Experts Reveal Why Your Makeup May Look Different After Accutane

Experts Reveal Why Your Makeup May Look Different After Accutane featured image
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The magic acne pill Accutane is praised by dermatologists and patients alike for its transformative abilities. As New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD shares, Accutane (isotretinoin) works by reducing oil production in the skin, minimizing inflammation, and preventing the formation of acne. “It addresses the root causes of severe acne, leading to a reduction in bumpy skin texture during treatment.”

But one thing about the vitamin A–derived medication that often gets swept under the rug is how your makeup will look after treatment. With a lack of sebum produced by the skin, many Accutane users are taking to TikTok to share the changes they’ve experienced and why certain makeup formulations are no longer compatible with their skin post-Accutane.

The Oil-Skin Connection

New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD says cystic acne has either a hormonal or non-hormonal component. “Classic cystic acne that’s not hormonal does well with Accutane and some of the newer acne lasers like AviClear and Accure. Although all of these modalities target the sebaceous glands, the skin does become more dry with medication,” she says. “We can sometimes prescribe low-dose Accutane to clear the skin and get a rejuvenating effect, making the side effects and dryness not as bad.”

What to Use and Avoid on Accutane

It is important to overhaul your skin care and makeup routines while on Accutane and avoid exfoliating acids, benzoyl peroxide, and anything stripping or mattifying. “The medication causes a decrease in sebum production and can initially result in drier skin,” Dr. Levine says. Instead, she suggests gentle, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic products formulated for sensitive skin.

There’s no hard and fast rule about wearing or avoiding makeup when on Accutane. “If it makes someone feel good about themselves, I’ll never tell them not to wear it,” Dr. Markowitz says. However, she recommends her makeup-wearing Accutane patients layer Aquaphor or Vaseline between the skin and makeup to prevent it from sitting directly on the skin while adding hydration. Dry skin can inhibit makeup from melting into the skin, says celebrity makeup artist Mally Roncal. “The result is an unnatural look, so it’s important to hydrate the skin as much as possible with moisturizing creams and products.”

Since the skin will likely be extremely dry, creamy, hydrating formulations are better than powders and makeup with mattifying ingredients.

Yes, a Post-Accutane Makeup Revamp is Necessary

The makeup you used before going on Accutane should differ from what you want to wear once your acne clears up. That’s because the medication changes sebum production levels, and according to Dr. Levine, the timeline for the return of normal skin hydration varies among patients. “Reducing sebum can contribute to a matte finish with makeup.”

You’ll want to update your makeup with moisturizing formulations with some emollience. If powder is a must, Roncal says to stick with ones with creamy textures. “Liquid and cream formulations are usually a better fit for skin that’s more dry. Anything that hydrates the skin and leaves a dewy finish is a good choice.”

Also important is a good skin-prep routine. “It’s my number-one secret to ensure a seamless, undetectable makeup application,” Roncal says. “Taking the time to moisturize the skin is the most important step.”

Post-Accutane skin may experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which many people wish to cover. To do so, Roncal says to apply full-coverage concealer, like her Plush Pen Brightening Concealer ($26), and foundation with a brush to pinpoint the areas of concern. “Set it with a good powder foundation instead of translucent powder which can highlight the spots and make them look shiny.”

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