Even if you don’t normally wear makeup, you might be tempted to start using makeup when you’re using retinol. Because even though we always talk about the importance of skincare during this phase, makeup seems to be the easiest way to cover up peeling and flaky skin caused by retinol. On the flip side, the peeling and flakiness are what make it difficult to wear makeup too. And one starts to wonder, can you wear makeup while using retinol?
The answer is yes. But you need to forget about how you did your makeup before and approach makeup with a very different perspective and manage your expectations.
First things first. All vitamin A derivatives, which are collectively called retinoids, are known for causing peeling and dryness in the skin. Whether you use it for acne or for wrinkles, you deal with these issues on some level.
As retinoids speed up skin turnover, the surface of the skin renews faster than it normally does. That faster skin turnover means that the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin start to shed off rapidly, which gives you that flaky-looking skin.
And sometimes, retinoids cause purging too. Usually, it’s because of an attempt to hide these “side effects” that you want to continue wearing makeup or start wearing makeup when you’re using retinol.
And as retinoids have varying strengths, the severity of dryness and peeling will vary too, which might factor into what you expect from makeup. But no worries.
Though it’s a difficult and sometimes frustrating phase, we’re here to help. I test retinols for a living. And I have used tretinoin aka Retin-A. Additionally, my sister Feyza had her treatment with isotretinoin aka Accutane.
So whatever vitamin A you’re using, we’re familiar with it. Here you’ll find how you can wear makeup when your skin is peeling from retinol, how to choose your products, what to consider, and what to avoid.
Keep reading to find out how to wear makeup while using retinol.
1. Make sure you have a proper skincare routine.
First things first, all these retinol makeup tips will work only if you’re taking care of your skin properly. If you’re new to the ingredient, learn how to use retinol first. And that means washing your face with a featherlight cleanser.
It also means using the right moisturizer for your skin and regularly moisturizing. This is incredibly important as dryness is a very common retinol side effect.
And dryness really makes it difficult to wear makeup on normal skin let alone on skin that’s trying to make peace with retinol.
And of course, you need to make sure you’re using gentle sunscreen. So everything below is written with the assumption that you’re doing what you can to keep your skin hydrated, moisturized, and protected.
2. Go for oil-free makeup.
This is a general rule of thumb. We’re going to get into the specifics of it in a bit. However, it’s best to ensure you’re using oil-free makeup. Be it foundation or a BB cream, go for non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic makeup.
This is important as some people use retinol to deal with acne and congestion. And using acnegenic makeup is counterintuitive as it might compromise the effects of your retinol.
3. Skip foundation while using retinol.
Both my sister and I found it very difficult to use regular foundations on our dry, sensitive, and peeling skin. And no matter what you put on that skin, even the most full-coverage foundation stops working.
Plus, heavy, matte foundations can sometimes make peeling skin even worse. It’s because the foundation starts to separate and look patchy, making underlying peeling seem worse than it is.
For that reason, you should consider switching to foundation alternatives like tinted moisturizers, BB creams, and CC creams. Because these types of products are easier to work with.
Texture-wise, they’re creamier. So they are easier to apply. And even though they won’t provide full coverage, their moisturizing and emollient base do a better job at concealing underlying skin impurities.
They can give you an overall even skin tone and help you cover up redness too. And because they’re creamier, they’re less likely to look patchy and flaky.
4. Spot conceal blemishes.
Purging, acne, and blemishes are more common with prescription retinoids. However, some people deal with purging from using retinol too. And if you’re unhappy with purging and want to conceal acne, it’s better to use a concealer than a foundation.
Applying foundation all over the face to cover up acne can make your overall complexion streaky and patchy. But using a concealer to spot cover blemishes makes sure you cover acne without magnifying other skin impurities.
So after you do your skincare routine, apply an oil-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic concealer to the acne you want to hide. Use a dot of concealer. And gently press it in without spreading it too much.
From here on, you can use a tinted moisturizer simply to warm up your face. Additionally, if your current concealer has a matte finish and is drying for your skin, try mixing it with a moisturizer.
Doing this will soften the texture of your concealer, make it easier to blend on the skin, and reduce flaky skin around the acne too.
5. Focus on your eyes.
Red, flaky, scaly skin will make you want to put everything on just to conceal it. But as we’ve established, it doesn’t work that way. As a workaround, consider focusing on eye makeup and not using foundation.
A nice eye makeup look with curled, lengthy lashes is a good distraction. Draw attention to that area by wearing different eyeliner wings or even different color eyeliners.
You can also try one-and-done cream eyeshadows, which tend to be emollient and moisturizing for the lids too. That being said, you need to be very selective with the products you use, which brings me to my next point.
6. Use hypoallergnic makeup.
Use hypoallergenic makeup. And this is true even for your mascara. You might be wondering what your mascara has to do with retinol but as I’ve said, you need to change your perspective.
First things first, dry eyes are an issue for people who use prescription retinoids. So eye makeup that irritates simply makes things worse.
Even if you’re using a gentle, over-the-counter retinol, an irritating eyeliner or mascara will make the eye area itchy. And that can cause watery eyes, which will render your sunscreen useless around the eye area, making that area vulnerable.
It’ll also cause unnecessary rubbing, which is not the best feeling for sensitized skin. So whatever makeup product you’re using, it’s best to keep it safe and go for hypoallergenic, and fragrance-free makeup while using retinol.
7. Keep makeup minimal while using retinol.
It’s better to use very few makeup products when you’re using retinol. The reason is two-fold. First, more products mean more potential for irritation.
But more importantly, more product requires an equal amount of effort into removing them. For example, you might have to double cleanse by using two cleansers to ensure you get rid of all traces of makeup.
Even if you use one single cleanser, heavy makeup may require vigorous rubbing of the skin, which makes sensitive skin even more sensitive. So it’s best to prioritize and use as few makeup products as possible while you’re using retinol.
8. Swap your lipstick with a lip balm.
If you deal with dry, chapped lips from retinoids, don’t even waste your time with lipsticks. Because your lips require constant care and multiple applications of lip balm throughout the day.
Your lipstick won’t last and it’ll probably look streaky and patchy. Instead, use a hypoallergenic lip pencil to define the lips. But more importantly, use tinted lip balms. They color up the lips nicely and they moisturize at the same time.
9. Use your fingers to apply makeup.
Your skin might be sensitive and you might not even be aware of it. And brushes with harsh bristles can easily irritate your skin when it’s already vulnerable from retinol.
Instead, use your fingers to apply your base makeup products or your concealer. Your fingers also give you control, which makes it almost impossible to irritate your skin.
If you need brushes, know that natural makeup brushes are way softer and gentler on the skin than synthetic brushes. However, they won’t be cruelty-free.
Additionally, you can try a damp sponge. But you need to pay extra attention to hygiene. Sponges pick up all that dirt and bacteria. And if you don’t wash them properly, you’re just spreading out dirt on your sensitized skin.
10. Choose cream makeup while using retinol.
With bronzer and blush, you need to pick your battle. First of all, cream blushes and bronzers are usually more skin-friendly. They tend to be moisturizing for the skin and you can apply them using your fingers.
On the flip side, just like your foundation, they can separate and look patchy too. Powder blushes and bronzers, on the other hand, might start to look patchy as soon as you start applying them.
It’s because powder formulations, by nature, have a mattifying effect on the skin. And that’s not the best look on already dry skin. So you have these two options.
But personally, I find cream makeup products to be the better choice as they’re still easier to work with than powder formulations.
So these are some of our tips on how to wear makeup while using retinol. To be honest, you’re better off skipping foundation completely. It’s a whole thing itself and it isn’t worth getting frustrated over. But know that this is just a phase. Your skin is going to look a lot better once it’s acclimated to retinol.
Read Next: The Best Serums to Pair with Retinol