These Are The Best Foundations For Acne-Prone Skin, According To Experts

These color-correcting creams, powder foundations and luminous-finish liquids are breakout-friendly.
Neutrogena's blemish fighting foundation, Armani Beauty luminous silk foundation, an Amazonian clay powder foundation by Tarte and an oxygenating foundation by Oxygenetix.
Amazon, Sephora, Tarte, Dermstore
Neutrogena's blemish fighting foundation, Armani Beauty luminous silk foundation, an Amazonian clay powder foundation by Tarte and an oxygenating foundation by Oxygenetix.

I’ve always assumed that applying my foundation on top of an angry pimple was just a necessary evil if I wanted to leave the house without feeling like the whole world was staring at the pimple, even if it meant my breakout would look worse the day after.

But after speaking with skin care experts from dermatologists to aestheticians, I’ve learned that there are many foundations out there that not only won’t make acne worse, but might actually help keep blemishes at bay while offering the best breakout-friendly coverage around.

When shopping around for foundation, Vanessa Coppola, a board-certified nurse practitioner and founder of a New Jersey-based medical spa, said you want something that’s non-comedogenic.

“This basically means it’s not going to clog up your pores and make your acne worse,” Coppola said. “The next step is to look for an oil-free formulation. Almost all foundation brands typically have a water-based oil-free version of their foundation.”

Board-certified San Diego-based dermatologist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi said that comedogenic foundation formulas are typically heavier and contain “petroleum, mineral oil, lanolin, coconut oil, avocado oil, and waxy emollients like myristyl myristate.”

She added that silicones, although they can help impart a silky texture to foundations, have occlusive properties and therefore can cause buildup in pores.

“The key is to find a lightweight formula, perhaps more water-based, made with hyaluronic acid that delivers coverage and contributes to the overall health and hydration of the skin,” Shirazi said.

According to Coppola, finding an oil-free, non-comedogenic foundation that also contains blemish-fighting ingredients is a “win-win scenario,” especially for those with acne-prone skin.

“Ingredients that have a long history of acne-fighting properties include salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil and mineral-based clays which can help to absorb oil for those that produce excessive amounts of sebum from their skin,” Coppola said. She explained that the inclusion of skin care staples such as ceramides, glycerin and aloe vera can help maintain a healthy skin barrier, something that’s often comprised with acne and has the potential to make exacerbate breakouts.

Shirazi and Coppola both agree that your skin care regime prior to makeup application is as equally important as the foundation you choose.

“Ensuring your skin is cleansed thoroughly, exfoliating weekly and moisturizing to support the skin barrier are important steps,” Shirazi said.

Coppola cited the “like dissolves like” concept in skin care. “If you’re going to use a water-based oil-free foundation on your face, it is going to work best if your skin is prepped with an oil-free hydrator. If you put heavy oil-based emollients on your skin after cleansing and then apply a water-based oil-free foundation, it will likely separate and cake,” she said.

Instead of pouring over ingredients lists and hedging your bets on a foundation that might work for your breakouts, keep reading to see which acne-prone foundations have gotten the approval of Shirazi, Coppola and other skin care professionals.

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A medicated and redness-neutralizing foundation
Board-certified California-based dermatologist Dr. Divya Shokeen suggested the non-irritating and medicated formula of Clinique's Acne Solutions liquid makeup, which she said treats acne while you wear it. This is because it contains salicylic acid to help reduce buildup in pores as well glycerin to help maintain hydration and laminaria saccharina extract for reducing redness and inflammation caused by acne.
An Amazonian clay powder foundation
According to dermatologist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, this loose powder foundation by Tarte is great for oily complexions because it offers mattifying ingredients like oil-absorbing kaolin clay. The full-coverage formula, which comes in 12 long-wearing shades, also contains nourishing ruby powder and skin-brightening tourmaline.

"It also has a mousse-like, matte texture to help camouflage active breakouts while controlling oil and blurring the appearance of pores," Shirazi said.
A long-wearing full-coverage foundation
"This is a terrific all-around balanced formulation for acne-prone skin," said nurse practitioner and med spa owner Vanessa Coppola. According to her, the oil-free composition and matte finish provide a good, lasting coverage that works even in humid months, and she appreciates the extensive 56-shade range.

"It's a silicone in water formulation that is buffered with hydrating ingredients that are noncomedogenic and is free from parabens, sulfates, drying alcohols and synthetic fragrances," she said.
A mattifying CC cream with SPF 40
If you want fuller coverage from your foundation, board-certified Toronto-based dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav likes It Cosmetics' color correction cream, which also contains ingredients like peptides to support skin elasticity and natural collagen production.

"It's an oil-free skin care-like formula that contains SPF 40, charcoal to help purify the skin, clay to absorb oil and tea tree to help fight bacteria," Yadav said. The matte-finish cream is available in 12 shades.
A blemish-fighting liquid foundation
This lightweight Neutrogena foundation made specifically for acne prone skin was recommended by nearly all of our experts. Coppola said that she really loves this product both for its formulation as well as its price.

"It contains 0.5% salicylic acid, a known acne-fighting ingredient, which is formulated in a silicone and water formulation allowing for a smooth glide in your application and it has a balanced profile of nonirritating hydration and oil control agents that help to break out excess oil on the skin," Coppola said.
A luminous finish oil-free foundation
The famed Luminous Silk foundation by Armani Beauty was also suggested by almost every one of the skin experts we spoke to, with many claiming it's a good foundation alternative for those who want a more radiant finish more than a completely mattifying one.

"It never feels dry or cakey and it really does give your skin a glowy, dewy look," Coppola said.

The wildly popular, oil-free and hydrating formula, which is available in 40 shades, claims to blur imperfections and offer the perfect level of seamless coverage and allows color pigments to lay flat for blending and layering and won't pill or separate.
A creamy buildable-coverage foundation stick
Worried a stick foundation will be too thick and oily to work well with acne-prone skin? Shirazi assured us that the nourishing formula of this creamy foundation stick by Tom Ford is non-comedogenic and leaves behind soft-matte finish that blurs imperfections. It offers a buildable coverage, from sheer to full, in 39 shades.
A natural-finish buildable coverage foundation
Shirazi also chose Nars' Sheer Glow foundation, which she said is a lightweight liquid containing antioxidants like vitamin C and turmeric to help brighten the complexion and protect skin against damaging free radicals. It promises a natural like-skin finish, buildable coverage and non-drying wear thanks to the addition of glycerin.
A breathable foundation with salicylic acid
This clinical foundation developed specifically for acne-prone patients made it onto Shirazi's list because of its highly breathable wear and the inclusion of salicylic acid to dissolve oil and reduce breakouts. The unique complex is meant to help conceal everything from breakouts to rosacea, while helping to speed up the healing process and offering sun protection up to SPF 25. "It has a light texture with aloe vera to help hydrate and soothe the skin," Shirazi added.

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