Anti-Aging Skin Care

The No-guesswork Best Makeup for Acne Prone Skin

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: February 22, 2018
best makeup for acne prone skin

The Truth First

The best makeup for acne prone skin isn’t the makeup with the biggest marketing department. You’ve no doubt seen the phrase “non-comedogenic” dozens of times—you may even look for it when shopping for makeup, believing such products won’t clog pores or contribute to acne. Right? Well, let me reveal the truth.. It’s just not true. Here’s why.

This term was “coined” under conditions that fail to represent how ingredients work in makeup. So, how did the “non-comedogenic” myth begin? It stems from a 1970’s study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. This study examined the potential of ingredients (like cocoa butter, for example) to clog pores and form comedones. Each ingredient was layered five times per application for a period of two weeks without cleansing the skin at any time. Just doing the study that way isn’t realistic, right? Who uses makeup like that?

Anyway, it doesn’t matter because it wasn’t about makeup. The study focused on skin cleanser and moisturizer ingredients—not makeup ingredients for the most part. If a particular ingredient was found to trigger a breakout, it was labeled comedogenic. These standards are still upheld. They seem to be accurate (for some strange reason beyond me) when it comes to skincare products. However, they don’t represent reality when it comes to makeup. What actually affects whether makeup products will likely trigger a breakout is how much of an ingredient is used in its formulation. For example, the vilified ingredient mineral oil (always used in tiny amounts) in your foundation or blush is incapable of exacerbating a breakout. So, you just need to know your products. I am here to help you with this!

Products to Avoid When Shopping for Makeup:

If you’re acne prone, avoid solid or thick makeup products like stick, cream, pancake, or cream-to-powder foundations and concealers. The same goes for bronzers or blushes in cream, stick, or cream-to-powder forms. The types of ingredients that help keep these products in a solid or semi-solid form (often waxes, or similar ingredients like polyethylene or ethylhexyl palmitate) are what cause the issues for those with breakout prone skin. I mention these two ingredients because you’ll be hard-pressed to find references to support that these are “offensive” ingredients in cosmetic blogs or Women’s Magazine articles. However, they are offensive. Do look for these ingredients and don’t buy a product that contains them.

The entire time I was an NBC medical reporter, the makeup people insisted on “coating me” (yes, I felt like a pan) with thick stick makeup and then piling on with the pancake. I had and still have acne prone skin. Yuk! I used to run off the set to wash my face but still always had break-outs. I just did a shoot for an organization with a professional makeup person about 6 months ago, and now they use light applications of mineral powders. Wow, what a difference! The people currently on-air really don’t know what they “missed.” As far as the best way to treat acne prone skin, I have used the Moorspa salicylic acid cleaner and glycolic lotion for years and no longer break out at all. I also only use makeup occasionally, and when I do, I follow the rules I’m now going to share with you.

Here’s the Best Makeup for Acne Prone Skin:

best makeup for acne prone skinMost people think that the combination of a medium coverage foundation and strategically applied full-coverage concealer “does the trick.” You don’t need to “wear a mask” for coverage, and you don’t need to have to clean up the carnage afterward.

Use the right liquid or mineral powder formulas to keep from having breakouts.

Here are a few of my makeup recommendations for acne prone skin, each offering medium to full coverage that looks like healthy skin, not a “mask.”

Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Flawless Fluide Foundation

Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Makeup

Bare Minerals Blemish Remedy Foundation. Honestly, I feel safe with all of the Bare Minerals makeup—even their liquid foundation. I really like the whole product line but will limit my next recommendations to lines besides this one.

For spot application, these are my picks for concealers: Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer and Kat Von D Lock-it Tattoo Concealer.

If you are looking for organic, great coverage and of course totally non-comedogenic- Moorspa’s acne cover product does the trick when I personally get a zit!

For blush or bronzers, powder formulas are the best, with the mineral powders always winning in the acne-prevention “contest.”


If you have been battling acne for years and continue to cover up acne scarring, you need to get treatment for acne scars and the breakouts. Layering on more and more makeup is just creating a vicious cycle. Start with acne treatments (referenced earlier) and then move on to acne scar treatment(s). You can have lovely skin, but it just takes a little effort. Most women have “skin issues,” whether it be adult acne, fine lines, sagging, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and so on. So, don’t fret! It’s not just you struggling with acne. Tackle it!

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