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How to Wear Halloween Makeup Without Breaking Out

woman wearing skeleton makeup
Dmytro Vietrov/Shutterstock

If there’s one thing we know about Halloween, it’s that the holiday is not just for little kids. But if you’re past puberty and you want to go all out with makeup to complete your costume, you might face something almost as scary as any Halloween thrill: breakouts.

Even the clearest skin can break out in blemishes after a night spent in a thick layer of Halloween makeup. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

While everyone’s skin is different, you can take a few smart steps to help you reduce the risk of makeup-related breakouts. (As for breakouts caused by eating lots of Halloween candy—well, we can’t help you with that.) Try these tips to make sure you wake up fresh-faced on November 1.

Why Does Halloween Makeup Make You Break Out?

If you love makeup, you probably already have a stash of products that you can safely wear without skin irritation. However, those everyday products likely won’t cut it for Halloween, when you might need to paint your skin zombie-gray or witch-green. And the products used to get those special effects often aren’t designed with healthy skin in mind.

First, there’s the fact that Halloween makeup might be way out of date, even before you take it home from the store. These seasonal products often sit in warehouses for far longer than most cosmetics because they’re sold only once a year. And after you buy them, they’ll probably sit around your house for years, too.

These cheap, colorful products also tend to use low-quality ingredients, including pore-clogging waxes and oils (not the good kind of oils). And you’re probably going to pack your Halloween makeup on thick to get the look you want: This isn’t the night to go natural. All these factors can combine into a horror-movie-worthy acne eruption.

How to Do Halloween Without Scary Skin

No matter your skin type, avoiding (or at least minimizing) the post-Halloween breakouts is possible. Of course, you could also pick a different costume that doesn’t involve makeup, but that’s just not as fun. Keep your costume—and your good skin, too—with these tips.

Do a Test

Everyone reacts to products and ingredients differently, so a spot test is the only way to know for sure how Halloween makeup will affect you.

Halloween night is not the time to field-test new makeup and find out your skin hates it.

Pick a small area of your face, like the edge of your cheek, to test products before Halloween arrives.

Buy New Products

If you were hoping to reuse your Halloween makeup from years past, you’re doing your wallet a favor but not your skin. Lots of bacteria can build up in makeup over a year, causing bigger breakouts than before. Consider buying new products for this year. And, avoid sharing products with your friends, which can also contribute to bacteria growth.

Go Professional

Willing to splurge to get the look? Consider professional-quality theater makeup, which is designed to be safe for skin. Also, in today’s Instagram-friendly market, many high-quality “normal” makeup brands are also putting out fun, highly-pigmented products that might work for your Halloween look.

Use a Primer

A primer that works well with your skin will add a layer of protection between you and any makeup product you use. Make sure to test out primers beforehand to find one you like, though, because the wrong primer for your skin could trigger a breakout. You can also take the protection up a notch with a barrier cream to really lock out problem ingredients.

Rinse and Repeat

Your Halloween makeup will probably be heavier than your everyday look, so the night of the 31 calls for a double-wash. Use natural oil or an oil cleanser first to break down the makeup; consider making your second cleanser an exfoliator to really get a good scrub. Or, you can apply an overnight exfoliating product before your moisturizer to get the same effect.


Makeup and skincare products are getting better than ever, so you don’t have to settle for an early November breakout. It might take a few tests to find the right products, but luckily, many brands will let you try samples before you commit. So follow these steps, slay your costume, and wake up the next day with skin as clear as ever.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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