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Makeup Safety: Ask the Dermatologist

Dermatologist Susan Evans, MD, answers your questions on makeup health and safety.

Question:
How can I keep my lips moist? They’re too dry.
Answer:

For simply dry lips, use an emollient that contains a sunblock. For cases of resistant, dehydrated lips, you may apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment (not cream) to your lips.

Question:
I'm 60 years old. However, I still have oily skin -- primarily on the nose, forehead, and chin. Is there a makeup foundation (tinted moisturizer) with an SPF that will buy me more time before the oil shows through? Seems like everything I try causes me to look shiny within an hour.
Answer:

There are several oil-free tinted moisturizers on the market. Look for products that contain a sun block and oils that are non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging). Also, your moisturizer should contain retinol, which will help rebuild your collagen, which is an important component for mature skin.

Question:
Is liquid or powder makeup better for your skin?
Answer:

It depends on your skin type and sensitivity. You should determine if there are any ingredients that may be potentially harmful to your skin. Several companies have hybrid liquid-powder solutions. Look for compounds that are alcohol, paraben, and fragrance-free.

Question:
I have very oily skin, and as I have entered into my 50s, I've started to get pimples again around my mouth and chin. When I was younger, I used over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide and prescription Retin-A, along with daily cleansing and toning. These products don't seem to be working for me now.
Answer:

Acne and mature skin can be hormonally related. Using products on mature skin that contain benzoyl peroxide may lead to excessive drying. Consider other alternatives that will substitute for benzoyl peroxide, such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid alternatives.

Question:
Are there any new creams to help eliminate the lines between my eyes?
Answer:

The lines between your eyes may represent either sun damage or hypertrophy of the underlying muscle (corrugator). Sun damage can be improved with topical retinoid-based products. For the deeper furrows, topical creams will usually not penetrate the muscle.

Question:
What ingredients should you avoid in your makeup if you have sensitive skin?
Answer:

Sensitive skin patients should avoid makeup creams that contain a large amount of preservatives, high alcohol content, multiple synthetic fragrances, or parabens.

Question:
What moisturizer can be used when you use Retin-A?
Answer:

Use oil-free non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) moisturizers with Retin-A. Olive oil, avocado, and vitamin E-based moisturizers are a good start.

Question:
I have very dark circles under my eyes. How can I hide them without using too much makeup? I live in a hot and humid climate.
Answer:

You may want to consider using a concealer that is dermatologically tested for skin irritants. Products that are pretested may be less likely to clog pores or cause allergic reactions.

Question:
Are waterproof mascaras harsher on your eyes and eyelashes than normal mascaras?
Answer:

Waterproof mascara can be thicker and slightly more difficult to remove than regular mascara. If you swim regularly, you should consider not wearing mascara during swimming.

Question:
Is extra virgin olive oil OK to use on dry skin on my face?
Answer:

A small amount of olive oil is safe to use on your face. Olive oil contains healthy antioxidants for your skin.

Question:
What is the best product to use for age spots? I would love to at least lighten mine.
Answer:

Your first step should be using gentle exfoliating products containing salicylic acid, papaya, or glycolic acid. Next, you may want to try any of several brightening compounds such as bearberry, licorice extract, and hydroquinone that will work in conjunction with the topical fruit acids, to lighten your dark spots.

Question:
I have hyperpigmentation on my face. What sort of concealer or base should I look for?
Answer:

Use a concealer that has been dermatologically tested. Pretested concealers are generally less likely to clog pores or cause an allergic reaction to your skin. The synthetic fragrances or preservatives usually have been removed, leaving a more natural product.

Question:
What should be the order of application for the following: sun block, serum, primer, and concealer?
Answer:

Apply your serum first, followed by sun block, primer, and then concealer.

Question:
How do you feel about permanent (tattooed) makeup, like eye brows and eye liner? Is it safe and natural-looking?
Answer:

The primary concern with permanent facial makeup is that your brow and eyelid position will change as you age. As you get older, your permanent makeup may have a less natural appearance. In addition, as time passes, the ink within the tattoo may fade, which may require a “touch-up” procedure.

Question:
What can I use to cover “pregnancy mask?”
Answer:

For immediate cover, try using oil-free, waterproof concealer that is dermatologically tested for sensitive skin and will cover hyperpigmentation, burn scars, tattoos, and pimples without causing breakouts or irritation.

In addition, you should implement a treatment protocol for pregnancy mask , known medically as melasma, by your dermatologist.

Question:
I am 58-years-old and use an over-the-counter lotion with 0.15% retinol. I use it nightly to help with wrinkles. What type of wrinkles on the face and neck does it affect? Does this help a crepe-paper textured skin on the neck?
Answer:

Retinol-based products will improve fine lines and wrinkles, and encourage new cell turnover. For deeper wrinkles due to sun damage or severely loose skin, the effect is less pronounced.

Question:
I'm very fair and need sunscreen. However, sunscreen makes my skin break out. I've tried sunscreen for sensitive skin without any results. Do you have any recommendations?
Answer:

Consider applying natural-ingredient physical sunblocks, including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, instead of irritating chemical sunscreens. If breakouts are a problem, non-comedogenic sunscreens won't clog pores.

Question:
Are makeup-removal wipes safe? Am I better off using a makeup removing cream?
Answer:

Your first step is to familiarize yourself with the ingredients in either the wipe or cream. Make sure that the product you are using does not contain excessive alcohol, which can lead to dry skin; parabens, or is heavily scented, which may cause an allergic reaction.

Question:
I'm 69-years-old. What can I do to update my makeup? I know I need to change the way I wear makeup, but don’t know how.
Answer:

At age 69, good skin care is a priority. If you wear heavy makeup, you'll appear older. Incorporate a healthy skin care routine that includes exfoliation (glycolic and papaya enzymes), hydration, and rebuilding of skin cells (retinol, vitamins, and peptides).

Question:
Is beeswax, petroleum jelly, or something else best for dry winter lips? I ski sometimes, too.
Answer:

Beeswax, vitamin E based creams, olive, or avocado oil are great natural rehydrating compounds for dry winter lips. For severely dry, cracked lips, consider adding a small amount of hydrocortisone cream to your lip care routine.

Question:
My sister says my lipstick causes the fine lines around my lips. Is that true, or is something else to blame? I love my lipstick!
Answer:

Fine lines around the mouth are typically attributed to the natural aging process, sun damage, smoking, or excessive puckering of the mouth.

Question:
What can I do for an allergy to a hair dye that I used? My skin got reddish in color and is itching.
Answer:

The first thing to do is to stop using the hair dye. If you wish to continue using hair dye, consider patch testing prior to placing the dye within your entire scalp. Also, consider an evaluation by your dermatologist to rule out any associated medical conditions with your scalp, such as fungal infection or psoriasis.

Question:
Is there any concealer that actually helps get rid of acne and keep it away?
Answer:

Many of the concealers that treat acne are salicylic acid-based products that are tinted to camouflage blemishes and dry out the acute acne breakout. Unfortunately, acne can be a chronic condition.

If you are suffering from multiple acne lesions, you should incorporate a skin care routine that includes a cleanser, toner, and antibacterial treatment lotion in order to help manage future breakouts.

Question:
I’m experiencing irritation and rash from a facial moisturizer. Is there anything I can do to soothe the rash?
Answer:

Wash your face with cool water, followed by a mixture of hydrocortisone cream, and a vitamin E -aloe based moisturizer. If the irritation persists beyond 48 hours, you should have see a doctor.

Question:
How can I get even skin tone on my face? My face has different skin tones at different places.
Answer:

Even skin tone starts with a healthy skin care routine. First, start with a good sun block that has an SPF number of 30 or greater. Sun damage can lead to uneven pigment changes to your skin, giving your skin tone an uneven look. Next, incorporate a skin care routine that includes exfoliation (glycolic and papaya enzymes), hydration, and rebuilding of skin cells (retinol, vitamin peptides).

Question:
Is it better to use products that are organic and don’t use synthetic colors, petroleum propylene glycol, and other non-organic ingredients? Does it make any difference? Does my skin know the difference between organic or synthetic ingredients?
Answer:

If you have sensitive skin, or wear makeup on a daily basis, organic-based products are less likely to be irritating to your skin.

Question:
The skin on and under my eyes is very dry, and when I touch this area, my skin wrinkles. I can’t find a moisturizer that works well enough to keep these areas hydrated without looking oily.
Answer:

Your first step should be a visit to your dermatologist to exclude common skin conditions that may result in dryness, such as an infectious process, eczema, or a hormonal imbalance.

Question:
Do over-the-counter lip-plumping products really work?
Answer:

Most lip plumpers work as a local irritant. These “plumpers” contain ingredients that might cause temporary swelling such as peppermint oil, peppers, and menthoxypropanediol, a potent derivative of menthol.

Unfortunately, there are not many scientific or multi-institutional studies to demonstrate the long-term efficacy of lip plumpers.

Thank you for joining us for WebMD Ask the Dermatologist. Be sure to come back on April 20 at 1 p.m. ET when we will discuss ethnic skin care. Sign up if you'd like an email reminder the day before our next event.

WebMD Ask the Specialist Transcript

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on March 17, 2011

The opinions expressed in this section are of the Specialist and the Specialist alone. They do not reflect the opinions of WebMD and they have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. WebMD is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on WebMD. 

WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.