Fashion

The 15 Best Foundations for Acne-Prone Skin to Make Your Blemishes Invisible


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We’ve all woken up on the wrong side of the bed — that is, with a breakout that’s seemingly emerged overnight. Acne is frustrating, and oftentimes, concealing it only adds to the headache. Some full-coverage options can clog pores and worsen the breakout, while others don’t provide enough camouflaging power. But stashing the right foundation in your makeup bag makes the whole process foolproof. We’ve selected the best foundations for acne-prone skin, from drugstore finds to luxury splurges, that provide enough coverage to even out your complexion without feeling heavy. Even better, many have pimple-fighting active ingredients, too. You’ll sleep better knowing that when acne emerges, you have a solid plan to put it undercover.

Is It Bad to Wear Foundation for Your Acne-Prone Skin?

In short, no. However, “many foundations can worsen acne and further clog pores,” says New York City-based dermatologist, Dr. Marnie Nussbaum. “So it’s crucial to find a product that not only conceals the breakout but also helps it resolve.” She recommends that those with acne go makeup-free for few days each week, like if you’re working from home or have a clear schedule, so your skin can breathe and recover. If you can’t leave the house without a little coverage, a tinted BB cream or CC cream are terrific alternatives to foundation.

Top Foundations for Acne-Prone Skin in 2022

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What to Look for in the Best Foundation for Acne-Prone Skin

When it comes to finding the best foundation for acne-prone skin, there are two key descriptors to seek out: Non-comedogenic and oil-free. On a basic level, acne is a result of congested pores and the last thing you want to do is clog them even further with goopy products. It’s important that your foundation has at least one of the two below labels to ensure your pores are safe and sound.

  • Non-comedogenic: This term indicates that the foundation is free of potentially pore-clogging ingredients, like petrolatum, mineral oil, and lanolin, says Dr. Nussbaum. This means that non-comedogenic formulas are unlikely to trigger pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads.
  • Oil-free: Looking for the oil-free label is crucial for those with combination or oily skin, which are usually most prone to acne, says Dr. Nussbaum. Regular application of additional oils can prevent our pores from breathing, which can snowball into more breakouts. “Some clean options contain essential oils, which are extremely pore-clogging,” says Dr. Nussbaum, who suggests reading the ingredients list before making a purchase.

Next, there are three main types of foundation textures — liquid, cream and powder — and each offers a different finish, be it matte, dewy or somewhere in between. Selecting the right type of foundation will depend on your personal preference and also your skin type.

  • Liquid: For a skin-like finish in a flash, reach for watery formulas. “These will help your skin look healthy and luminous while covering your blemishes,” explains Houston-based celebrity makeup artist, Tonya Riner. Demi-matte or natural finishes are best for achieving a healthy glow. If you have shiny skin, a matte finish is a great option as a foundation for oily skin, as it will melt into your skin while tamping down excess shine.
  • Cream: If you find a liquid fussy to work with, a cream-based foundation — often packaged in a stick or tube — is your solution. A creamy formulation is one of the best foundations for dry skin types and anyone who want to spot-conceal problem areas instead of applying a full face of foundation. Riner recommends starting with a small amount in the area you want to neutralize, and build up with more layers as needed until your tone looks even.
  • Powder: “This works well on oily skin,” says Los Angeles makeup artist, Jamie Greenberg, who counts Kaley Cuoco as a regular client. Powder pigments absorb excess oil while giving you coverage, meaning you won’t have to whip out the blotting papers on your lunch break to tamp down shine. These foundations are also gentle on sensitive skin and are least likely to clog pores.

The best foundation for you is the one that looks seamless on your skin, so shade-matching carefully is paramount. Riner recommends taking a step back, and evaluating the skin color on your face, neck, and chest in natural light. Often, our necks are paler than our faces as they’re rarely in direct sunlight. Our faces take the brunt of active ingredients, so if you’re sensitive, you may have some pink undertones there.

Don’t be afraid to swatch a few options to find your Goldilocks pick. Greenberg recommends testing a few shades at a time by blending them from your jawline down to your neck. Whichever buffs in without a blunt line is your winner.

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It Cosmetics CC+ Cream Oil-Free Matte Full Coverage Foundation with SPF 40

Best Full Coverage Foundation for Acne-Prone Skin

  • Type: Cream
  • Key ingredients: Niacinamide, charcoal and clay
  • Size: 1.08 ounces
  • Number of shades: 12

This matte CC cream from It Cosmetics is a fab choice for oily skin types: It contains charcoal powder and colloidal clay, which help to absorb excess oil without drying out your complexion. Plus, its mineral SPF 40 protects skin from burns and helps to prevent acne scars, according to Dr. Nussbaum. A dab will do — the concentrated pigments within the formula go a long way when you buff it on, starting at the center of your face out towards your ears.




iT Cosmetics CC+ Cream Oil-Free Matte Full Coverage Foundation with SPF 40


$42



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Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup

Best Drugstore Foundation for Acne

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Salicylic acid
  • Size: 1 fluid ounce
  • Number of shades: 14

Dr. Nussbaum likes this liquid formula from Neutrogena for its 0.5 percent salicylic acid — an acne-zapping ingredient that prevents future breakouts and treats current ones. You could almost think of this medicated foundation as a spot treatment with coverage. It melts into skin for a medium-coverage finish while feeling featherweight on your complexion — perfect for summer months.

Neutragena




Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup


$14.25



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Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation

Best Lightweight Foundation

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Allantoin, aloe and niacinamide
  • Size: 1 fluid ounce
  • Number of shades: 30

Breathability is something we all want from our makeup and Ilia’s foundation feels like nothing on your skin, courtesy of its aloe base. But don’t be fooled — it’s working hard. The recently reformulated liquid foundation includes niacinamide to smooth texture and even out tone, as well as allantoin to calm irritated skin. The medium coverage, dewy finish leaves any skin type looking fresh, not overdone.

True Skin Medium




Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation


$54



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Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation Acne Control

Best Non-Comedogenic Foundation for Acne-Prone Skin 

  • Type: Gel cream
  • Key ingredients: Salicylic acid and aloe
  • Size: 0.5 ounces
  • Number of shades: 13

For persistent acne that just won’t go away, add this foundation from Oxygenetix into your routine. The formula is tailor-made for compromised skin, helping it heal and breathe while concealing any pimples or problem spots. It also helps clear your skin of breakouts and redness via a powerful dose of salicylic acid to purge your pores and antibacterial aloe to soothe irritation.

oxygenetix




Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation Acne Control


$76



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Pür 4-in-1 Love Your Selfie Longwear Foundation & Concealer

Best Foundation to Conceal Redness

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Green tea, ginseng and vitamin B
  • Size: 1.2 fluid ounces
  • Number of shades: 35

This high-coverage formula is not only one of the best concealers for contouring, but it also functions as a concealer and a foundation. It has a dual applicator component, so you can pump out the product or use the doe-foot wand to apply it straight onto your skin. It’s also brimming with skin care ingredients: Caffeine helps to reduce inflammation, lingonberry extract to protect your skin from blue light and vitamin B to decrease dullness. Per reviewers, it’s excellent for covering up rosacea-related redness, too.

Pur 4-in-1




PÜR 4-in-1 Love Your Selfie Longwear Foundation & Concealer


$36



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Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation

Best Foundation for Combination Skin

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin
  • Size: 1 ounce
  • Number of shades: 43

Finding a foundation for combination skin is complicated. Dewy formulas can exacerbate shine in the T-zone, but matte options can feel flaky on dry patches. Bobbi Brown’s liquid formula works magic by evening out those inconsistencies. It tamps down excess oils while hydrating dry areas with glycerin. We love it because it looks freshly applied all day long and it won’t oxidize or change colors on your skin.

Bobbi Brown Skin Long




Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation


$50



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Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick

Best Foundation for Dry Skin

  • Type: Cream
  • Key ingredients: Vegetable-derived squalane, coconut oil and camellia seed oil
  • Size: 0.31 ounces
  • Number of shades: 21

This stick foundation is a standout in the clean foundation category, according to Riner. Its camellia seed oil lends good slip while protecting skin from irritating pollutants. You’ll also get breathable hydration from the formula’s plant-based squalane and coconut oil. The creamy texture makes it easy to control, simply use it to conceal smaller problem areas and set it with powder to extend the wear time.

Westman




Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick


$68



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Nars Sheer Glow Foundation

Best Soothing Foundation

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, turmeric extract and vitamin C
  • Size: 1 fluid ounce
  • Number of shades: 40

Nars foundation is dermatologist and makeup artist-approved. Riner keeps it in her kit because it gives good coverage with an unparalleled, skin-like finish. And Dr. Nussbaum loves that it packs turmeric extract and vitamin C to decrease inflammation in the skin. No wonder it’s earned 3,000 five-star reviews — and counting — at Sephora.com.

Nars Sheer Glow




NARS Sheer Glow Foundation


$48



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BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15

Best Powder Foundation

  • Type: Powder
  • Key ingredients: Mica, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide
  • Size: 0.28 ounces
  • Number of shades: 30

There’s a reason you won’t find another powder foundation on this list — BareMinerals’ is the holy grail. It’s simple to apply: Just swoosh a fluffy brush in the pigments, tap away the excess, and buff it onto your skin. You can build it up to your desired coverage level; two to three rounds is the sweet spot for full coverage. If it feels too powdery, be patient: The mineral pigments will settle in place (without clogging pores) and leave you with a radiant, even-toned complexion in a few minutes.

BareMinerals Loose Powder




BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15


$32



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Smashbox Studio Skin 24-Hour Oil-Free Hydra Foundation

Best Longwear Foundation

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid
  • Size: 1 fluid ounce
  • Number of shades: 30

Unlike many long-wear foundations, this little number from Smashbox won’t sap your skin after a full day of wear. The lightweight liquid contains hyaluronic acid, which quenches dry patches without sending them into oil-production overdrive. The semi-matte finish flatters all skin types, and according to one reviewer, it blends beautifully over textured skin.

studio skin 24




Smashbox Studio Skin 24-Hour Hydra Foundation


$39



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Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Makeup Foundation

Best Foundation for Acne-Prone Oily Skin

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Willow bark extract and caffeine
  • Size: 1 ounce
  • Number of shades: 16

Willow bark is a natural alternative to salicylic acid, making Clinique formula a super choice for acneic skin types on the sensitive side. In this formula, the willow bark helps control shine instantly. It is effective at reducing oiliness in the long run, too — the sweat-proof liquid stays put even on the most humid days without suffocating your skin. Greenberg likes matte foundations for active breakouts, so consider dabbing this on if you’re experiencing one. According to one reviewer, the matte finish sets so well that applying powder on top is purely optional.

Clinique Stay Matte




Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Makeup Foundation


$31



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Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Oil Free Natural Skin Perfector SPF 20

Best Buildable Foundation

  • Type: Cream
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin E and licorice root extract
  • Size: 1.7 ounces
  • Number of shades: 20

This cult-favorite from Laura Mercier is technically a tinted moisturizer, but the formula builds up for foundation-caliber coverage. Its demi-matte finish flatters most skin types, as it doesn’t exacerbate shine or dryness. We consider it an Instagram filter in a tube — it masterfully blurs blemishes and pores while imparting a believable glow.

Laura Mercier Moisturizer




Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Oil Free Natural Skin Perfector SPF 20


$48



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Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation

Best Foundation for Acne Scars

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin and amino acids
  • Size: 1.18 fluid ounce
  • Number of shades: 36

Look no further for coverage that looks just like healthy skin. This hydrating foundation offers a dewy finish that has a light-reflective quality, according to Riner, meaning you’ll get a natural luminosity once you stipple it onto your complexion. Reviewers rave about its ability to cover post-acne hyperpigmentation. It’s great for dry and combination skin types while those on the oily side may need extra powder to control sheen.

Pat McGrath Labs




Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation


$68



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Chantecaille Future Skin Gel Foundation

Best Foundation for Large Pores

  • Type: Gel
  • Key ingredients: Arnica, aloe and mica
  • Size: 1 ounce
  • Number of shades: 15

If you like the cushiony feel of an emollient formula but your skin doesn’t agree with the oils, Chantecaille’s foundation is for you. This water-based gel blends in like butter and while it is our priciest pick, a little goes a long way. You’ll also get skin care benefits from ingredients like soothing arnica, and calming chamomile. Per one reviewer, it blurs pores so well that they’re undetectable in a magnifying mirror.

cahntecaille future skin




Chantecaille Future Skin Gel Foundation


$82



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Il Makiage Woke Up Like This Flawless Base Foundation

Foundation with the Best Shade Range

  • Type: Liquid
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin E and hyaluronic acid
  • Size: 1 fluid ounce
  • Number of shades: 50

Greenberg’s favorite liquid formula comes in a laundry list of shades with warm, neutral, and cool undertone options — but don’t be overwhelmed. Il Makiage has a quiz to help you find one that’s just right, factoring in things like your skin type, the level of coverage you prefer and concerns like dark spots, acne, or fine lines. “The color match is impeccable (something I’ve had a hard time finding, since I’m an olive-skinned Latina), the coverage is awesome (blemishes completely gone), and the application is easy,” says one of the 300,000 reviewers to rate it five stars.

il makiage




Il Makiage Woke Up Like This Flawless Base Foundation


$45



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How to Apply Foundation for Acne-Prone Skin

  1. Prep the skin: Always apply foundation on freshly cleansed skin so you aren’t trapping overnight dirt and oils on your complexion, Dr. Nussbaum says. Too many layers of skincare products will prevent foundation from staying put, so think less is more: Stick with an oil-free moisturizer with hyaluronic acid to give your skin lightweight hydration. We like Farmacy’s Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer.
  2. Start small: “A lot of times, people pile on the foundation to cover breakouts,” says Greenberg, but this often adds unnecessary texture. Instead, start with a tiny amount of foundation and press it onto your skin with freshly washed fingers or a clean makeup sponge. “This helps it melt into your skin and look real,” explains Greenberg.
  3. Build it up: Work in layers, increasing the coverage level as you go. If you have a raised blemish that the foundation just won’t conceal, Riner suggests using a clean eyeliner or lip liner brush to apply a dot of foundation directly onto it, then stipple it in place with a makeup sponge, taking care not to smear the pigments.
  4. Set it: A coat of translucent powder, like the hero powder from Hourglass, or a few spritzes of setting spray, like the best-selling option from Urban Decay, will lock the foundation in place, preventing the pigments from smearing or sliding on your complexion throughout the day. Riner says to apply powder with a small brush, dusting it onto your T-zone and other areas prone to shine.

Tips for Removing Foundation

Even non-comedogenic foundations can trigger breakouts if you sleep in them, so make a habit of washing your face every night. Start with an oil-free makeup remover to dissolve the pigments and setting powder or spray. Next, do a full cleanse using a gentle wash that’ll remove any leftover makeup without stripping your skin. Rinse well with water, then pat dry before applying one of the best serums for clear skin, says Dr. Nussbaum. And finally apply a thin layer of oil-free moisturizer to nourish your skin overnight so you can rise and shine in the morning.

Meet the Experts

  • Jamie Greenberg is a Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist and the creator of JamieMakeup. She’s the mastermind behind some of our favorite beauty looks, including Kaley Cuoco, Rashida Jones, Chelsea Handler and Kristen Stewart.
  • Dr. Marnie Nussbaum is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in non-invasive aesthetic rejuvenation. In addition to running her private practice, Dr. Nussbaum is a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and has served as a consulting dermatologist to the Melanoma Research Alliance. She is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, and the Women’s Dermatologic Society.
  • Tonya Riner is a celebrity makeup artist based in Houston, Texas. Her roster reads like a who’s who of Hollywood, and includes Kate Upton, Heidi Klum, Elle McPherson and Simone Biles.

Meet the Author

Claire Sullivan is a freelance beauty writer based in New York City. She spent six years writing and editing on staff for Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings, most recently covering the beauty beat for both brands. Her background in food writing translates to a no-nonsense approach to skin care, hair care, and makeup. In her eyes, it’s all about technique and ingredients. Claire loves to turn expert advice into easy steps that inspire you to give your beauty routine a makeover.

 



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