Best Foundation for Acne Prone Skin: Makeup for an Oily, Pimply or Sensitive Complexion

Updated on November 22, 2019
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Chris Telden loves being creative and coming up with fun and unique pet names.

Some experts say that the best foundation for skin prone to acne is simply no foundation at all. Makeup that covers the face, especially oil-based makeup, clogs pores and irritates sensitive skin prone to pimples. But if you're like the many who still want a foundation to be part of their beauty regimen, you should choose a non-comedogenic foundation—that means makeup for acne sufferers formulated, so it doesn't clog pores as much as traditional cosmetics do, or make the skin break out excessively. Here are some of the best-rated foundation formulas designed to minimize skin irritation for girls and women with a sensitive complexion.

What to Look For

All makeup clogs pores to some degree. But if you do wear skin foundation, a powder-based mineral foundation may be the best makeup for acne-prone skin. According to Dr. Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York City's Mount Sinai Medical Center, mineral makeup is non-comedogenic and not as aggravating to an acne-prone complexion as "traditional makeups."

Whatever the base, a foundation for acne-prone skin should be:

  • Oil-free
  • Water-based
  • Labeled non-comedogenic
  • Removed with mild soap every night before going to bed (whether or not the manufacturer says you can go to sleep wearing it)
  • A powder rather than liquid, if possible

Other tips:

  • Choose a "natural" foundation that does not contain "micronized" minerals that have been made into nanoparticles (it clogs the pores) or bismuth oxychloride (it's a skin irritant). Ideally, the foundation will also be free of synthetic dyes, fragrances, and preservatives.
  • If using a liquid foundation, choose one that doesn't coat the face heavily and apply it lightly.
  • Wash the face twice per day to get rid of dead skin cells and excess oil.
  • Don't wash the face more than twice a day - this can dry out the complexion excessively.
  • Avoid using harsh cleansers, soaps, masks, facial scrubs, and astringents on acne-prone skin.
  • Don't use foundation or other cosmetics past the expiration date.
  • Frequently clean brush and any makeup applicators, which can trap bacteria.
  • Wash your hands before you put on the foundation.

Sensitive Skin Means Mineral or Water Base Is Optimal

Here are some top-rated foundations for pimply, oily and blotchy complexions. Some are powdered mineral foundations, others are liquid foundations. Some are designed for full coverage of heavily damaged skin, others for very light coverage.

Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals Foundation

A highly popular mineral foundation, this oil-free, perfume-free economical pressed makeup by Bare Escentuals is composed only of pure minerals and made without preservatives, talc, or added chemicals or fragrances.

Great for people with acne blemishes or skin prone to irritation—it's touted to provide coverage without causing breakouts.

To use, dab an application brush into the powder, then shake off the visible powder and apply it to the face in circular motions until you have the coverage you want.

Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation for Full Coverage

Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation, a fragrance-free, oil-free liquid foundation with real silk powders gives full coverage without being cakey, and is long-lasting, yet has a light feel. It helps disguise skin imperfections such as sun spots, acne scars, pimples, and a rosacea skin condition. It contains glycerin and green tea extract and black tea extract.

Recommended use is to apply a small amount with a sponge with a foundation primer underneath and loose translucent setting powder (also available on to finish. Some users use a second thin layer over problem spots.

Though the makeup can be expensive, since this foundation is best used in very small amounts and lasts a long time, the price is well worth it. Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation is a good option for people with oily, seriously acne-prone skin who have trouble finding full coverage for blemishes and for whom powder mineral foundation doesn't do the job.

GloMinerals GloPressed Mineral Foundation Powder

Mineral makeup in a compact can be applied to clean skin with the enclosed sponge, or with a brush—which is recommended by some reviewers—to achieve a smooth, matte complexion. This foundation has a light, natural look and is touted to help cover blemishes and even cover hyperpigmentation.

Some users with rosacea or acne-prone skin who reviewed this product on reported it provides great, non-irritating coverage. It contains Green Tea Leaf Extract.

Naked Minerals Foundation Makeup

This pure mineral powder foundation comes in a pressed powder for mess-free wear. One reviewer on Amazon's website called this the "best mineral makeup on the market." Fragrance-free, non-camedogenic, and hypoallergenic to minimize skin irritation. Without parabens, talc, FD&C colorings, vegetable dyes.

With mineral foundation, you don't have to exactly match the color of your skin, since the coverage is not full. The closer, the better, though. Cleverly packaged with both yellow and pink tone shades, this pressed powder foundation duo allows you to blend warm and cool tones to achieve your skin tone more precisely. A natural, naked look is the result.

GloMinerals GloProtective Oil Free Liquid Base

This oil-free liquid foundation is non-comedogenic and has been positively reviewed by at least one user with acne-prone skin.

Formulated for oily skin, gloMinerals gloProtective Oil-Free Liquid Base Satin Finish Foundation makeup covers and smooths splotches and complexion problems and thus can help disguise acne flare-ups.

It contains aloe vera extract and has a radiant, dewy, yet natural look finish. Apply with a brush.

Alison Raffaele Acne Response Primer

Massage in the Alison Raffaele Acne Response primer to prepare clean skin for a foundation. Developed by a professional makeup artist, this oil-free, fragrance-free liquid mineral-based primer has "advanced acne-fighting oligopeptides" and antioxidants to protect against dryness, irritation, blemishes, and free radicals. Made without parabens or talc.

As you see, the best makeup for oily skin and a face that tends to break out is one that will irritate it the least and provide light coverage. It's usually better to apply several light layers of makeup than one thick layer. Treat your skin well and damage from aging and wear is less likely to show.


  1. on wearing cosmetics with skin problems
  2. GeorgiaHealthInfo on makeup for oily complexions
  3. What's Up With Mineral Makeup?

What is the Best Foundation for Acne Prone Skin?

If you have acne, oily skin, or a problematic complexion, which foundation has provided the best coverage without irritating your skin or causing breakouts?

See results

According to the poll in this article, Bare Escensuals Bare Minerals Foundation and Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation are emerging as two of the most popular oil free options among readers of this article. What do you think? Let us know your favorite in the Comments section below.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Chris Telden

What Is the Best Makeup For Acne Prone Skin? And What Foundation DOESN'T Work? Share Your Personal Experience!

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    • Nicole S profile image

      Nicole S Hanson 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      I currently use Tarte but I'm in the market for something else. This was helpful, thank you!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      One of the best I have ever used is the Clinique Acne Foundation, it is absolutely fabulous and has great coverage. My teenage daughter loves it as well

    • mysisters profile image


      9 years ago

      Great Hub. Studio Fix foundation from MAC is a great product.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have tried at least a handful of different liquid foundations, pressed powders, loose powders, and mineral loose powders. To date, the least irritating to my skin has been Mary Kay Medium Coverage liquid foundation. Since it's not a full coverage foundation, I sometimes have to use a concealer. The Mary Kay concealer does irritate my skin, and any of the other few I have tried have been more irritating. Frankly, it gets to be *irritating* just trying different products! Anyway .... still looking for the right Powder (I'd prefer a mineral, loose powder; or a pressed, matifying powder) to set the foundation.

    • makeupguru4u profile image


      9 years ago

      Most minerals make me break out SO bad! It's hard to find them without Bismuth, which makes my face itch. Everyone says minerals are good for oily acne prone skin, but most don't seem to work well or provide coverage on me. People with acne prone skin don't really have the choice to go without makeup though. I like to use the Mattify! Loose Powder under a liquid foundation called Estee Lauder Max Cover. The Mattify prevents pores from clogging, and the Max Cover is light weight, but covers all acne spots easily.

    • PaperNotes profile image


      10 years ago

      wow I've heard some of these are good but haven't personally tried them yet. thanks for the tips and information. Very helpful!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I found that Barbra Daly Oil and Mineral Free is the best foundation for acne prone skin. It even seems to help clear up my spots as it has a slight drying effect on them. The only place you can purchase this is Tesco Supermarkets. It is specially made by Daly for their store.


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