How do you know if you’re wearing too much makeup? And does it matter? These are the questions I set out to answer when I researched and spoke with dermatologists and beauty experts about our relationship with the stuff we put on our faces.
What I learned is that “too much” makeup is pretty subjective. Our definitions will be different. However, there are some risks and possible complications that come from caking on the blush and foundation. The more makeup you wear, the more likely it is that you’ll experience one of these results.
Say hello to clogged pores
Makeup covers our pores, so the more we put on the harder it is for our pores to breathe. When the pores on our faces are covered up, it can lead to skin irritation and breakouts.
“The most likely outcome of wearing too much makeup is clogged pores and irritated skin,” Diane Elizabeth, beauty expert and founder of Skin Care Ox, told me. “Many of the ingredients in makeup products, from natural ingredients like coconut oil to synthetic silicones and petrochemicals, are highly comedogenic or pore clogging. Highly comedogenic ingredients get trapped in our pores, along with dirt and bacteria, and cause blackheads and breakouts.”
If you do enjoy playing around with a lot of makeup, make sure to wash your face well each and every night to give your pores some free time.
You’ll be at risk for infection
Your face isn’t the only thing you should be cleaning. How clean is your makeup bag? Our makeup can start to grow bacteria after just one use. Makeup tools that go near your eyes, like mascara wands, are especially vulnerable to developing harmful bacteria. So much of our makeup touches entrances to our bodies, like the eyes and mouth, so we can ingest that bacteria and become sick. The more makeup you use, the more chances you have to become infected.
To prevent this, make sure to toss any old makeup and never share products or tools with friends.
Your wrinkles could look worse
The more we touch our skin and apply makeup, the more at risk we are for wrinkles. “Rubbing and pulling on the delicate skin around your eyes causes eyelids to lose elasticity and become more wrinkled,” Dermatologist Jessica Weiser told Glamour.
So as you put on more and more makeup, that delicate skin around your eyes is getting pulled and tugged, leading to more wrinkles. “The skin there is much finer than the rest of the face, so tugging can really damage collagen and break capillaries,” Isabelle Bellis, holistic facialist, told Glamour. When it comes to applying makeup around your eyes, less is more.
You could be at risk for side effects
Many of us are so concerned about cleaning up our diets and replacing conventionally-grown food with organic, but what about our makeup products? Depending on what products you use, you’re exposing your skin and body to toxins every morning. The more makeup you use, the more toxins you’re exposed to.
“As a dermatologist, we live and breathe cosmetics and personal care products,” Dermatologist Steve Xu told Time. “I get asked every day, ‘What is safe to use?'”
Dr. Xu and his colleagues studied the makeup-related complaints reported to the Food and Drug Administration. During the 12-year period they studied, there were 5,144 health complaints from cosmetic products! Make sure to do your research and don’t overdo it.
You will need more makeup remover
When you wear a lot of makeup, you need more remover to wash it off every night. However, your cleanser could be leaving harmful residue on your face. Not all makeup removers are created equal, so make sure to read about the ingredients in that bottle before using it every night.
“Although quick and easy to apply, many makeup removers contain active cleansing ingredients, which may remain on the skin unless washed off,” Dermatologist Susan Stuart told the Huffington Post. “If they remain, the residue from them may expose the skin to excess amounts of various chemicals including emulsifiers and surfactants. These can dry the skin and also irritate it. Some of them also contain various preservatives including formaldehyde, which can be an allergenic, as well as fragrances.”
Start by using less makeup, so you don’t need too much cleanser.
You may feel more self-conscious
Makeup can help you feel fun and beautiful, but once we start relying on it to feel good, we’ve just crossed into unhealthy territory. If you find yourself using a lot of makeup just to feel okay enough to leave the house, it’s time to really examine your relationship with it.
According to a study from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, women who feel self-conscious and more concerned with their appearance tend to wear more makeup than those who rate higher in self-esteem. If you’re concerned that you may be using makeup for your self-confidence, slowly start weaning yourself off and see how you feel.
Or you could feel more beautiful
There is nothing wrong with feeling good about getting dressed up and doing your makeup. Wearing a lot of makeup can give you a temporary confidence boost. This could be helpful before a first date or work presentation, when you may be feeling a little nervous. The trick is to enjoy these good feelings without becoming dependent on your makeup.
A study in the Journal of Social Psychology studied the body image ratings of female college students with and without their makeup. They found that the study participants felt better about themselves when they wore makeup. Interestingly, the more makeup they wore, the larger the contrast in their body images between their two looks. In other words, the more makeup they wore, the better they felt about themselves, but without the makeup, they felt that much worse.
You’ll feel more grownup
Learning to do your own makeup is a rite of passage for us women. Who among us doesn’t remember standing in front of a crowded mirror in the girls’ bathroom in sixth grade, smearing on way too much eye shadow and Lip Smackers?
So what happens when you wear too much as an adolescent? A study in the Journal of Consumer Behavior found that it actually helps you separate from your childhood and start to transition to adulthood! So if your daughter’s heavy blue eyeshadow and sparkly lip gloss is driving you crazy, just remember she’s going through an important milestone.
You could be ovulating
If you find yourself putting on more makeup than usual, check the calendar. A study in The Psychological Record found a link between women’s menstrual cycles and their makeup use. According to researchers, women use the most makeup around the time of ovulation. Perhaps this is nature’s way of helping you feel more attractive during your most fertile time.
People may judge you
Makeup can be a hot button issue. When a model posted her before and after makeup looks on Reddit, the commenters went a little crazy, even going so far as to call women “deceitful” for wearing too much makeup. When you wear too much makeup, you can start to look like a completely different person. It’s your face, so you should embrace any makeup techniques you like, but remember to play up your natural beauty, rather than covering it up.
“Any time I am doing a makeover, I always have this idea in my mind: ‘When wearing makeup you should look like you at your most beautiful.’ Emphasis on looking like YOU,” Makeup Artist Courtney Marzilli told Bustle. “That being said, makeup should be fun and used as an outlet for people to get creative, do something daring. Who are we as makeup artists to gauge what is too much or too little for someone?”
Maybe nothing happens
When it comes down to it, wearing too much makeup may put you at higher risks for some of these complications, but at the end of the day, it may not be a big deal.
“There aren’t really any lasting effects from wearing too much makeup,” Dermatologist Alan Parks told me. “If you wear a lot of makeup, or if you don’t take your makeup off at night, it could lead to acne problems, because the makeup could clog your pores. You should also make sure you wash your makeup brushes and throw away old makeup, as this could lead to skin irritation or acne as well.”
Bottom line? Do what feels good to you. If you do end up with issues, they can be repaired.
How to repair your skin
So if you’ve decided that you like the heavy makeup look, rock on. Just make sure to care for your skin in the process. “Removing makeup is the first step to clear skin. From the best skin, you get the best makeup,” Owner of MG Beauty Mindy Green told me. “At night you should be applying eye cream and anti aging serums, and you can’t with makeup on.”
When you wear any amount of makeup, it is crucial to the health of your skin that you completely remove it every night. “The best way to remedy this is to wash off your makeup at night,” said Green. “If you’re too tired to go to the sink, have makeup remover wipes by your nightstand.”
Once you’re in the habit of washing your face every night, start to incorporate weekly exfoliation to really help your skin shine. “The key is to gently exfoliate your skin weekly. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, unclogs pores, and clears away any remaining makeup residue,” explained Elizabeth. “Clay masks are the best exfoliation method for most skin types because they are non-abrasive, great at pulling out gunk from clogged pores, and don’t contain harsh chemicals. Try a simple DIY clay mask of Bentonite clay, apple cider vinegar, and pure aloe. The aloe helps to kill bacteria and soothe irritated skin which is perfect for acne-prone skin types.” Care for you skin, then wear as much or as little makeup as you like!