Foundation and acne just don't mix sometimes. If you've ever dealt with any form of it, you know what I mean. As someone who has struggled quite a bit with acne, I've gotten in the habit of double checking the ingredients in any formula before I buy just to make sure nothing is super comedogenic (aka, will clog your pores, big time). Foundation can be especially tricky, though. To get a little more insight on the matter, I called in the experts. Two dermatologists and a makeup artist provided me with a well-rounded perspective.
"[Certain] foundations can trigger acne breakouts, but don’t despair, with the right products and skincare regimen you can wear makeup," says board-certified dermatologist, Snehal Amin, MD. "Look for labels that say 'oil-free' and 'noncomedogenic.' The same rules apply for makeup removers—choose oil-free products and avoid scrubbing the skin. Sometimes, it's not the actual skincare product or makeup that is triggering your acne, but rather the makeup brushes and applicators you're using. They can harbor acne-causing bacteria, dead skin cells and oils. Clean frequently and don't share them."
Makeup artist Alexa Perisco also says there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the best foundation for acne-prone skin. "Don’t pick up the moisture-targeted foundation formulas, most of these contain a high percentage of mineral oil which can cause breakouts," she shares. Finally, our third expert, board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD, has one last piece of advice. "Avoid heavy formulas—particularly ones with petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, coconut oil, avocado oil, and silicones as they tend to clog pores," she says. "Also avoid added fragrances that can cause new pimples to form and irritate existing pimples. You'll also want to steer clear of foundations with a waxy emollient like myristyl myristate as they tend to cause buildup and congestion in pores. Go for oil-free, lighter foundations that have hyaluronic acid."
Whew, I know that was a mouthful. But don't worry, I asked our panel of experts to provide their recommended foundations for acne-prone skin so you can choose the right option for you—keep scrolling.
Best Overall: Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup
Experts seem to agree—this is the best overall pick.
"A tried and true classic! Formulated with salicylic acid, this foundation will work to kill acne-causing bacteria. On top of that, it is also formulated with caffeine, which is excellent for reducing inflammation caused by spots. It’s an oil-free formula and is great for acne sufferers. It is also noncomedogenic so you don’t have to worry about clogged pores." —Persico
"This is a great option that contains active, acne-fighting ingredient salicylic acid. This will exfoliate and clear dead skin cells to prevent breakouts. Unfortunately, it has a limited shade range. It may also not be ideal for summertime use since salicylic acid can make the skin more sensitive to sun." —Amin, MD
Best Drugstore: Neutrogena SkinClearning Liquid Foundation
"This foundation is infused with my favorite acne fighting ingredient: Salicylic acid. It's known to treat mild acne, blackheads, and whiteheads. Having this ingredient in a foundation is a great add-on! Since it's an oil-free formula, it will also prevent pores from getting clogged like traditional makeup and can help reduce the chance of more pimples popping up!" —Persico
Best Luxury: Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Foundation
"This is one of my all-time favorites. If you want a foundation that will last all day without clogging pores, then this is it. This formula is oil-free, waterproof, and dermatologist-approved. It's one that I have kept in my makeup kit for years." —Persico
Best Lightweight: Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation
This is my personal favorite lightweight formula. It truly feels like a second skin when you apply it because it barely feels like you're wearing anything at all. Don't worry though, it still provides great coverage. It's noncomedogenic and the dry down looks lovely—my skin truly looks airbrushed about 10 minutes after applying.
Best Matte: Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation
"This is great for oily complexions as it offers mattifying ingredients like oil-absorbing kaolin clay. It also has a mousse-like, matte texture to help camouflage active breakouts while controlling oil and blurring the appearance of pores." —Shirazi
Best Stick: Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick
This completely noncomedogenic foundation stick from Tom Ford is an absolute dream. It's creamy, provides an ultra-smooth finish, looks totally natural on the skin. The formula is also customizable—you can create light coverage, medium, or full with it.
Best Powder: The Good Mineral Loves You Back 3-in-1 Powder Foundation
I'm not usually one for powder foundations, but I love this option from The Good Mineral. It's so breathable and never irritates my sometimes sensitive skin. It also acts as a concealer, foundation, and powder in one. It saves a ton of time if you're in a rush.
Best Liquid: Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Perfect Glow Oil-Free Foundation
Best Dewy: NARS Sheer Glow Foundation
"If you want a foundation with a more radiant finish then this is a keeper! This glow formula has airbrush technology that gives off an instant real life “face-tune” effect. Formulated without alcohol, this foundation is fragrance-free and mineral oil-free which means its safe for acne-prone skin." —Persico
Best for Sensitive Skin: Ilia True Skin Medium Coverage Serum Foundation
Best Shade Range: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Liquid Foundation
No other brand's shade range is quite as impression as Fenty Beauty's. Coming in at a whopping 50 shades, this soft matte formula is noncomedogenic so it's safe for acne-prone skin. It's also designed to sweat- and humidity-resistant.
Best Waterproof: MAC Cosmetics Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Liquid Foundation
"This oil-free formula with hyaluronic acid has a light, hydrating texture rich in antioxidants and caffeine to fight free-radical damage." —Shirazi
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