Foundation and acne sometimes don't mix. If you've ever dealt with any form of acne, 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 to make sure nothing is super comedogenic (aka, will clog your pores, big time). Foundation can be especially tricky, though. To get more insight into the matter, I called in the experts. Two dermatologists and a makeup artist provided me with a well-rounded perspective. Keep reading for tips on how to choose the best foundation for acne-prone skin and with product recs.
How to Choose the Best Foundation for Acne-Prone Skin
With many foundation formulas now boasting skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, it's a good idea to seek those out if you have acne-prone skin. Niacinamide can help control oil production if you have oilier skin and can help curb breakouts. Hyaluronic acid provides light hydration without being heavy or clogging pores. Soothing and moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera can also be good for redness. Additionally, if your skin can tolerate it, some foundations even have acne-fighters like salicylic acid in them. Dermatologists and makeup artists have a few other tips.
"[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 these tend to clog pores," she says. "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."
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 the 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 the sun." — Amin
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 favorite lightweight formula. It truly feels like a second skin when you apply it because it barely feels like you're wearing anything. Despite its lightweight feel, it provides great coverage. It's noncomedogenic and looks lovely when dry. 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
This completely noncomedogenic foundation stick from Tom Ford is an absolute dream. It's creamy, provides an ultra-smooth finish, and looks natural on the skin. The formula is also customizable, meaning you can create light, medium, or full coverage 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
"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
Ilia's formula is great for sensitive skin as it contains soothing ingredients like niacinamide, hydrating aloe, and allantoin to calm redness and irritation. It's silky and melts into the skin, creating a naturally radiant finish.
Best Shade Range: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Liquid Foundation
No other brand's shade range is quite as impressive 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 be sweat- and humidity-resistant.
Best Waterproof: MAC Cosmetics Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Liquid Foundation