Finding the Best Makeup for Acne: Top Acne-Friendly Products

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

You don’t need to be a makeup artist to successfully use makeup on acne prone skin. The ideal product for any type of skin has three important qualities:

  • It doesn’t irritate.
  • It doesn’t clog pores.
  • It either moisturizes or, in the case of acne skin, it contains acne-fighting ingredients 💪 (or both!).

Finding the best makeup for acne that won’t clog your pores or irritate your skin can be difficult, but we’re here to make it a little easier.

The Best Makeup for Acne Prone Skin

What do you need to look out for in makeup if you have acne?

  • It’s important to avoid any foundations or other products that can irritate your skin. Irritation can cause inflammation 🔥, which is at the root of all acne.
  • We always have a thin layer of protective oil on our skin, and bacteria are part of our skin’s natural microbial biome. Generally, they don’t cause issues unless they are trapped in a pore, which often happens because of inflammation. Therefore, we strongly encourage people to use gentle products that won’t irritate or inflame the skin.
  • Excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria 🦠 become an issue if you apply comedogenic products that clog them in the pores. They remain there and cause blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Even though comedogenic ingredients are often moisturizing, it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.

What Are the Best Foundations for Acne Prone Skin?

A foundation is a color-tinted form of liquid or cream to apply to the face and neck to even out skin tone and cover blemishes. There are a great variety available on the market 🛒, but here we discuss only some of the best foundations for acne. We will look at three formulas: a liquid foundation, a powder foundation, and a cream foundation.

Best Liquid Foundation: NYX Professional Makeup Total Control Drop Foundation

The NYX Total Control Drop Foundation comes in 30 varied shades.

This foundation for acne prone skin is silicone and water-based. We recommend it for people with dry skin🌵, and mainly blackheads and whiteheads.

The foundation doesn’t contain traditional acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, but it contains three deeply hydrating ingredients—cyclopentasiloxane, water, and glycerin.

Glycerin is a plant-based product and it’s also something called a humectant, meaning it draws more moisture into the epidermis.

Cyclopentasiloxane is silicone-based, and it helps the skin retain the moisture provided by the water 💧 and glycerin. In the foundation, it provides a fine layer of protection without clogging pores.

Best Powder Foundation: BareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin-Clearing Loose Powder Foundation

This BareMinerals Blemish RescueTM Skin-Clearing Loose Powder Foundation is the best foundation for oily acne prone skin.

We recommend this powder foundation for acne prone skin that’s oily. BareMinerals powder foundation contains salicylic acid, which can help remove the oil clogged in the pores. It has a salicylic acid concentration of just 0.5%, which is in the perfect range: high enough to decrease acne, but low enough not to irritate.

The foundation also contains ingredients like silica and kaolin, which help absorb excess oil 👍.

Best Cream Foundation: PÜR 4-in-1 Foundation Stick

The PÜR 4-in-1 Foundation Stick is perfect for people with acne and sensitive skin

We recommend this foundation stick because it can hydrate the skin while absorbing excess oil at the same time—ideal for those with sensitive skin ☁️.

People with this skin type may notice that their acne either gets worse or improves with the application of foundation. That’s because sensitive skin is particularly susceptible to irritants. The hydrating, excess-oil combatting formula is unique, and the PÜR 4-in-1 Foundation Stick is exactly that.

The hydrating waxes all have a very low comedogenicity rating, (meaning they are unlikely to clog pores) and the oil-absorbing ingredients include retinol and lactic acid. These ingredients incline us to believe that this stick could be one of the best foundations for acne-prone skin ⭐, especially on sensitive skin.

Best Concealer for Acne

The best concealer depends on skin type because some concealers marketed for acne prone skin are far too harsh for dry 🌵 or sensitive skin. However, we’ve found two concealers we like.

Bye-Bye Breakout Full Coverage Treatment Concealer

If you have a few pimples, and you need a spot treatment and concealer in one, Bye-Bye Breakout is the perfect solution. It contains tea tree oil 🍃, which is an antibacterial agent that has been proven to kill acne-causing bacteria associated with pimples specifically.

The concealer also contains trace amounts of salicylic acid and witch hazel, a natural ingredient that helps get rid of oil. Best of all? It comes in seven shades that actually span a decent range of the color spectrum 🌈. However, it’s only suitable for very oily and non-sensitive skin.

Tarte Creaseless Concealer

This concealer comes in 22 shades, and it contains so many hydrating ingredients.

This Creaseless Concealer from Tarte Cosmetics includes all kinds of hydrating ingredients, and we consider it ideal for dry or sensitive skin.

This concealer comes in 22 shades, and it contains so many hydrating ingredients, we almost wish it was a foundation. If you have dry or sensitive skin, spot treatments may leave behind an itchy, dry patch, and this concealer is the ideal makeup 💄to help with that. It contains maracuja oil, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E; combined, these ingredients help the skin absorb and lock in moisture. The maracuja oil has a low comedogenicity rating, so it shouldn’t clog pores.

Best Primer for Acne Prone Skin

Primer typically goes on before foundation, but it’s a much less popular product because many people find that foundation can do the same job primer does.

E.L.F. Cosmetics Blemish Control Face Primer

E.L.F Blemish Control Face Primer contains 2% salicylic acid and is very affordable.

Green primer is the best option for anyone experiencing unwanted redness. Although this color primer is often marketed toward fair skin, it can also come in handy for dark skin 🧑🏾. However, in dark skin, it’s probably better as a spot-treatment only.

It contains 2% salicylic acid, making it effective against blackheads and whiteheads. It’s water-based 💧 and it contains a small amount of tea tree oil to help combat pimples too. Our only reservation is how it might affect sensitive skin. We recommend those with sensitive skin to use this product only a few times a week at first, and slowly increase use to see if it can be used daily.

BECCA First Light Priming Filter Face Primer

BECCA’s First Light Purple primer helps color correct yellow tones.

Purple primer is generally not recommended for olive skin tones, which have a lovely natural green/yellow undertone, because purple coloring typically reduces yellow tones. Instead, we recommend the purple primer for fair or dark skin tones that have unwanted yellow undertones, or as a spot treatment for cystic acne 👍.

This particular primer from BECCA cosmetics is highly recommended because it is water-based 💧 and contains glycerin to hydrate the skin. The silica content absorbs excess oil, and the mica reflects light to hide blemishes and make skin luminous.

Clinique Superprimer Face Primer

The Clinique’s Superprimer contains a unique ingredient that uses more than orange pigment to reduce purple discoloration related to acne.

Orange primer is often considered the best color primer for dark skin, though yellow primer can work well too. The orange hue in this product can help reduce the dark marks left behind by post-acne discoloration, and it also contains caffeine. Caffeine reduces inflammation by constricting the blood vessels slightly, which can decrease the purple hue that sometimes appears around pimples. This primer is also water-based, contains silica to absorb oil, and includes green tea extract, which can help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation 🔥. This makes it a helpful acne prevention tool as well.

Best BB Cream for Acne

The B’s in BB cream stand for blemish balm (or beauty balm, depending on your source).

This makeup is sort of like primer in that many people don’t find it to be a necessary part of their routine. It’s similar to a foundation, as it’s a tinted cream to be applied all over the face. However, depending on the brand, it’s typically much lighter (in feel, not color) than foundation 👍.

E.L.F. BB Cream SPF 20

This E.L.F. BB cream is ideal for those of us with acne and a tight budget.

The E.L.F. BB cream contains hydrating ingredients like jojoba oil, glycerin, aloe vera extract, and cucumber 🥒 fruit extract, but it also contains silica to absorb oil and mica to hide blemishes. Although the name says it’s also SPF 20, we don’t recommend wearing it as sunscreen ☀️. These creams are applied very thinly, just like a foundation, so not they’re enough to protect against the sun.

Iman Cosmetics Skin Tone Evener BB Crème

This BB cream from Iman Cosmetics comes in six well spread-out shades.

If you’ve got more money to spend, this BB cream is full of amazing ingredients. It contains hydrating almond oil, grapeseed oil, and glycerin, as well as oil-balancing ingredients like licorice extract, and blemish-reducing ingredients like talc. Talc works just like mica, attracting and scattering light to diminish the appearance of blemishes. Overall, this is a great option for acne prone skin, and unlike many BB creams, this one (like the E.L.F. one) comes in many shades.

Other Makeup Products for Acne Prone Skin

The products already discussed are among our favorites, but especially if you have a good budget, you might also consider these.

  1. Neutrogena Skinclearing Liquid Makeup is an oil-free foundation, and specially formulated for acne-prone skin.
  2. Bareminerals Blemish Rescue Skin Clearing Loose Powder is a foundation powder in 20 shades for a matte finish. Full coverage Blemish Rescue Skin Clearing is also specifically formulated for acne prone skin.
  3. Bobbi Brown Skin Long Wear Weightless Foundation is a well-known skincare and makeup brand with a good range for a glossy or matte finish.
  4. Estée Lauder Double Wear is a liquid foundation available in a very extensive range of shades. It also controls oil.
  5. Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear foundation of Fenty Beaty’s (The line belongs to Rihanna) is also non-comedogenic.

However, nothing can replace a consistent skin care routine using gentle products of high quality 🏆. If you can prevent acne in the first place, then you won’t need makeup to cover it up. We recommend our 3-step system that cleanses, tones, and treats your skin with both natural and scientific ingredients. Using our products each morning ⛅ before applying your makeup and each night after removing it is guaranteed to help reduce your acne.

The Exposed Skin Care Basic Kit contains everything you need to prevent and treat your acne.