Can Medicated Makeup Clear Acne?

Medicated Cosmetics
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A lot of us use makeup to cover our breakouts (I do!)  So products that claim to clear acne blemishes while they're concealing sound fabulous. 

But can these medicated makeup products really clear up acne?

What is medicated makeup?

Medicated makeup is like your typical foundation or concealer except it contains an acne-fighting ingredient.  Most often it's salicylic acid or an alpha hydroxy acid. 

Not sure if you're using a medicated makeup?

  Check the label for these as active ingredients. 

These acne-fighting ingredients work by keeping the pores clear of excess oil and skin cells.  Reduce pore blockages, or comedones, and ideally your acne improves.

Medicated makeup alone isn't enough to clear up acne.

Although it sounds like a great idea, medicated makeup alone won't clear up acne.  Salicylic acid itself just isn't an incredibly effective acne treatment (OTC benzoyl peroxide, for example, works much better but isn't found in medicated makeup products.)

The second problem is that over-the-counter products aren't effective against moderate to severe breakouts.  It doesn't matter if you're getting them in makeup, lotions, or cleansers.  They're just not strong enough.   

If you have only occasional breakouts, medicated makeup might be a good choice for you.

If you're one of those lucky ones that only get small blemishes here and there, medicated makeup is designed for you.


Medicated makeup is most helpful for those who struggle with blackheads, or get a only few pimples every now and then.  It's also great if you have oily skin that is prone to pore blockages. 

You'll probably love that it helps gently treat your occasional breakout without much fuss.

Instead of medicated makeup, try a proven acne treatment.

Medicated makeup will not clear more persistent cases of acne, severe or cystic acne.

For that, you'll need a separate acne treatment medication.

But you don't necessarily have to give up your favorite medicated makeup. You may be able to use it in conjunction with your acne treatments.  You'll want to use medicated makeup with care, though, if you're also on an acne medication.  If you're already experiencing excessive dryness or irritation caused by your current acne treatment medication, the additional salicylic acid in the makeup can add to dryness and exacerbate peeling, flaking skin.

So, while medicated makeup might not be the acne treatment answer you're looking for, there are plenty of other products that fit that bill.  Check out The Most Effective Acne Treatment Medications for help choosing the right acne treatment for you.


Do TT, Zarkhin S, Orringer JS, Nemeth S, Hamilton T, Sachs D, Voorhees JJ, Kang S. "Computer-assisted alignment and tracking of acne lesions indicate that most inflammatory lesions arise from comedones and de novo." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2008; 58(4):603-608.

Zander E; Weisman S. "Treatment of acne vulgaris with salicylic acid pads." Clinical Therapeutics. 1992 Mar-Apr; 14(2):247-253.

United States. NIAMS. Questions and Answers About Acne. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, 2006.

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