5 Best Makeups for Acne-Prone Skin, According to Dermatologists

Best makeup for acne
  • Makeup can clog your pores and trap dirt, oil, and debris in your skin, which can lead to acne.
  • People with acne-prone skin should look for oil-free and powder-based makeup to prevent clogged pores.
  • A good skincare regimen is the most important part of preventing makeup-related breakouts.
  • Some cosmetic brands offer makeup that contain acne-fighting ingredients specifically for acne-prone skin.

Makeup and acne

Makeup can cause acne, says Nicole Palladino, the assistant director of the Rizzieri Aveda School in Voorhees, NJ, but breakouts are usually triggered by more than just makeup.

“If someone is using the wrong type of foundation for their skin type, they could break out,” she says. They could be allergic or sensitive to certain ingredients without knowing it.

“However, a more common cause of breakouts is not washing off makeup from the night before, resulting in clogged pores,” she explains.

That said, some makeup products contain ingredients that can block the pores of the skin (known as comedogenic) and trigger bad breakouts.

If you think that your makeup might be causing your acne, here’s how to turn your skincare and beauty routine from acne-causing to acne-fighting.

What to avoid

Step one in any makeup overhaul is to get rid of all beauty and skincare products that clog pores or give you oily skin—the two greatest enemies of clear, beautiful skin. Here is what to avoid when you’re searching for acne-safe makeup:

  • Oil-based and liquid makeup—Excess oil clogs pores and leads to breakouts, so it’s important to go easy on the oil. “When we look at biopsied facial skin, we often see makeup particles and product oil down in the pores,” says Dr. Cynthia Bailey of Dr. Bailey Skin Care. “Acne-prone skin does best with minimal oil-containing products and with powder makeup instead of a liquid foundation.”
  • A long list of ingredients—“The simpler the product ingredient mix, the better on acne-prone skin,” says Dr. Bailey. Makeup with a lot of ingredients is more likely to trigger breakouts in people with certain skin types, especially in those with sensitive skin or allergies.
  • Silicone-based makeup—“For acne-prone skin, try to stay away from silicone-based foundations and stick with foundations that are lighter and mattify the skin,” says Palladino. Silicone can cover and trap the bacteria and oils in your skin that cause breakouts. Silicone is often identified as dimethicone in makeup.

What to look for

The best foundation, bronzer, or illuminator for your skin type might not be the best for everyone, but in general, you should look for the following:

  • Mineral-based makeup—In the past several years, several small mineral-based makeup brands have blossomed into major players, primarily because mineral-based formulations are safer on the skin. These formulations use natural minerals such as iron oxide, talc, and zinc oxide for both color and coverage. These ingredients are gentle on the skin and mineral-based makeup doesn’t usually contain as many oils, preservatives, waxes, and fragrances—all of which can exacerbate or trigger acne—as other types of makeup.
  • Powder-based makeup—Liquid foundation is usually oil-based and contains other ingredients that can irritate the skin. Switching to a powder foundation, especially one with a matte finish which has less oil, is a safer bet for acne-prone skin.
  • Non-comedogenic ingredients—Look for beauty products that are labelled non-comedogenic. Typically, these formulas don’t have as much oil. If you’re committed to using liquid foundation and aren’t comfortable going with powder, make sure you use a non-comedogenic foundation to lessen the impact.

The secret: your skincare regimen

Although makeup can clog even the deepest pores, laying the foundation for serious blemishes, a good skincare routine can help prevent acne.

Acne-busting makeup removers that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are particularly helpful for those with acne-prone skin.

“Pick the products in your skincare routine to win your fight against acne,” says Dr. Bailey. “Use acne medicine or treating products and an oil-free moisturizer to balance skin hydration in areas prone to dryness, like the T-zone.”

Be sure to wash makeup off at night and go to bed with a clean face. Sleeping with makeup on allows oil and dirt to sink deeper into the skin and can cause long-term damage and blemishes.

If you sweat a lot or wear makeup while working out, be sure to remove all the makeup from your skin and shower as soon as possible after your workout to prevent clogged pores and the triggering of breakouts.

“Be sure to have a good skincare regimen that you use on a daily basis. Just one night without it can cause blemishes to appear overnight,” says Palladino. “Look for products that tone, exfoliate, and remove excess dirt and oil.”

Makeup that doesn’t cause acne

If you’re not sure which makeup is best for preventing your breakouts, you can start with some of the following options, all of which are formulated for acne-prone skin.

Aveda Inner Light Mineral Foundation

Aveda Inner Light Mineral Foundation


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This is a paraben-free pressed mineral powder that you can also use as a creamy matte foundation, says Palladino. It comes in several shades and coverage levels to match most skin tones.

Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup

Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup


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This liquid foundation and acne treatment truly does double-duty. It features Neutrogena’s MicroClear technology which is designed to dissolve oil and unclog pores allowing the 0.5% salicylic acid to penetrate the skin to prevent blemishes.

Almay Clear Complexion Makeup

Almay Clear Complexion Makeup


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This formula by Almay also contains salicylic acid to clear the pores while masking blemishes, acne scars, imperfections, and pimples.

Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup

Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup


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Clinique’s acne makeup is designed for use with the label’s other acne-fighting skincare products. It is oil-free and contains medicated ingredients to keep pores clean and prevent blemishes.

BareMinerals Blemish Ready Foundation

BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Foundation


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This mineral foundation includes two natural acne-fighters, tea tree oil and Aspen bark, to provide light coverage without clogging pores.

Choosing the right routine

As with any other skincare quest, finding the right makeup for your skin type is a long process that requires patience and experimentation. If you have severe acne or sensitive skin, you should consult with a board-certified dermatologist before making any changes to your beauty or skincare regimen.

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