'Wearing makeup gives you acne' and other myths, busted
Maybe it’s Maybelline, or maybe we’ve just been wearing the wrong products
Like most Indian girls, my older sister’s kajal was the first makeup product I was allowed to use. Wearing anything more than that (and those fruity Body Shop lip balms that people insisted on eating) was something you were only supposed to do when you were older “because makeup ruins your skin”.
While humans have been sporting liner and eyeshadow since 4000 BC — for the ancient Egyptians, a strong cat-eye was considered gender neutral — the decision to wear makeup is still fraught with taboo and unwelcome assumptions. “If my lipstick is too bright or, god forbid, red, then I’d get slut shamed. But if you don’t wear anything, people ask, ‘Are you sick? You look so washed out, why not wear some makeup?’” said one Tweak reader about her complicated relationship with red lipstick (we investigated the root of that too).
My regular routine consists of a tinted sunscreen or sunscreen followed by BB cream, eyeliner, and lipstick that doubled up as a cheek tint too. Going on and off a variety of medications over the years has made my skin sensitive to most things. For a long time, I stayed away from wearing what I’d call ‘excess makeup’ out of fear of breaking out with acne, rashes, and itching that had plagued me for years before.
Tweak’s Multimedia Editor Kahini Iyer found herself in a similar conundrum thanks to cystic acne. “I was in a vicious cycle of wearing makeup to cover up my skin problems, but that makeup potentially exacerbating the problem too.” We both eventually had the realisation that the two aren’t necessarily related. “While I was having skin issues, makeup was good for my confidence. Now, it’s a fun, enjoyable thing to do. I’ve gone from using it to cover up to using it as a means of self-expression,” she explains.
I can empathise with apprehensions about wearing makeup. Previous generations of makeup products weren’t exactly cosmetically elegant or advanced in their formulation.
There was a time when people would make their own kohl using charcoal and almond oil. Beetroots would be mashed up, strained and added to coconut oil for a DIY style blush and foundations had the shade range of Victoria’s Secret catalogue circa the 1990s: from ivory to peach, and a too-ashy brown if you were lucky.
Kajol R Paswwan, a bridal makeup artist, and Dr Geetika Gupta, founder of ISAAC Luxe, also grew up with many myths of the same kind. And they agree that for most people, how your skin reacts to a product depends on its formulation and how thoroughly you wash it off.
Today, the beauty market is brimming with advanced technology and formulations that take into consideration different skin types and weather conditions. You don’t need a PhD in chemistry to wisen up to the ingredients listed on the backs of bottles, avoiding the ones that are likely to trigger reactions.
Together with the professionals, we bust common makeup myths and narrow down your search for beauty products that will help you achieve that glowup without feeling like a full coat of stucco.
Myth: Mascara will make your eyelashes fall out
The first pot of mascara, as we know it today, may have been created out of coal dust and Vaseline. Today, there’s an option for every whim — lengthening, volumising and curling, with some even boast nourishing qualities that can strengthen your lashes and help them grow.
Both Gupta and Paswwan encourage you to replace your mascara every three months. “To correct this myth, I’d say ‘wearing expired or older mascara will make your eyelashes thin or fall out’. The older it gets, the more harmful it becomes for the lashes,” explains Paswwan. With your eye area being a sensitive zone that can catch infections easily, using expired or low-quality products is asking for trouble.
Avoid using a pumping action with the mascara wand to gather the product, the extra air you push into the tube could result in bacterial growth. Instead, swirl it around, look down just a little and shimmy the wand from the base of your lashes to the top.
To get it off, you don’t need to scrub hard, even if it’s waterproof. Soak cotton pads (we’d prefer eco-friendly, reusable ones) and gently press down on your eyes for a few seconds before wiping away the product. You could alternatively opt for an oil cleanser that will do the heavy lifting of getting the product off your lashes before you go in with your second cleanser. Iyer swears by good old Pond’s cold cream to remove every last bit of stubborn makeup — an essential step to avoid clogged pores and breakouts.
Myth: Wearing foundation will make you darker
The results are in and we’re happy to say that there is no truth to this statement. If you feel that using foundation is making you darker, it’s more likely that you’re just picking the wrong shade.
“Foundation does tend to oxidise and a slight change in colour appears where it may seem darker or more orange on your skin. But this is a momentary thing and is definitely not instrumental in changing the colour of your skin permanently,” Gupta reassures us.
It’s this oxidation that could make it seem like the foundation isn’t the same as your natural skin colour. Or you could have picked a shade that doesn’t match your skin tone or undertones.
Start with figuring out your skin’s undertones — warm, cool or neutral. Celebrity makeup artist Namrata Soni says to look at the veins on the inside of your arm or undereye area. “Are your veins greenish in colour? Your natural undertone is most likely yellow and warm. People with a cool undertone are likely to have their veins appear in shades of blue, pink, or even purplish. Neutral is difficult to figure out sometimes. But if you fall on the blue-green spectrum, that’s your fit.” Those who have golden tones in their skin yet find warm-toned foundations too orange might have olive undertones.
Instead of swatching on your arms, place it on your cheekbone going downwards to your neck and blend it out. Don’t let store lighting fool you, see how the product looks in about an hour or so out in natural light to find your perfect match.
Myth: Lipstick discolours your lips
There was a time when animal fat and crushed bugs formed the formulations for lipstick. But we’re not in ancient Egypt anymore.
Hydrating lipstick can give your lips more colour and smoothness. Other circumstances may cause you to lose your natural lip colour, but experts assure you that wearing as much lipstick as you like won’t cause you to do so. “If you frequently wear lipstick, you may notice that your lips appear lighter than usual when you gaze in the mirror when you aren’t wearing it. Lipstick has no effect on altering the colour of your lips permanently,” says Gupta.
I think our fear of lipstick is more cultural than medical, so to speak. Because lipstick, by nature, draws attention to the wearer. Most of us end up being sexualised at a very young age, for no fault of our own so we learn (or are taught) to hide. Behind layers of clothing, long hair, whatever will draw the least attention to ourselves.
The nudes are still more acceptable. It’s a subtle ‘your lips but better’ look. There is a boldness that’s attached to brighter lipstick colours – crimson reds, vivid pinks, dare we say a deep purple, even black. Each shade comes with its own laundry list of societal judgement.
If you struggle with dry lips, stick to creamy and semi-matte finishes, and tinted lip oils. These require touch-ups through the day versus the no-budge mattes, but are relatively easy to apply.
Regardless of which formula or finish you opt for, Paswwan recommends you take extra care by applying lip oils or good quality balms to hydrate your lips.
The skin in this region is delicate, but we don’t take that into consideration when talking about sun protection. Look for lip products that come with some SPF for added protection from sun damage which can cause hyperpigmentation and lip skin discolouration. Other habits such as smoking, high caffeine intake, dehydration, and even some medical conditions can cause your lips to lose their natural colour. If you notice a drastic change in colour along with other symptoms, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Myth: You don’t need to clean makeup brushes often if you’re the only one using them
Do you know the acne you attributed to a pore-filling primer and powder foundation? It’s more likely down to the bacteria that’s collected on your sponges and brushes that you’ve been smearing repeatedly across your face. Whether it’s one brush you share with three other people or a set of five fancy brushes you bought to use for yourself, make-up brushes and sponges need regular cleaning.
Paswwan says that washing your brushes is non-negotiable. It’s a matter of hygiene. “Your skin can suffer a great deal from using dirty makeup brushes, and the damage goes far beyond a simple breakout or skin rash. Sebum, pollutants, pollution, dust, product buildup, and dead skin cells—which may include hazardous germs like staphylococcus, streptococcus, and E. coli—accumulate from daily use,” says Gupta.
Paswwan recommends doing a weekly cleaning of your makeup tools and applicators if you’re the only one using them. And if you’re a professional makeup artist or someone who shares brushes with others, then you need to disinfect them after every use.
You may have seen various videos and hacks about how to clean your makeup brushes. There was a point where a tiny washing machine just for your beauty blender had gone viral online. The best thing you can do is invest in a well-formulated brush cleaner. This comes in the form of solid and liquid cleansers. Run your brush under water, add the cleanser and swivel it gently on your knuckles to try and get the product out from every bristle. There are also silicon pads that have bumps and ridges that can serve the same purpose.
Myth: Makeup ages your skin, especially foundation
The experts concur that in this case too, you’ve probably been using products that aren’t suited to your skin type. And it’s a mix of misinformation about skin care as well as wearing makeup.
Our skin is going to age, there are no two ways about it. We can slow down the visible signs of ageing by keeping it hydrated, moisturised and protected from UV damage. The first myth to bust in this case would be that people with oily and acne-prone skin types don’t need to use moisturiser, with or without makeup on top. The more you deprive your skin of moisture, the more oil it’s going to produce to compensate. Start with at least a light gel cream before you go in with your makeup and you’ll immediately start to notice a difference.
Not every product in our makeup routine needs to have a matte finish. Being a dewy glazed doughnut may be a recent beauty trend, but that comes naturally to oily-skinned folk. Balance your makeup bag with hydrating and mattifying products to get the finish that you desire. It may take some experimenting on your part. Try pairing a more satin finish foundation with a powder blush, or vice versa and ending with a mattifying finishing spray. Mixing up the formulations and finishes can even things out. Your skin shouldn’t feel tight or dry after your makeup application.
Myth: Makeup is too heavy and feels cakey on the skin
Makeup can start looking cakey, patchy and even flake off your skin for myriad reasons from poor skin prep to overuse of products. If you have dry skin, makeup can latch onto dry patches and make them stand out more. Over-layering of products, especially powders on top of cream formulations, can cause them to clump together and accumulate in the creases of our skin. More product doesn’t necessarily mean more coverage – you may be using more than your skin requires, which makes it start pilling up into little balls on your face. It’s also important to prep your skin well before makeup, and this comes down to skincare.
You need a healthy canvas that’s been moisturised and primed to help your makeup last longer through the day. When it comes to the new-age makeup products, you’re barely able to even feel them on your skin, especially if they’re not a full matte finish. Alternatively, you can skip the foundation and instead opt for BB creams and skin tints, or a liquid foundation that’s runnier in texture which you can build from sheer to medium coverage.
If you fear your skin is getting a bit suffocated, start with the ‘less is more approach’. Pick a few multitasking products that you can layer without feeling like you’re piling things on. A face tint that you can use on your lips, cheeks and eyelids, a light base or concealer for anything you may want to camouflage and you can never go wrong with a lengthening mascara to elevate your look while giving it a more natural feeling as compared to the whoomp of volumising mascaras.
“Make sure you invest in quality products and you’ll see these myths breaking very soon,” adds Paswwan.
Wearing makeup shouldn’t stress you out. I like to think of it as a fun hobby, a skill that I can hone, turn up or tone down as I choose. It takes a little hunting, and some experimenting and you’ll find your holy grail products that give you that confidence boost and add a spring to your step when you need it.