Does Highlighter Make You Break Out?

Like a lot of people, I have, over the past couple of years, begun to make highlighter a staple of my daily beauty routine. And, for the most part, the results have been to my liking. It’s easy to apply, easy to blend, and, most of all, is an effective way to make most of the sweat on my face appear intentional.

But. Around the same time that I started using highlighters, I also started getting breakouts. And not just any breakouts (I always get those! That’s not a story!), but a very specific type of pimple right around the area where I usually apply highlighter. These breakouts aren’t anywhere close to being the worst ones I’ve ever had–they’re usually small-ish pustules that are close to the same color as my skin–but, still, make me concerned that my Glossier Haloscope could be the problem. So, I started doing research. If you’re also worries about highlighter and its potential relationship to breakouts, find or everything you need to know about it here:

So. Does highlighter cause breakouts?

If you’re super into getting your doughnut glaze-glow on, don’t worry–you don’t have to stop. In most cases, highlighter itself won’t cause your breakouts. But, if you’re noticing breakouts after wearing highlighter, it could be a broader makeup-related issue. It’s possible that your makeup could have ingredients that you’re slightly allergic to, irritate your skin, or just aren’t non-comedogenic, which means that they contain oil that can clog your pores. Basically, all makeup sort of puts you at a risk of breaking you out, and, since highlighter is a makeup product, it’s also a potential cause of breakouts.

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Okay. What do I do about it, then?

Most dermatologists recommend taking a makeup break for about a week if you suspect that your makeup is making you break out to see if there are any notable changes when you stop wearing it. So, if you want to try this, you can either go totally barefaced or just stop using a certain product. If the problem clears up or lessens within that time, you’ve found your culprit.

As far as highlighters go, you should also be paying attention to their formulas. Liquid highlighter, for example, generally requires some blending with the fingers, and, since touching your face can lead to breakouts, this could mean that your highlighter is indirectly causing your breakouts.

And, if you use powder highlighter and the brush you use to apply it isn’t clean, you’re basically just re-applying your own skin oils to your face, which, again, might make you break out. Basically? Use brushes, and make sure they’re clean. This way, you should be able to keep the breakouts at bay.

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Anything else?

Wash your face. Every night. Even if your makeup is non-comedogenic, it will still give you breakouts if you never wash it off.

Any highlighter suggestions?

I thought you’d never ask! For acne-prone skin, you need to use a highlighter that uses a brush, rather than something you apply directly to your face from a tube or by using your fingers. Based on my anecdotal experience, I’ve found that powder highlighters (like the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector) plus a good fan brush (that you actually clean every few weeks) work best for this.

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Parting words?

Essentially, you just need to treat highlighter like you would any other makeup product if you have acne-prone skin. Buy ones that say they’re non-comedogenic, don’t use ones that irritate your skin, and make sure that you’re washing it off by the end of the day. And that’s it! May you glow up for the rest of your life.

Do you think your highlighter makes you break out? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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