Dermatologists reveal most common makeup mistakes that can destroy your complexion

Dermatologists reveal most common makeup mistakes that can destroy your complexion

Dr. Fernanda Sakamoto, professor of dermatology and co-founder of LightWater gives her tips
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DON'T spook your skin this Halloween! Dermatologists reveal most common costume makeup mistakes that can destroy your complexion - and share advice for avoiding acne, redness, and agonizing infections

  • Halloween is a time for dressing up and getting into character - something that often involves applying makeup and body paint as part of a costume 
  • Although fun in the moment, some ingredients in costume makeup can cause damage to the skin and result in irritation, redness, and breakouts 
  • Several dermatologists and top estheticians have shared their tips for safeguarding your skin this Halloween, including which ingredients to avoid 
  • Dr. Fernanda Sakamoto, professor of dermatology and co-founder of LightWater Skincare, said it is essential not to sleep in any makeup that you wear
  • Celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau advised those with acne-prone skin to do a two-step facial after wearing Halloween makeup, in order to avoid breakouts 
  • Dermatologist Sandra Lee - aka Dr. Pimple Popper - warned against re-using old makeup, noting that it can contain bacteria which may cause skin infections 

Halloween is a time for transformation and fun - providing costume lovers with the perfect opportunity to turn themselves into someone (or something) else... for one night at least. 

But if your plan is to use body paint, makeup and cosmetics to complete those masterful metamorphoses for spooky season this year - take note, because those astounding alterations could result in some truly terrifying consequences for your skin.

According to a panel of top dermatologists and estheticians, Halloween makeup and costume cosmetics can cause all kinds of serious damage to your complexion - particularly if you're using products that aren't typically meant for use on the skin. 

From acne and blemishes to agonizing inflammation and serious allergic reactions, there is no end to the issues that can arise from using the wrong products - or from failing to remove your makeup in the right way. 

Here, three experts - dermatologist and LightWater skincare founder Dr. Fernanda Sakamoto, celebrity esthetician and skincare brand founder Renee Rouleau, and dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, aka Dr. Pimple Popper - lay bare the most common Halloween makeup mistakes - while offering up their advice on how to avoid any ghoulish skin nightmares come November 1. 

Halloween is a time for transformation - which often involves the use of extreme makeup. Even celebrities like Heidi Klum (seen in 2019) get into the spirit with over-the-top cosmetics

Halloween is a time for transformation - which often involves the use of extreme makeup. Even celebrities like Heidi Klum (seen in 2019) get into the spirit with over-the-top cosmetics  

But experts are warning that the use of makeup - as seen on Zoe Saldana and Ariana Grande - can cause serious issues for the skin if the proper steps aren't taking to protect it

But experts are warning that the use of makeup - as seen on Zoe Saldana and Ariana Grande - can cause serious issues for the skin if the proper steps aren't taking to protect it
But experts are warning that the use of makeup - as seen on Zoe Saldana and Ariana Grande - can cause serious issues for the skin if the proper steps aren't taking to protect it

Listen to the experts! Top tips for guarding your face against acne and infections this Halloween

  • Make sure to avoid harmful ingredients like silicones, PEGs, phthalates, EDTAs, fragrances, and colorants/dyes such as FD&C Blue No. 1
  • Never reuse last year's products - they can contain bacteria which will transfer to the skin and could result in acne and even infections 
  • Do not use products on the skin that aren't meant for that specific use, such as markers, sharpies, paint, or hair products 
  • Always remove your makeup before bed, particularly if you have worn especially thick or waxy cosmetics on your face and skin 
  • Remove your makeup with a double-cleansing routine that starts with an oil-based cleanser or balm, or even a lotion, and ends with moisturizer 
  • Prep your skin ahead of Halloween by using SPF every day, and focusing on hydrating products that will safeguard the skin barrier 


According to Dr. Sakamoto, there is a clear list of ingredients you should steer clear of when looking for Halloween makeup. 

'Try to avoid silicones, PEGs, phthalates, EDTAs, and fragrances as they have harmful side effects and are allergenic,' she told

'Additionally, avoid heavy oils as they tend to clog pores and trigger breakouts.'

However, Dr. Sakamoto noted that most body and face paints - even if they are free from all of these ingredients - will contain colorants and 'harsh preservatives' which means it's important to ensure your skin is hydrated and moisturized before you begin applying your makeup. 

And for those who struggle with - or are worried about - acne, she says the key is to make sure you're using makeup and paint that won't block your pores. 

'Choose the right makeup – look for noncomedogenic paint and makeup that is light and will not block pores,' she continued. 

'Mineral powders tend to be better than heavy foundations, but it depends on the product itself. For example, makeup with salicylic acid is beneficial for acne-prone skin.' 

Rouleau added that it's important to keep in mind the fact that Halloween makeup is made specifically to withstand water and sweat, which means it will often be very hard to take off. 

She also warned to avoid ingredients like colorants, which will stain the skin.  

'There are probably a lot of waxes and polymers present in [the products] to prevent migration of the product on skin so that wherever you put it, it stays put,' she noted. 

'It's probably very occlusive and water-repellent because you don't want the makeup to move or to dissolve as you're sweating or doing whatever you're doing that night. 

'When shopping for makeup, I would make sure that it won't stain the skin afterwards because that is not good for the skin. Sometimes, companies aren't using makeup pigments, but they may be using other colorants in the product and some of those other colorants like FD&C Blue No. 1 (a blue dye that's allowed to be used in hair color) will definitely stain the skin and be really difficult to remove.'


As annoying as it might be to splash more cash on Halloween supplies when you have some leftover from last year, Dr. Sakamoto warns that re-using old products can cause serious issues for the skin, even if it does save you a few pennies in the short-term.  

'If the makeup you’re using is from last year or older, many of the ingredients have also oxidized, which can further irritate skin,' she advised. 

Dr. Lee added that years-old makeup could well be full of bacteria, which will then be transferred to your skin, resulting in all manner of issues, including inflammation and infections. 

'A sure-fire way to cause problems is to keep reusing your Halloween makeup for years on end,' she explained. 

'While it may seem economical to store it so you can use it again, you’re really creating a breeding ground for bacteria like C. acnes, even staph. That can give you inflammatory pimples or a skin infection that requires medical attention.'


Finding the right products to perfect your costume isn't always easy, but our panel of experts insisted that you should avoid using anything on your skin that isn't specifically meant to be applied there. 

Rouleau noted that some Halloween makeup products actually include the same ingredients as hair colorants, which will likely stain the skin. 

'Just make sure to use makeup that says it’s for face and body skin and leave the hair stuff for the hair,' she warned.  

Dr. Sakamoto agreed that you should never resort to using alternatives that aren't specifically meant for use on the skin - including markers or regular paint. 

'[One of the most common mistakes people make] is using non-makeup appropriate paint, or paint that is not made for skin; for example, markers or sharpies,' she noted. 

According to the dermatologist, using markers won't just cause issues with your skin in the long-term - it could also cause some embarrassment in the short-term because the likelihood is, they won't come off as easily as makeup or face paint.  

'Permanent markers don’t belong on the face or skin; while they won’t be permanently on your skin, they will remain for a long time and you would need solvents to remove, which are not only damaging to your skin but also bad for your airways and overall health,' she said. 


The longer makeup and other costume cosmetics remain on your skin, the more time they have to cause irritation and block pores - so it's essential that you properly cleanse your skin before you go to bed. 

'Number one [mistake that people make] is not washing off all your Halloween makeup before you go to bed,' Dr. Lee warned. 

'Especially if you’ve created a thick, full-faced look, you’re going to need to make sure you’ve removed all traces or you could wake up to irritation or acne in the coming days.'

Dr. Sakamoto agreed, adding: 'Always remove makeup before sleep – I know it can be tough after a long day and night out, but don’t go to bed with makeup on.' 


Rouleau explained that Halloween makeup is often made with low-budget ingredients to keep costs down, so that people who are buying it every year don't feel as though they are breaking the bank while doing so. 

However, what this means is that the formulas aren't always well-researched. 

She advised that the best thing you can do when it comes to Halloween costuming and cosmetics is ensure you are correctly removing the products from your skin, explaining that your complexion will require additional care after using this kind of makeup. 

'I would say probably like the biggest makeup mistake that people are making is they don’t know how to remove it and they are not caring for their skin afterward,' she said.

As for what the ideal routine is? 

'Use a cleansing balm and the double cleansing method,' she suggested. 'Because of the nature of the formulations of body and face Halloween makeup, it may be difficult to get off. 

'The goal would be to not use aggressive means to remove it. Like attracts like, so the oils and emollients used in greasy balms can really work to break down the oils and waxes and polymers in Halloween makeup. 

'You’ll probably have to clean the skin twice with a balm (maybe even three times) and use a washcloth to ensure it gets swept off the skin. You’ll then want to cleanse with a gel cleanser. These contain surfactants which cut oil off the skin to ensure your skin is nice and clean.'

Dr. Sakamoto further advised leaning towards skincare products that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, while also focusing on products with 'clean ingredients'. 

'You’re only wearing the paints for a few hours, but since they can be irritating, make sure you’re supporting your skin with extra nutrition afterwards,' she said. 'Use skincare that has a clean ingredient list and is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins. You can also add a one-time sheet mask for extra nutrition.'

And if you don't have a cleansing balm or oil-based makeup remover handy, she explained that face lotion can also be used to gently remove your cosmetics.

'Use an oil-based makeup remover or one designed for water-proof makeup, or even better is to use lotion to gently massage it off,' she said. 'Lotion is both effective and if you choose the right one, has less chemicals and fragrances.'


For those with acne-prone skin, Rouleau had another piece of advice, suggesting that you go as far as to do an at-home post-Halloween facial to guard your skin against breakouts. 

'For acne-prone skin types to avoid clogging and prevent breakouts, I would recommend doing a two-step facial at home to reset the skin,' recommending her Rapid/Peel Duo of masks, which 'contain pore-clearing products'.    

'First, you’ll use a skin peel which will remove any surface dry skin cells to prevent them from falling into the pore lining and then once rinsed off, you’ll apply a nice soothing, anti-bacterial mask that reduces irritation and prevents breakout activity.'

Dr. Lee added that anyone who is prone to blemishes should ensure they have acne-fighting ingredients included in their routine in the days before and after Halloween. 

'If you have acne-prone skin, consistency is key — because inflammatory pimples start out as clogged pores too tiny to even see,' she explained. 

'So if you’re breaking out regularly, start using key acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol. My SLMD Acne System combines all of these in an easy-to-use kit.'


Dr. Sakamoto noted that it's never too early to start getting your skin ready for more aggressive makeup - warning that a consistent routine is essential in the run-up to the spooky holiday, while ensuring you are adding extra care for any wounds is also a key step. 

'Get your skin prepped by healing any wounds you may have now – apply Vaseline to speed up healing,' she suggested. 

'Use your sunscreen to prevent sunburn and sun damage. If you have any skin conditions, get treated by a dermatologist. 

'Avoid anything that may sensitize your skin before Halloween makeup looks. That means postpone any cosmetic treatments and do not start retinoids now if you have not already been using them.

'The combination of harsh makeup and cold weather while out trick or treating on Halloween can lead to extra dry skin. But by moisturizing and creating a good skin barrier, you will help your skin feel better and the makeup will look better too as it will prevent cracking.'

Dr. Lee added that there is one vital step people should take to prep their skin - which doesn't involve any products: sleep.

'Something people tend to overlook, but it’s really important, is getting enough sleep and not stressing out about your skin,' she said. 

'Nighttime is when our skin repairs itself, and no one wants to have dark circles or bags before a big event. Stress causes a cascade of chemical reactions that can actually make breakouts worse, so try to be kind to your skin and just have fun.'

Time to stock up! The products YOU need to protect your skin and avoid acne this Halloween


LightWater Replenishing Cream for Evening ($42.75)



Published October 27, 2022 on by Charlie Lankson

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