these side effects is to keep your skin clean before and after exercising as this will allow the sweat to escape the skin without any cosmetic obstacles. Similarly, a post-workout cleanse will remove any bacteria, or dirt that may have been excreted through open pores and sweat glands. 

Whereas wearing heavier cosmetics including foundations, bronzers and highlighters would be most harmful to the skin during exercise, a touch of mascara would be acceptable as it is not directly on the skin’s surface. 

In the swimming pool 

Although wearing makeup tends to form a barrier, which may help protect the skin against the chlorine, the issue arises once you get out of the pool. Nikolic explains that after a swim, one would be left with a combination of chlorine, dirt and makeup on the skin. This allows bacteria to sit on the skin and, once it is dry, can lead to skin inflammation and clogged pores. 

If you find that you’ve jumped into the swimming pool with a full face of makeup, be sure to cleanse the skin thoroughly before picking up the makeup brush again. Follow the cleanse with a hydrating moisturiser (to replenish the skin’s moisture that has been stripped by the chlorine), and a broad spectrum sun protection factor if you are outdoors.   

During a breakout 

Going through a breakout period is never comfortable and often, the first reaction is to cover the bad patches of skin with foundation and concealer. Unfortunately, applying makeup on top of the affected area could lead to a longer healing process, or even exacerbate the breakouts. Acne occurs when the skin’s pores become blocked with either oil or bacteria and wearing makeup will, unfortunately, further clog the pores and hinder the opportunity for healing. In addition, Nikolic explains that if there is an active, open lesion, cosmetic application will lead to increased irritation and inflammation.  

The use of makeup products during this time could also lead to cross-contamination – the bacteria on the skin could transfer to makeup brushes, sponges, or your fingers. There are other options though, like medically-formulated cosmetics (breathable makeup that promotes oxygen, moisture and nutrients to the skin), such as Lycogel or Oxygenetics

Dr Lilliana Lulli, Medical Aesthetic Practitioner at The Renewal Institute South Africa in Johannesburg, adds that avoiding ingredients such as alcohols, excessive parabens and artificial fragrances is advised.

Also be sure to wash and disinfect any brushes, or sponges you may have used and keep your hands clean at all times during application.

During or after laser hair removal

Laser hair removal is a process whereby a light is emitted and absorbed by the pigment in the hair, which inhibits, or delays further hair growth. As the hair follicle lies beneath the skin, the risks of wearing makeup during, or after a laser hair removal procedure are similar to that of micro-needling. Post-treatment, the skin is at a higher temperature and this heat will need to be released – makeup will provide a barrier, which will prevent the heat loss and can lead to burns. Wearing any makeup during this procedure may prevent the light from fully reaching the targeted area, which would lead to a less effective result. ML

What 53 celebs look like without a lick of makeup (Provided by Insider)

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