Makeup is known for its ability to give your skin a more even-toned look. But what if your go-to cosmetics could not only improve the appearance of your skin in an instant, but make it healthier over time? Good news: Some makeup has skincare benefits that do just that.
These products can be a time-saving and cost-effective way to optimize your skincare routine.
But do they really work? Here we’ll break down what exactly makeup products with skincare benefits are and how they work.
A skincare-makeup hybrid product typically intends to accomplish two things: to improve the health and appearance of your skin over time, and to deliver the cosmetic benefits that we get from applying makeup. Makeup products such as CC cream, concealer, foundation, lip balm, and blush have been formulated with skincare ingredients.
Skincare-makeup hybrids intend to boost your makeup by providing skincare benefits, making them more well-rounded products for your skin. While the effects of makeup on the skin vary by product and by person, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients in your products and understand what works for your skin texture.
The FDA doesn’t currently require approval of cosmetic ingredients prior to going on the market unless they’re color additives.¹ And cosmetics labeled “organic” must comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations for organic products as well as FDA regulations for labeling and safety requirements for cosmetics.² The FDA also doesn’t define “hypoallergenic” or “natural” makeup products, and doesn’t require them to have an expiration date.³ As with anything you apply to your face, it’s a good idea to consult a licensed dermatology provider to figure out what products may be most effective for you.
There are a wide range of skincare-makeup hybrids on the market, and what works for your skin may not work for someone else. But in general, these products may offer a few benefits that may make them worth trying.
They’re multi-tasking: These products may address skincare concerns and enhance your facial features all at once, which can mean less money spent on products in your routine. They may also result in less time you have to spend on applying multiple products.
They incorporate skincare science into makeup: Most makeup products just provide cosmetic coverage, and don’t benefit your skin long-term. In this way, skincare hybrids may be a step up from your average makeup product.
They may replace makeup products with negative effects: Research shows that makeup can sometimes produce harmful effects on your skin and body. Metals in cosmetics may be toxic for your internal organs if they’re absorbed into the blood through the skin,⁴ and products that are comedogenic or clog pores may cause breakouts.⁵ And allergic contact dermatitis to cosmetics is quite common.⁶ People tend to read the ingredient list on skincare products more often than those on makeup, so it’s easy to be unaware of their potential negative effects.
They may reduce your risk of skin cancer: We know that sunscreen is an important, but sometimes neglected, step in any skincare routine. Applying makeup products with SPF is better than not using it at all. Daily SPF usage has been shown to reduce risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 40% and significantly lowers the chance of invasive melanoma.⁷
If you’re interested in testing out makeup products with skincare ingredients, you may be curious about any potential downsides to using them. Here are a few to consider:
Repeated application of skincare ingredients may irritate your skin: If you use a serum with retinol followed by a tinted moisturizer with retinol, for example, your skin may get irritated from retinol overload. Try to make sure there’s no ingredient overlap between your hybrids and regular skincare products.
They may not benefit your skin as much as regular skincare products: Because they’re trying to accomplish two things at once, the skincare ingredient content in a makeup hybrid may not be potent enough to treat your skin.
They may not fully penetrate your skin: Most makeup products are meant to sit on top of your skin, not absorb into it. While makeup absorption depends on the ingredients and your skin’s permeability, ingredients in skincare hybrids may not penetrate your skin enough to treat certain skin concerns.
A licensed dermatology provider can help you figure out what products may benefit your skin type. In general, these skin types may get the most out of skincare-makeup hybrids:
Acne-prone skin: Some makeup products have been shown to clog pores and lead to breakouts. For example, one study concluded that the D&C red dyes commonly used in blush are comedogenic coal tar derivatives, and may cause acne in the cheekbone area.⁸ Skincare-makeup hybrids may instead incorporate ingredients that might help treat acne.
Inflamed skin: Removing makeup by intensely rubbing your skin may worsen symptoms of conditions like atopic dermatitis, which include inflammation, irritation, and redness.⁹ Skincare hybrid products are typically lighter and contain less makeup to remove.
Skin with age spots and wrinkles: Makeup products with SPF may help slow down further development of age spots and wrinkles. But when in doubt, make sure to use a sunscreen that protects your skin without clogging pores, like The Sunscreen.
Again, there are a wide variety of makeup products out there that incorporate skincare benefits, but there are some common ingredients you can look for. You may find these skin-loving ingredients in a number of makeup products:
Hyaluronic acid: A hydrating ingredient that has been shown to accelerate wound healing.¹⁰ If you’re new to hyaluronic acid, try it out in The Moisturizer.
Ceramides: These lipids have been proven to help treat skin diseases that affect the skin barrier such as atopic dermatitis.¹¹
Salicylic acid: An FDA-approved acne-fighting ingredient.¹²
Vitamin C: This ingredient has been shown to treat hyperpigmentation and reduce signs of photoaging.¹³
Vitamin E: Products with Vitamin E may have photoprotective properties that can help protect the skin from solar radiation.¹⁴
Squalene: An antioxidant that can hydrate the skin.¹⁵
You won’t typically find skincare ingredients in makeup products that don’t go directly on the skin, such as mascara, eyeliner, lip liner, etc. However, these types of makeup are prime candidates for skincare-makeup hybrids:
Lip balm can also be made with SPF, which is a major plus since evidence has shown that lip sunscreening can help lower the incidence of lip cancer.¹⁶ In addition to moisturizing your lips with hydrating ingredients like shea butter and jojoba seed oil, The Lip Balm with SPF 30 helps protect your lips from the sun.
It can be confusing figuring out which products work best for your skin. Add makeup in the mix, and it may feel even more challenging to discern what to buy to address your skin concerns. Curology’s expert licensed dermatology providers are here to help you wade through the vast sea of products and find ingredients that can actually make a difference to your skin.
When you sign up with Curology, you gain one-on-one access to a licensed dermatology provider who can provide product recommendations and answer any questions you may have. If you deal with acne-prone skin, clogged pores, dark spots, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, melasma, or rosacea, Curology is here to help provide your customized treatment plan. To get started, simply sign up for a trial* today.
Everyone’s skin is different, and the way makeup affects your skin depends on the product and your skin type. Some makeup products contain ingredients that may be harmful to your skin or clog pores, which can lead to acne. It’s important to understand the ingredient list on your makeup and wash it off at the end of every day.
If you’re using makeup like foundation or concealer to cover up uneven skin tones, redness, bumps, blemishes, or dark circles, you may need less of it if you use skincare products that help solve the root problem.
It’s a good idea to take care of your skin whether you wear makeup or not. The right skincare products can help treat acne, protect you from skin cancer, reduce wrinkles and dark circles, and much more. If you’re not sure where to start, a licensed dermatology provider can help you determine what products may be the most effective for your skin.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Small Businesses & Homemade Cosmetics: Fact Sheet. (2022, February 25).
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Organic Cosmetics. (2022, February 25).
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Borowska, S. and Brzoska, M.M. Metals in cosmetics: implications for human health. J Appl Toxicol. (June 2015).
American Academy of Dermatology Association. I have acne! Is it okay to wear makeup? (n.d.).
Zirwas, M.J. Contact Dermatitis to Cosmetics. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. (February 2019).
Sander, M., et al. The efficacy and safety of sunscreen use for the prevention of skin cancer. CMAJ. (2020, December 14).
Fulton Jr., J.E., et al. Comedogenicity of current therapeutic products, cosmetics, and ingredients in the rabbit ear. J Am Acad Dermatol. (January 1984).
Hosokawa, K., et al. Rubbing the skin when removing makeup cosmetics is a major factor that worsens skin conditions in atopic dermatitis patients. J Cosmet Dermatol. (June 2021).
Purnamawati, S., et al. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. (December 2017).
Uchida, Y. and Park, K. Ceramides in Skin Health and Disease: An Update. Am J Clin Dermatol. (November 2021).
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. (2023, January 17).
Telang, P.S. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. (April-June 2013).
Keen, M.A. and Hassan, I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. (July-August 2016).
Huang, Z.R., et al. Biological and Pharmacological Activities of Squalene and Related Compounds: Potential Uses in Cosmetic Dermatology. Molecules. (January 2009).
Pogoda, J.M. and Preston-Martin, S. Solar radiation, lip protection, and lip cancer risk in Los Angeles County women (California, United States). Cancer Causes Control. (July 1996).
Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.
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Meredith Hartle, DO