Experts weigh in: What's the best way to cover up acne?

Experts weigh in: What's the best way to cover up acne?

Spots on

Text: Renée Batchelor

YouTube is rife with videos of vloggers transforming their acne with a heavy coat of makeup. Buro gets two experts to dish on what they really think are the best ways (and products) to cover up acne

Acne is not an easy thing to live with. We know, having experienced it in early adulthood. The impulse to cover up acne with makeup can be strong — especially with hormonal acne that doesn't respond well to treatment. It can be difficult to just 'ride it out' without attempting to use makeup to make your skin look more presentable. But what are the right makeup products and techniques to use and what is safe and won't worsen your skin condition? We turn to our experts, Dr Eileen Tan, dermatologist at the Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital as well as makeup artist Larry Yeo, who also has a specialist diploma in cosmetic science, to give us skin advice.

We showed both experts the video (below) of a YouTube makeup tutorial by Sara K. Yeo thought that were certain things that Sara K could have done to improve her result. "Her makeup was quite patchy and her technique tends to break up the skin texture. She could have gotten better coverage from using a beauty blender or a flat angle foundation brush. I also felt there was too much contour on her eyes that was too warm and reddish, which amplified the redness of her blemishes even more." Here is their other advice.

Yes you can, says Yeo, as long as you remove it properly. "Makeup will only make your acne worse if you don't remove it well enough. Most pigments found in makeup are too large to enter pores, but most people use too much moisturiser anyway, which pools and clogs the skin. For some people, their own facial oil can clog their pores very easily, so I would suggest using mattifying products to take away the oil and also not wearing your makeup for that long."

Dr Tan has a practical approach when it comes to advising patients. "
Acne sufferers may require makeup or concealer to cover the acne marks and scars. Hence, I don't stop patients from applying them." However she has general guidelines including minimising the long wear of makeup, avoiding sleeping with it on and avoiding makeup for at least three days after facial treatments such as chemical peels and non-ablative lasers. If you do wear makeup, Dr Tan advises keeping it light, "It's best to avoid heavy makeup. There are some innovative products such as cover sticks to camouflage discoloured acne scars and they may contain active ingredients such as salicylic acid (to break up the comedones) and lightening ingredients such as kojic acid and arbutin to lighten pigmentary acne scars." As to whether these ingredient-packed makeup products actually work, Dr Tan says they might be effective for early stage acne and mild comedones, but should never be used overnight.

Dr Tan says that there are some ingredients that are comodegenic and cause skin clogging. Though not exhaustive, some of the ones higher up on the list include carageenan, algae extract, wheat germ oil and sodium chloride. If you have acne, be careful of what you put on your face and don't trust blanket terms like 'non-comodegenic' and 'won't clog pores' written on the packaging. Do look at the actual ingredients listed instead. The first ingredient listed is always present in the greatest proportions in the product. Yeo believes that some ingredients and additives are best avoided for those with acne-prone skin. "Some people have 'acne' or skin with symptoms that look like acne because they use crappy skin care. Not all skincare suits everyone. And frankly, if you break out, it is best to avoid products that have fragrance in it (essential oils are bad for the skin) are laden with too much moisturisers."

Says Yeo, "Waxy concealers are definitely out. They adhere well, but their moisturising levels can cause or worsen breakouts. And if you have acne, stop focusing on the glow. With 'glowing' products on your face, and angry acne, it will just look like a massive cluster of boils." Yeo also thinks that a lot of people overdo it with multiple colour correctors, when a good foundation will do the job of covering acne. He says, "Some people think by using a lot of green corrector it will tone the redness now. But that will only work if you are of a light to medium-fair skin tone. Other skin tones will look sickly or washed-out and grey. Frankly, the foundation formulas that have been coming out over the past few years are impressive enough to tone down any skin redness without the need for correctors."

Makeup for acne
As a professional makeup artist who is called on to work on all kinds of skin types, Yeo has sage advice. "If you have an area of the face that is constantly flushed (or covered with clusters of pimples) you should use a colour correcting primer like Make Up For Ever Step 1 Equalizer Primer to tone down the colour. Light to medium-light skin tones should use the green hued corrector, while medium to olive-skinned women should use the yellow corrector to take any redness down a level. With fair skin you have be careful, as too many products will make your complexion look too cakey. Darker skin rarely has any redness showing, perhaps just some discolouration from healing pimple scars."

The best kind of foundation to use? Yeo recommends liquid foundation and high-coverage liquid foundations that hold better due to their recently-developed formulas. "The foundation sticks better due to the change in the chemical composition that gives better hold upon the skin, and resists sebum and sweat well." Yeo has a list of foundations he would recommend, so if you're in the market for a good one, take note. "Foundations like Urban Decay All-Nighter Liquid Foundation, Kat Von D Lock-it Tattoo Foundation, Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Stick Foundation, M.A.C. Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation, Shiseido UV Protective Liquid Foundation, Shu Uemura Face Architect Smooth Fit Fluid Foundation, and Nars Velvet Matte Skin Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 30, all give great holding power without messing with the skin."

Anyone who has less than perfect skin knows the power of a good concealer, and this becomes even more important with hiding acne and scarring. Yeo says, "I recommend Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer, Kat Von D Lock-It Concealer, M.A.C Pro Longwear Concealer and Dior Diorskin Star Concealer. Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer is just amazing and stays on well with just a touch of concealer." If you need more coverage, Yeo has this tip "Increase the coverage of your foundation with Cover FX Custom Cover Drops, just add a drop (or two) into a small pump of your foundation and mix it in for higher coverage."

When it comes to a good cover-up job, it's important to prep the skin and apply the makeup as well as possible. Yeo recommends the Kose Esprique Foundation Brush or 13rushes Flat Top Brush for foundation. As for technique, Yeo has this advice. "The trick is not to buff the foundation upon the skin but glide it across the skin like a sponge to allow the consistency of the foundation to go over the skin, sustaining this coverage." The Dior DiorShow Backstage Blender is also a good tool for novices. Says Yeo, "The flat side allows the same application as a sponge, but the tapered side is great for the crevices of the face, while the round end is ideal for patting on any area that is patchy."

Acne-prone skin is very senstitive, so rubbing the skin aggressively is not a good thing to do. Says Yeo, "Frankly with acne-prone skin, one has to be gentle when removing makeup. Light cleansing oils like Shu Uemura POREfinist Anti-Shine Fresh Cleansing Oil takes away a lot of the makeup. Another one of my favourites is Bioderma Hydrabio Micellar Water to dissolve makeup while leaving the skin hydrated, to prevent excessive stripping of the skin. Those who want a more matte finish can try Bioderma Sebium Micellar Water." Another thing to note, and something we learned the hard way, is not to overwash your skin. Yeo says, "The trick with acne is that not to overwash your face with facial wash and also stop washing your face in warm and hot water. It doesn't help — it just irritates the skin and leaves the skin blotchy. A gentle cleanser like SK-II Facial Treatment Gentle Cleanser will benefit you much better, by simply leaving the skin more comfortable."

It can be tempting to see makeup as a solution, but do remember that treating the issue is the most important step. Yeo says, "
Rather than piling it (makeup) on, I would rather an individual focus on the problem and solve it." That's where Dr Tan comes in. "In general, acne will require topical and oral medical therapy to eradicate it. Combination therapy (of two or more treatments) may be used. For example, topical antibiotics or topical retinoids may be prescribed. Adopting a basic skincare regimen is also an important element of maintaining healthy skin hygiene — basic management includes regular cleansing to control your skin's oiliness. Some cleansers also contain antibacterial properties to reduce the bacterial load on your skin."

When acne gets more serious the treatment may also be stepped up. Says Dr Tan, "
Medical treatment involves instituting a systemic treatment such as oral antibiotics, isotretinoin or oral contraceptive, besides topical options. There are also other non-drug options like chemical peels, phototherapy, lasers, intralesional steroid injections (for severely inflamed cysts) as well as low-level light therapy." Our advice? If you have severe acne that bothers you, save up for regular dermatologist visits, practice good skincare habits and stick it out — it may take some time, but clear skin days will be here again.