Anyone with acne-prone skin knows the Catch-22 of foundation: You use it to camouflage an unwanted blemish, leading to even more breakouts down the line. "Foundation is one of the riskiest steps in a skin care regimen because it is applied all over your skin and can often contain ingredients that trigger new acne pimples," Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology, tells Bustle. But instead of skipping your base makeup altogether, you can identify the best foundations for acne-prone skin by paying attention to the ingredients list. "Coconut oil, avocado oil, silicones, mineral oil, and added fragrances or perfumes can cause new pimples to form and irritate existing pimples, making them more noticeable," Dr. Nazarian cautions. Also, look for foundations (and other makeup products) that are noncomedogenic, aka free of pore-clogging ingredients.
In addition to knowing which ingredients to avoid, Dr. Nazarian suggests choosing a foundation that contains ingredients that can help improve your skin over time. "Look for those containing hyaluronic acid, [which is] great for improving hydration, antioxidants to protect against free radical damage, peptides, vitamin C, or acne-fighting ingredients,” she says. Another consideration when choosing your foundation is the formula itself, with powder foundations being the least likely to aggravate acne-prone skin. "Cream or liquid formulations have higher oil concentrations than powders, and have more occlusive tendencies than powders," Dr. Nazarian says, explaining, "This means they're more likely to interfere with communication from the skin to the outside environment and can cause skin to improperly regulate itself to temperature, humidity, and other factors."
Perhaps even more important than the foundation you use is properly taking it off at the end of the day. "It's vital to fully remove all makeup and foundation," Dr. Nazarian says, adding, "Apply a calming moisturizer after gentle cleansing." Use one of the best cleansers for acne-prone skin to get the job done, or better yet, considering the double-cleansing method (aka cleansing your face first with an oil cleanser or micellar water, and following up with a water-based cleanser).
Ahead, you'll find some of the best foundations for acne-prone skin, as well Dr. Nazarian's top pick (and her trick for treating acne while you wear your makeup).
1. The Pro’s Pick
"Your foundation is a good opportunity to multitask and streamline your skin care regimen," says Dr. Nazarian. She shares that this salicylic acid-infused foundation from Neutrogena is a solid choice for acne-prone skin. The oil-free, liquid formula helps treat acne with 0.5% salicylic acid, while simultaneously providing light coverage. "Of course, products that contain multiple active ingredients can have a slightly higher rate of irritation or allergy, so proceed with caution and ensure your skin is tolerating every new product without redness, itching, or other signs of inflammation," she advises.
- Available shades: 14
2. Best Cream-To-Powder Foundation For Black Skin
Designed to provide a comprehensive range of foundation shades for Black skin, Flori Roberts Creme To Powder Foundation is a full-coverage option that uses kaolin clay to give your skin a matte, shine-free finish. You won't find any silicones, mineral oil, or fragrance in here, but the formula is infused with soybean oil, vitamin E, and vitamin A to help keep skin nourished, protected, and clear. The compact even comes with an antimicrobial sponge to prevent spreading acne-causing bacteria as you apply your foundation.
- Available shades: 15
3. Best Mineral Foundation For Acne-Prone Skin
Powder foundations are less likely to clog pores, and this option from The Good Mineral was created by two sisters with sensitive, acne-prone skin who understand the struggle of finding makeup that won’t cause irritation or breakouts. With buildable coverage that feels super lightweight, the powder foundation checks all of the boxes when it comes to ingredients Dr. Nazarian recommends avoiding (it's noncomedogenic and free from oils, fragrance, and silicones). This foundation is also a great choice for anyone with oily skin, as it contains sericite and kaolin clay, which both help to absorb excess oil.
- Available shades: 11
4. Best CC Cream For Acne-Prone Skin
Though technically a CC cream, DermaBlend Continuous Correction still works like a full-coverage foundation while helping to even out unwanted redness, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots. The noncomedogenic formula is free of oils and fragrance, and instead, provides multiple skin care benefits including broad spectrum SPF 50+ protection. Antioxidant-rich ingredients like vitamin E further help protect against free radical damage, and calming niacinamide aids with regulating oil production.
- Available shades: 15
5. Best Long-Lasting Foundation For Acne-Prone Skin
When you need a foundation that doesn't budge, options that are suitable for acne-prone skin and are waterproof, sweat-proof, and transfer-proof are hard to come by. Cover FX’s Power Play Foundation is a long-lasting liquid formula that contains a trio of ultra-fine powders to help control shine and excess oil production while also offering protection against environmental aggressors thanks to fermented algae extract. It’s free of potentially pore-clogging ingredients, such as mineral oil, as well as fragrance, making this is a safe option for acne-prone skin types.
- Available shades: 36
6. Best Long-Lasting Drugstore Foundation For Acne-Prone Skin
For a less-expensive alternative that holds up all day long, Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation is your best bet. An Amazon-shopper favorite with more than 60,000 five-star ratings, this affordable foundation comes in plenty of shades to match a wide range of skin tones. The formula is noncomedogenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free, and its matte finish makes it helpful for those with oily, acne-prone skin, as micro-powders in the formula help to block out shine while blurring the appearance of enlarged pores.
- Available shades: 40
7. Best Foundation Stick For Acne-Prone Skin
A stick foundation makes on-the-go application a breeze (plus, you can add a few different colors into your rotation to serve as concealer, highlighter, and contour, too). PUR’s 4-In-1 Foundation Stick is free of acne-triggering mineral oil, silicones, and fragrance, and couldn’t be any easier to use. The stick packs multiple good-for-skin ingredients into its formula, like green tea extract, ginseng root extract, and squalane. The brand's own proprietary complex also includes encapsulated retinol, lactic acid, and ceramides to keep skin smooth while preventing the buildup of dead skin cells that can contribute to acne.
- Available shades: 14
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Admittedly, it's hard to find foundations that are free of all of the ingredients that can trigger acne, and if you already have a ride-or-die foundation you're not willing to give up on, Dr. Nazarian has a solution. "One of my favorite tips for patients who [have] acne is to apply a thin layer of an acne medication underneath their primer or makeup," she says, noting that ProactivMD’s Adapalene Gel is her top recommendation. The over-the-counter gel uses a prescription-strength retinoid to help unclog pores by increasing the rate of skin cell turnover. "A little goes a long way, and it absorbs very quickly so it doesn't interfere with the application of foundation or makeup," says Dr. Nazarian. It's also important to apply sunscreen in the morning, and a moisturizer morning and night when using a retinoid, as it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and prone to irritation in the form of dryness, redness, and flaking.
Dr. Rachel Nazarian, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist