9 Steps to a Flawless Face
If you live with a skin condition like acne, psoriasis, eczema, or rosacea, you know that makeup can be a real miracle worker. But if you wear too much, apply it incorrectly, or wear the wrong kind, you just draw attention to the problem you’re trying to cover up—or irritate your skin even more. We asked several experts for their best tips for camouflaging trouble spots and highlighting your best features. Follow this step-by-step process to put your best face forward!
Note: The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends keeping makeup simple, using a light touch and the fewest products possible for your individual needs. The more products you use, the greater potential there is for skin reactions. You certainly don't have to apply primer, color corrector, concealer, foundation, or bronzer. But if you do want to use some (or all) of these options, apply them in order suggested below.
1. Get Professional Advice Before you Buy
"If you’re breaking out or flaring up and counting on makeup to cover it up, you need to consult with a dermatologist who can diagnose your skin condition and recommend the most appropriate products and treatments to help it heal," says Joyce Davis, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City. "A dermatologist can also guide you towards cosmetic brands that won't further annoy your skin and the right type of makeup, such as oil-free [products] for acne-prone individuals."
Makeup artists and cosmetics professionals (at stores like Sephora, Ulta or your local department store) can offer individualized expert advice about foundations and concealers that best match your skin tone and provide the right coverage for your skin. In general, shop for liquid or cream foundations, concealers, and blushes in shades that match non-irritated skin.
2. Make a Clean Start
Makeup looks best on skin that’s clean, hydrated, and as smooth as possible. Cleanse (and moisturize, if needed) with products recommended by your dermatologist or those that are formulated for your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, look for hypoallergenic, fragrance-free products; those who are acne-prone should seek non-comedogenic skin care solutions that won't clog pores. There are also rich, creamy products for dry skin, and oil-free formulations for oily skin.
"People with acne should avoid products containing oil and/or shea butter and people with eczema should avoid drying products such as gels," says Davis. "Lotions, creams, and oils are more soothing."
Sunscreen is essential for preventing sunburns and protecting against skin cancer. Apply a generous dollop of UVA/UVB-screening sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15+ to clean, hydrated skin, or use moisturizers, foundations, or tinted BB (blemish or beauty balm) or CC (color correcting) creams that contain sunscreen.
If you spot-treat your skin problems with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, apply them now. (If you apply a layer of product over your entire face, put it on before your sunscreen, "or else it will be moved around by the sunscreen," according to Davis.)
"OTC ingredients that are helpful for acne-prone individuals are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide," she says. "For rosacea, look for products that contain topical sulfur compounds, and you can use OTC hydrocortisone cream or ointment to treat eczema."
5. Get Primed
Primers help create a smoother skin surface, which allows makeup to adhere more easily, and last longer. If you're worried about acne, a primer with clay will help absorb oil.
"To combat the redness that comes with acne, rosacea, and other skin conditions, use a green color-correcting primer or concealer before you apply foundation," advises professional makeup artist Krystyn Johnson, owner of Bridal Beauty Chicago. The green counteracts redness and gives your skin an even tone.
7. Cover and Conceal
Warm a small amount of foundation in the palm of your hand and apply it to your face, neck and any other areas you want to address.
If you’re covering irritated skin on joints—like knees or elbows—bend first, then apply your makeup, advises the National Psoriasis Foundation. This will keep your makeup from breaking up and looking patchy when you move.
Cosmetic sponges are made for foundation application: "You’ll get the most even coverage without agitating your skin if you apply your foundation with a [makeup] sponge," Johnson says. "Wet the sponge, squeeze out excess water, dab it into your foundation and stipple or bounce it onto your skin, pressing slightly on the surface. Apply a second layer of foundation only to the areas that need more coverage."
But if you're dealing with eczema or rosacea, you may want to skip the sponge and use your (clean) fingers. "Sponges and brushes can be too irritating for extremely sensitive skin," says California makeup artist Kimberly Findlen of the Spoiled Gal Beauty blog. "Your own warm fingers will help the foundation blend nicely with your skin."
Next, apply concealer to any problem areas.
If you find that makeup isn't covering your pimples, you have another option, courtesy of Findlen: "Lightly spray an at-home tanner over your face and neck. Let it dry, then apply a foundation primer, your favorite oil-free foundation, and concealer on any remaining redness."
The rest of your make-up should highlight your best features (your lovely eyes, winning smile, gorgeous hair) without layering on too many more cosmetics. You may want to avoid powder-based blushes, eye shadows, and other cosmetics—powders can settle into creases and scars, irritate skin and draw attention to skin problems.
In addition, those with textured skin (rough, raised, dry, scaly, bumpy or scarred skin), acne, psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema should stay away from products that glow, shimmer, or contain frost or glitter; these effects accentuate problems, according to Johnson.
Findlen suggests, "If you’re experiencing a flare up, your skin will probably already be naturally flushed, so skip the blush and opt for bronzer. Apply lightly over the bridge of your nose and outwards to your cheeks for a natural glow."
Don't forget to take off all of your makeup and thoroughly cleanse your skin before you go to bed. Findlen recommends old-fashioned cold cream for this. "Pond’s and the other cold creams your grandmother used are still available in your drug store. They help soften and remove makeup, so you don’t have to rub or irritate sensitive skin." But feel free to experiment, especially with products that are geared towards your skin type.
If you're using topical products at night, they should be applied now to the affected areas only. "I know most companies like their products to be applied all over the face, but this is often too drying, especially for acne products," Davis says.
Discontinue using any skin care product or cosmetic that irritates your skin—speak to a dermatologist or makeup specialist about other products that might be a better match.
Joyce Davis, MD, reviewed this article.
Davis, Joyce, MD. The Manhattan Dermatologist. Email interview May 22, 2016.
Johnson, Krystyn. Bridal Beauty Chicago. Email interview May 17, 2016.
Findlen, Kimberly. Spoiled Gal Beauty. Email interview May 17, 2016.
Delzell, Emily. "Makeup Tips for Skin With Psoriasis." National Psoriasis Foundation. May 6, 2015.
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