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

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

  • Won’t irritate the skin
  • Doesn’t clog pores
  • Moisturizes or, in the case of acne skin, contains acne-fighting ingredients (or both!)

Table with makeup for acne

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

People with acne may think they can’t wear makeup. But luckily, that’s just not true! The American Academy of Dermatology says it’s okay for acne patients to wear makeup. But what do you need to look for in makeup products 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 trap 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.

Even if you choose the best makeup products for your acne-prone skin, it won’t matter if you haven’t perfected a skincare routine to wash away makeup, treat acne and hydrate your skin. We recommend the Exposed Skincare Expanded Kit to get five products you can use each day to treat acne, plus a special face cloth to properly remove makeup. Keep reading for more expertise on an acne-clearing routine to pair with your makeup (or just click here to take our skincare routine quiz!).

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 is a great variety available on the market, but here we discuss only some of the best foundations for acne. We will look at three makeup formulas that can cover acne: a liquid foundation, a powder foundation, and a cream foundation.

Best Liquid Foundation: NYX Professional Makeup Total Control Drop Foundation

A bottle of NYX Total Control Drop Foundation is a great liquid foundation for acne-prone skin
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

A jar of 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

A stick of 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 makeup concealers that cover acne that we like.

Bye-Bye Breakout Full Coverage Treatment Concealer

A bottle of Bye-Bye Breakout Full Coverage Treatment Concealer

Bye-Bye Breakout conceals and treats pimples at the same time

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

A bottle of 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

Bottle of 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

A bottle of 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 natural green 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

A bottle of Clinique Superprimer Face Primer

Clinique 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. It also contains caffeine to reduce 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 Bs 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

A bottle of 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 they’re not enough to protect against the sun.

Iman Cosmetics Skin Tone Evener BB Crème

A bottle of 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 from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line is also non-comedogenic.

Removing Makeup To Prevent Acne

No matter what makeup products for acne-prone skin you choose, proper removal is crucial. If makeup stays on the face, it will cause skin issues, especially around the jawline and forehead.

You may think you’re totally removing your makeup by simply washing your face, but it’s likely that you’re not. It’s important to incorporate makeup removal into a simple and effective skincare routine that you can do every morning and night. That’s why we recommend our Expanded Kit, which comes with everything you need to properly remove makeup, treat breakouts and soothe and improve skin.

How To Remove Makeup on Acne Prone Skin

  1. If you have a full face of makeup on, including foundation and mascara, you’ll need a makeup remover or micellar water to loosen the makeup first.
  2. Follow this with the gentle yet effective Facial Cleanser. This is the perfect face wash because it contains a low amount of salicylic acid to deep clean pores. After a full day of wearing makeup, that deep cleaning is important!
  3. Apply a toner with azelaic acid to prevent bacteria and redness. Clearing Tonic is a great choice because it also has green tea extract to control oil and passion flower to calm redness.
  4. Follow up with a nighttime serum that will balance and clarify your skin while you sleep. This Clear Pore Serum has salicylic acid, green tea and licorice root extract to unclog pores, control sebum and repair damage overnight.
  5. For drier skin types, finish with an oil-free gel moisturizer like Moisture Complex to calm skin, reduce redness and hydrate. This will give your skin a smoother, softer appearance.

For deeper cleaning, try a facial microdermabrasion cloth that’s proven to remove cosmetics, oil, and dirt. Get every step of this acne-prone makeup removal kit here.

Exposed Skincare products

The Expanded Kit contains products that balance aggressive acne treatment and gentle skin care.

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