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5 ways makeup causes premature aging (and two ways it helps your skin)


We wear makeup to look younger and feel more confident, but what if your makeup was actually making your skin look older? Shockingly, this isn’t just a scare tactic meant to keep young girls from trying to appear older. The makeup you use — and how you apply it — could actually be contributing to the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and acne outbreaks on your skin.

Here’s five ways that your makeup is making your skin look older, and (because we’re not all doom and gloom) two ways that makeup helps your skin to stay young and healthy looking.

1. Not removing your makeup at night

Sleeping in makeup at night

We all know we should remove our makeup every single night before bed. While we’ve all had an occasional late night where we’ve skipped a cleansing routine, regularly sleeping in your makeup is bad for your skin.

At night, your skin undergoes a process of renewal and regeneration, undoing all the damage it has sustained during the day. UV light (sunlight), free radicals from food and pollutants, temperature fluctuations, harsh winds, and more, all harm our skin. Overnight, our bodies have a chance to repair cells and regenerate. However trying to do that under a coat of makeup makes the process more difficult.

Your skin doesn’t need to “breathe,” but your pores do need help staying clear. When you fall asleep with your makeup on, you’re increasing the chances of pores getting clogged, leading to acne outbreaks. Makeup also acts as a trap for bacteria, which can cause inflammations and infections. And finally, sleeping in your makeup means all the pollutants and free radicals you came into contact with during the day remain on your skin, contributing to the breakdown of important skin structures, which leads to fine lines and wrinkles.

2. Applying makeup too harshly

You should be gentle with your skin, but it’s easy to forget if you’re in a hurry to leave in the morning. Applying makeup too harshly — especially around the delicate eye area — can lead to damaged collagen and capillaries. This results in less elastic, more lined skin, as well as unsightly discoloration and blemishes.

When applying makeup, use a light hand and avoid rubbing products into your skin. Be sure to use a moisturizer before your makeup if your skin is dry, and if you find you have to apply a thick layer of foundation to get the effect you want, you probably need to switch products. Heavy foundation will settle into any fine lines and creases in your skin and make them appear more prominent.

3. Using expired makeup

Your cosmetics have a shelf life, and you should pay attention to when they expire. Most products that are shelf-stable for less than 30 months will be marked by a “Best Before” date, and many cosmetics have a “Period After Opening” (PAO) symbol as well. This looks like a small pot with an open lid, and contains a number which indicates how long the product is still usable once its seal has been broken.

Using cosmetic products after they expire doesn’t just mean they’re less effective: it can be harmful to your skin. Just think of all the bacteria that has had time to grow every time you touch a product with your finger or a sponge. The germs you come into contact with every day end up transferred to your products, and then get put back on your face. Gross!

Reusing old or expired makeup can cause acne breakouts and infections, while old mascara could be responsible for causing styes and pink eye. That’s a lot of risk to take for a product that’s past its best.

Average shelf life of common cosmetic products after opening


3-4 months

Liquid eyeliner

3-4 months

Lip gloss

6 months


12 months

Liquid foundation

12 months

Powder foundation

18 months

Always check the PAO sticker on your products to check how long they’re good to use. And don’t forget to clean and replace your brushes and sponges too! Sponges should be replaced every 3-6 months, along with any brushes that haven’t been cleaned regularly. Good quality brushes can last for years, but only with the right care.

4. Retouching makeup during the day 

Reapplying makeup throughout the day

It’s probably second nature for you to check on your makeup and add an extra dab or swipe as the day progresses, but this can be terrible for your skin. Dirt, pollutants, and harmful free radicals accumulate on your makeup during the day, and adding an extra layer on top just traps them against your skin.

If you have to touch up your makeup, try to avoid applying more product on top of old. Use tissues or oil blotting paper if your skin starts to get shiny, and try to remove old makeup whenever possible. If your lipstick starts to fade, take the extra few seconds to remove it, rather than reapplying over the top.

Consider what is causing your makeup to slip, and try to address the problem rather than cover it up. Switching out your foundation or using a setting spray could solve your makeup woes without the need to constantly reapply new product.

5. Using makeup containing contact allergens

Although many brands are stepping away from the use of allergens in their products, it’s still possible that some of your makeup contains an ingredient you’re allergic to. Common offenders are fragrances, parabens, and PEGs. PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are synthetically produced, petroleum-based compounds that are frequently used as a base for cosmetics creams. They help thicken cosmetics, soften the skin, and add moisture.

Allergens in skincare and cosmetics products cause a reaction known as contact dermatitis, an itchy red rash that can lead to cracked, blistered, and oozing skin. The rash might not appear until 2-3 days after contact with the allergen, meaning it can be hard to work out what triggered it. Most contact allergies are formed over long-term repeated use, meaning the products you’ve been using for years are more likely to be the cause of a contact allergy, even if you’ve never had a reaction before.

Makeup isn't all bad

Don’t despair if you can’t imagine going out without your face on. Makeup isn’t all bad. In fact used properly, makeup can actually be good for your skin. Here’s two reasons to celebrate cosmetics.

1. Makeup provides regular UV protection

We all know we should wear sunscreen every day, but how many of us actually do? Well if you wear a foundation with SPF, remembering to wear sunscreen is as easy as following the rest of your morning routine. More and more cosmetics brands are including SPF in their products, making it easier than ever to wear sunscreen, and protect your skin from the dangers of UV rays. Look for a product with an SPF of 15 or higher to follow the CDC guidelines for sun safety.

2. Makeup contains antioxidants

Free radicals are bad for our bodies, but we come into contact with them every day through the foods we eat and the air we breathe. Free radicals cause damage by stealing electrons from our cells, disrupting their processes and eventually leading to cell death if left unchecked. One way to combat free radicals is through antioxidants. These molecules contain spare electrons that the free radicals can steal, saving your cells.

As the science of skincare has uncovered the secrets of antioxidants, an increasing number of cosmetics companies are including them in their products. That means your makeup won’t only make your skin look good, it will actively protect it from harm. How cool is that? 


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