Where is this typically seen on the skin?
Either an all over and even spread of congestion or localised on certain parts of the face. Most common areas seen are on or under the cheekbones. Congestion can also develop along the hairline, on the orbital bone, chin, lip line or just in front of the ears.
What ingredients are you looking for?
Talc is the main ingredient we have been focussing on trying to get our clients to avoid, but there are many others to look out for. It may not even be the worst one out there as many articles continually deem it to be safe, as it’s not very high on the comedogenicity scale.
Fatty Acid Esters are what we really should be looking out for and trying to memorise their tricky names. Esters are the combination of Alcohols with Fatty Acids.
Fatty Acids are best for a drier skin that has little oil as they are quite nourishing, but they are food for p.acnes in an oilier skin and can be comedogenic. These are more so related to moisturisers etc. Fatty Acids are not to be confused with EFAs, these are much different.
Fatty Acid Esters are much more comedogenic on the skin because of the reaction the Alcohol has on the Acid when combined. The worst one is Isopropyl Myristate. Other examples are Isopropyl Palmitate, Isopropyl Isostearate, Myristyl Myristate and Ethylhexyl Palmitate.
One of the Esters I want to point out is Ethylhexyl Palmitate. It is the second ingredient in all NARS bronzers, Talc being number one. Nearly all who stop using their NARS powders find their skin clears up. We believe it’s because we are getting rid of Talc, but maybe this was the ingredient that was to blame all along. And now that it’s gone, so is the congestion.
Bismuth Oxychloride is said to be better for skin than Talc and is often found in BareMinerals powders. It’s heavier than Talc and has a crystalline structure, meaning these crystals can get stuck inside the pores, not only contributing to congestion but also has the potential to irritate sensitive skins or rosacea. This is more of an issue when it is the main ingredient in powder make up.
Red Dyes (D&C Red) are red tints and pigments used in blush, eyeshadow and lipstick and are derived from coal tar which is extremely comedogenic. This explains those deep blackheads some get directly on the lip line and why the cheekbones are usually the worst!
Why do they put those ingredients in?
Talc has many uses. It absorbs moisture and can make makeup opaque. It is also used as a dilutant. If you were to just have pigment in cosmetics it would be too concentrated and intense, so Talc brings this down a notch.
Fatty Acids are used as thickeners and emollients and give a creamy consistency, some can be used as surfactants.
Fatty Acid Esters are used in cosmetics because they don’t feel as oily as Fatty Acids and other emollients. They also give skin a smooth texture. The interesting thing here is that even though the Esters don’t feel as rich or oily, they are actually much worse for congestion!
Ethylhexyl Palmitate is a derivative of palm oil and has a silicone-like texture, so for this reason is it often used as a replacement to silicones or mineral oil.
Bismuth Oxychloride is used in cosmetics because it has a shimmery, pearlescent appearance and adheres well to skin.
Red Dyes are used to give pigment to blush, eyeshadow and lipstick for example.
Does that mean no-one can use those ingredients?
The effect of comedogenic ingredients are more likely seen in those with more oil flow, or those already with congestion or acne. This is because their skin naturally has a high cell turnover rate, so more dead skin needs to shed off.
Drier skins or those with no family history of acne are a lot less likely to be affected by these ingredients but I wouldn’t say that they are exempt.
Congestion always starts with a blocked pore, but it’s not just makeup that’s to blame. Some people may cleanse or exfoliate incorrectly, or their skin is dehydrated from over stripping or underhydrating, leading to excess dead skin build up. And it’s these factors that need to be taken into consideration. Having an improper skincare routine can allow makeup that was never the problem, to become a problem in those who we may not have expected.
What kind of breakouts are they normally? (cong/cysts/inflammation/redness etc)
Mostly blackheads and whiteheads concentrated to one or more areas, that can eventually develop into pustules or papules if not treated due to bacteria build up. Milia can sometimes appear as a once off or in a patch.
If more than one type of breakout- why are there different types- does it mean different things?
Congestion is always going to be the most common lesion to see on the skin because these ingredients are essentially causing a blockage inside the pore. It’s once those pores become inflamed or bacteria builds up that it will develop into a pustule or papule. This can be due to things like dirty makeup brushes, improper extracting at home/work etc, not removing make up well or at all, hormonal or dietary changes for example. Sometimes only one or two milia may show up on the skin, which is ok as once we they are removed generally they won’t come back. But when someone has a genetic history of milia, they are more prone and make up can exacerbate it. Meaning they could have cheeks full of them as well as the whiteheads and blackheads!
Why does it affect the skin?
All skins have pores all over that produce oil as a protective mechanism and everyone has different amounts of oil flow depending on their DNA. The skin has a cell turnover process where new cells are born in the lower layers and rise up to the surface to shed off. These old dead skin cells can shed off daily. If the opening of the pore becomes blocked, then there is no way this old dead skin can shed off. This is how congestion begins. Comedogenic ingredients are what block the pore and prevent them eliminating debris.
If foundation is the cause how will it show up in the skin? Where?
Because foundation is applied all over the face, it has the potential to cause congestion all over. Those with a lot more oil flow are more likely to experience this, and their blackheads may appear to be quite large. Whereas, if it is someone with a relatively normal amount of oil flow, they may still notice some bigger blackheads, but just in the centre panel of the face.
How can we help as beauty therapists?
Extraction facials will clear the skin up. The severity of the condition will determine how many treatments are needed and the frequency. If the client is noncompliant and still using the products causing it in the first place, then it will come back. So clear explanation as to why and homecare that may include AHAs, BHAs, antibacterial ingredients, mineral make up or efficient make up removing cleansers etc.
How is it fixed?
Throw out the comedogenic makeup!!!! Finding out exactly what it is that is to blame and removing it from the picture.
Stop sleeping in it!!!!! Having emergency makeup wipes around is much better than the damage this does.
Properly remove make up at night time! No removing the leftovers around the eyes in the morning! (so many do this)
Clean makeup brushes regularly to ensure no bacterial build up. If they have been used for a long time without cleaning, best to chuck them and get new ones.
Change to mineral makeup! In saying that more people are switching over to mineral, but mineral doesn’t necessarily mean non-comedogenic. So, we really need to keep our eyes on the ingredient listings for all nasties and not just Talc!