Is makeup hiding your age or aging your hide?


Dear Arné.

I use makeup pretty much every day. Call me superficial, but I love different brands for different occasions. In the mornings, I often choose a lighter formula (for the smart and professional work look). For party nights, I pick foundations with a bit of glamour. I never thought much about it, but lately I noticed my skin is looking drier and more wrinkly than usual. It got me worrying: is makeup ageing my skin?


We know the feeling. You had a great night out with your friends. But when you wake up in the morning, your face looks like someone tried to build a paper aeroplane with it. Dehydrated skin sure isn’t pretty.

The fine lines you noticed may be a temporary phenomenon that’s got more to do with your lifestyle routine than your makeup schedule. Drinking more water, especially water with mineral salts (aka electrolytes), may already solve your worries. That said, there is a link between ageing skin and makeup. Let’s investigate.

Why does your skin age?

Our skin ages just like us. When we get older, our body produces less collagen and that’s the main reason we eventually wake up with wrinkles and saggy skin.

Collagen is the glue (or rather the protein) that holds us together: our bones, our muscles, our blood vessels and our skin. Think of it as the building block that strengthens and structures all our body parts, while also keeping them sponge-like and flexible. Collagen makes our skin look plump and pretty.

Unfortunately, our body’s collagen reserves begin to dwindle sometime around our 25th birthday. What’s more, too much sun and city smog can deplete our collagen reserves even faster. This is when our skin starts to age earlier than it should.

Age accelerator no. 1: sunshine.

Excessive sunbathing damages our health. We can’t see harmful ultraviolet (UV) light that shines down all the way from the sun to the earth’s surface. But we can see the damage it does to our skin. UVB light gives us sunburn. Meanwhile, UVA rays are mostly responsible for premature ageing – they trigger an enzyme in our body whose job is to empty our skin’s collagen storage. Not to mention that both types of ultraviolet light can lead to skin cancer.

Age accelerator no. 2: pollution.

Air pollution can speed along the ageing of our skin just as much as UV rays. A mounting pile of scientific papers prove it. Experts from NASA and the World Health Organisation also keep digging out evidence that shows how the dirt all around us – from road traffic fumes to aerosols and industrial burn-off – is harming our health.

Modern city life is no youth fountain. Nanosized particles laced with chemicals and toxins are floating through the air we breathe. They can penetrate our pores and inflame the skin, which makes it age faster. Some airborne chemicals – for example the ones from cigarette smoke – also attack our body’s collagen cushion and give us wrinkles in return, as studies show.

So is makeup all that bad?

Never fear, you can keep looking fresh and flawless without adding to your worry lines. The tinted foundations you use may not be as healthy as a clay bath in the Dead Sea, but let’s not blame them prematurely for the fine lines on your skin.

Makeup only accelerates the ageing of your face if you think a tinted base can replace a proper layer of sunscreen or anti-pollution skincare. It can’t. While it may feel like a nice shield for your face, makeup does not protect you effectively from the elements. It may even add to the trillions of tiny pollutants that attack your skin every day.

What’s the makeup of makeup?

Your makeup may contain some hidden toxic slush, although different countries have different safety rules. Many brands use chemicals such as dimethicone (a silicone widely used in cosmetics for a silky-smooth feel) and propylene glycol (a synthetic alcohol to lock moisture in).

The EU recently banned parabens (a type of preservative) from cosmetics due to their cancer risk. It also banned plastic softeners (so-called phthalates) and restricted the use of butylated compounds (to extend a product’s shelf life) in cosmetics. Both can mess up human hormones.

Another common, yet controversial ingredient: polyethylene glycol, a lubricant that allows all sorts of ingredients, hazardous or not, to easily penetrate our skin. It’s sometimes contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.

Even mineral makeup – which comes across as a healthier alternative cooked up with minerals straight from Mother Nature – may contain not-so-healthy ingredients, including parabens (linked to cancer) and phthalates (disrupts human hormones). To protect your skin from toxins, you may want to avoid makeup with unpronounceable words on their labels and choose a natural, organic foundation instead.

But what about makeup with in-built sun protection?

Yes, you can buy products that marry makeup and sunscreen. These foundations are labelled with the global Sun Protection Factor (SPF). It indicates how long you can stay in the sun without burning. In other words, if it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to turn red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents your skin 15 times longer from reddening – about five hours.

The problem: makeup with in-built sun protection is usually too weak to block the harmful rays that lead to old, leathery skin. Experts say you would need to apply about two teaspoons of SPF 15 makeup to achieve the same protection as a proper SPF 15 sunscreen. Two. Teaspoons. Good luck with that.

Sunscreen works wonders – if you rub it the right way.

There are smarter ways to protect your skin from premature ageing than rubbing on a thick layer of SPF-rated makeup. In this case, and with most things beauty, the golden rule is ‘less is more’. A heavy base coat only accentuates existing wrinkles.

As skincare specialists, we recommend a three-step action: start with a layer of ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen, which protects against both the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Then apply Arné’s breakthrough anti-pollution facial gel as a primer. It’s 100% natural, made of a unique strain of plant grown on the plains of New Zealand’s South Island and has proven in independent lab tests that it effectively prevents airborne pollutants from entering your skin. You could even use the gel instead of a foundation or – in a third step – apply a layer of your favourite makeup to finish off your beauty routine.

We won’t promise you miracles. But give your skin some love and it will thank you as you age… less than you might appear.

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