How to avoid makeup flashback

Tuesday, June 10th 2014 Makeup

Ah flashback, something which strikes fear into the hearts of makeup wearers everywhere. Even celebrities, with their teams of makeup artists, aren’t immune to it – look at the beautiful Miley Cyrus, her makep is perfect except for that white patch.

miley flashback fail


In this post I’ll be writing about what flashback is, and which ingredients to look out for that commonly cause it. The often-suggested advice to avoid this is to not wear anything with an SPF – while this can be a helpful rule, SPF is a measurement, and not an ingredient. It’s the Sun Protection Factor of a product – it measures how long a sunscreen remains effective on your skin. If you would get burned in 10 minutes without sunscreen, an SPF of 15 will protect you for 150 minutes (Cho, 2011).’m getting into a whole other topic here, but the main point is – avoiding all products with sunscreen in them isn’t necessary to avoid flashback. Sunscreen is important, and it is possible to wear products with an SPF without getting flashback.

The ingredients in sunscreen that are known for causing a flashback are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are known as physical sunscreens, because they work by reflecting the sun’s rays – and also, the flash of a camera! The foundation that I use, MAC Studio Sculpt does have titanium dioxide in it, but the main sunscreen ingredient is Octinoxate, a chemical that works by absorbing the UV rather than reflecting it away. I’ve never had any issues with flashback with it, and I wear it to every event I go to.

Another ingredient that causes flashback is silica – it’s in some setting powders, and there are also products which are 100% silica such as Make Up Forever HD powder. It’s this powder that is accused of causing the flashback fails of a lot of celebrities such as this recent one of Angelina Jolie.

angelina flashback fail

Angelina Jolie’s flashback fail (Credit: Getty Images, Via Yahoo)

MUFE HD powder, and other silica powders, are very fine white powders that reflect flash like crazy – I took a flash photo of my container of it and it was intense! In normal light the powder isn’t noticeably white on the skin, but as with the sunscreens can reflect the light of a flash. When applied lightly, it is usually okay with flash, but of course that might be different if you have a crowd of photographers taking flash photos. To test this out, I applied some MUFE HD powder over my Estee Lauder Double Wear. I applied it all over, but did a heavier patch under my eyes and a streak along my jaw, to see if it the amount you apply makes a difference. As you can see in the picture below – it does!


In summary, if you are worried about flashback, check labels for titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and silica, but the presence of these ingredients doesn’t mean you definitely will get flashback. Also, test your foundation out before a big event, and take a flash photo of it or if you’re looking for a new foundation, try it in store and take a flash photo. Doing this will give you peace of mind that you won’t end up looking like Angelina or Miley at an event.

how to avoid makeup flashback

Lena x





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