Best Foundations for Acne-Prone Skin: Reviews & Guide (2018 Update)

Updated 6 years ago

Acne-prone skin is not a simple challenge. Keeping breakouts at bay, redness under control, and maintaining a balance between too dry and too oily is exhausting. Adding makeup to the mix seems an impossible task, unless you have one of the best foundations for acne-prone skin.

We’re here to help you select the perfect makeup foundation, whether it be liquid or powder. We researched the the top formulas and brands that will enhance your natural beauty without irritating your face.

Before we list our choices for best makeup foundation, here is some important information about acnegenic ingredients to avoid:

Protect your skin and avoid foundations with these ingredients:

  • Petroleum derivatives
  • SLS, sodium lauryl sulfate, may irritate skin and eyes, cause acne
  • Parabens that disrupt hormones and are linked to cancer
  • Some matte finishes contain talc, which could irritate very sensitive skin
  • Fragrances, because these mystery chemicals are among the top 5 allergens
  • Oils, of course, only make the problem worse—with one exception being Jojoba oil
  • Alcohols like SD denatured and isopropyl, the kinds that dry out your skin

Some foundations may contain one or two harmful ingredients, but are otherwise safe for sensitive skin. The farther down the ingredient list the component appears, the less of it there is in the formula.

Besides these problem substances, you may also find herbal extracts and minerals, plus other ingredients that can help your skin thrive even under a layer of foundation.

Ingredients that can help resolve acne and help sensitive skin

  • Water—don’t buy an oil-based foundation if you have acne-prone skin
  • Dimethicone, a silicon derivative, seals in moisture and hides redness, but can cause a reaction in very sensitive people
  • Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and silica diminish and hide redness plus absorb oil
  • Zinc oxide is a natural sunscreen against UVA and UVB rays
  • Tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E) helps heal irritated skin
  • Salicylic acid is a great acne-fighter if you’re not allergic to aspirin
  • Anti-oxidants like Vitamins A, C, and E to fight aging
  • Safe moisturizers like glycerin and hyaluronic acid
  • Niacinamide, or Vitamin B3, reduces redness and strengthens the skin’s natural barrier

That’s the main list. As we run across other ingredients of note, we’ll try to point them out to you. Let’s begin with the best foundations now.

The top makeup foundations for acne-prone skin

Okay, hold up a moment. Let’s actually start with a BB Cream first. BB creams are like foundations on steroids because they’re packed with extra features. Forgive the interruption, but you may find that this one works better for you than a regular foundation.

Maybelline New York Dream Pure BB Cream Skin Clearing Perfector

BB creams, aka beauty balms, even out complexions, cover up imperfections, and protect your skin. Some have anti-aging and healing ingredients. Some have sunblock. And the Maybelline New York Dream Pure BB Cream contains 2% salicylic acid because it’s made especially for clearing up acne-prone skin.

This cream also contains dimethicone to seal in moisture, glycerin for hydration, Vitamin C (in the form of ascorbyl palmitate) to fight wrinkles, blemishes, and signs of aging, and Vitamin E for healing. Even with all that, it’s water-based, so it’s not greasy and won’t clog pores.

Users have reported that the texture is very lightweight, and the cream holds up well all day. The coverage is sheer, so it’s not the best at hiding all blemishes. Just a little goes a long way so one tube lasts for a long time.

And now, on to our regularly scheduled programming of the best foundations for your face.

Neutrogena Skin Clearing Liquid Makeup

Dermatologists often recommend Neutrogena to their patients because they offer a wide selection of personal care products designed for people with acne. The Skin-Clearing foundation has a mild solution of salicylic acid (0.5%) that cuts through oil, unclogs pores, and gets rid of dead skin. The quantity isn’t prescription strength, which is actually good so it doesn’t interfere with other acne treatments.

Customers says it feels lightweight and lasts all day. The main complaint was difficulty in choosing a color compatible with their skin tone. Neutrogena offers this makeup in only 12 shades, so some buy two bottles and blend them. (This is actually a good trick if you’re trying to transition from winter pale to summer tan, or vice-versa.

Clinique Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup

How about moderately thick coverage to hide imperfections as well as a medicated formula to stop breakouts? If that sounds good, try the Clinique Acne Solutions.

The formula contains caffeine to shrink pores and reduce redness, as well as salicylic and hyaluronic acids to clear clogs, tackle acne, and hydrate your skin. A little goes a long way, and you may still need concealer for trouble spots. It leaves skin looking natural, although it has a matte finish, and it lasts all day. It comes in 16 shades which can be blended together if needed.

e.l.f. Acne Fighting Foundation

While we used to think “elf” was an imaginary being from a fantasy novel, movie, or game, we’ve since learned that it stands for EyesLipsFace. E.L.F. is still going to stretch your imagination because they have quality products at cheap prices.

Their Acne-Fighting Foundation has salicylic acid to stop breakouts and aloe to soothe irritated skin. The witch hazel is an astringent that shrinks pores without drying skin like alcohol. Tea tree oil fights infections, as does camphor (which is also a mild anesthetic but can irritate sensitive skin).

Users say this foundation does a very good job of covering flaws with a matte finish that lasts all day. It comes in 6 colors, from porcelain to coffee.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Teint Mattifying Mousse Matte Foundation for Oily Skin and Sensitive Skin

La Roche-Posay is another brand recommended by dermatologists. The Toleriance Teint Mattifying Mousse does not contain oils, parabens, or fragrances that irritate skin. Instead, its formula disguises blemishes and pores, and soaks up oil for a matte finish without shine all day long. It comes in 5 shades for light to medium skin.

One note: it has an ingredient called Retinyl Linoleate, a derivative of Vitamin A. If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, consider using a different foundation. While Vitamin A derivatives like retinol, etc., can clear up acne, they also increase your risk of damage from sunlight.

L'Oreal Paris True Match Super Blendable Makeup

If you have a difficult time finding the right shade of foundation for your skin tone, L’Oreal has 36 colors of their True Match Super Blendable foundation. The True Match formula has no fragrance and no oils. It contains dimethicone, grapefruit extract, and wheat germ to protect and heal your skin. (It does not contain salicylic acid.) Some of the shades even provide SPF 17 protection.

Users says this foundation goes on smooth and light. The final effect is sheer and subtle, almost like not wearing makeup at all. Plus, of course like its name says, you can blend colors for a perfect match just as it blends well into your skin.

LORAC Natural Performance Foundation

LORAC’s products are made without parabens, sulfates, and other nasty ingredients. In fact, their Natural Performance Foundation doesn’t have synthetic fragrances or dyes, or phthalates, either.

Its formula contains Vitamin A and xyleine—a mix of extracts from olive leaf, papaya fruit, and lemons with natural cell regenerating qualities. Users say the foundation goes on smooth, feels light, and has good coverage. It’s available in 8 colors. Once again, stay out of the sun if you’re not using a sunscreen in your moisturizer to avoid unwanted effects from the Vitamin A.

BareEscentuals bareMinerals Mineral Foundation

With 18 colors to choose from, the bareMinerals collection of Mineral Foundation will give you a matte finish that feels light and still hides pores and imperfections. It’s so good it twice won awards from Glamour Magazine.

Users say the coverage is thick enough that it hides freckles but still makes their skin look natural without flaking and caking. The powder formula keeps oil under control without talc, and provides SPF 15 protection with the power of zinc.

bareEscentuals bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation SPF 20

bareMinerals doesn’t just make powders. Their Pure Brightening Serum Foundation has SPF 20 to protect your face from UV rays, and it comes in 20 colors. It’s so lightweight users report that it doesn’t even feel like they’re wearing makeup, but they can see the difference on their skin. The foundation serum has a slight shimmer to it and it brightens up skin tone.

The ingredients include titanium dioxide as a sunscreen, Vitamin C for fading dark spots, glycerin for hydration, Vitamin E, Lilac Leaf Cell Culture Extract and Plant Stem Cells, Mica, and other derivatives of natural substances like coconut and jojoba.

Ere Perez - Organic Correcting Calendula Powder Foundation

Fans of powder foundation who are tired of all the ingredient warnings will love Ere Perez’s Organic Correcting Calendula Powder. Its matte finish lasts for hours without needing a touch-up and without looking caked-on and fake. It does not contain parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, paraffin, lead, nanoparticles, and it is cruelty-free.

You can layer the coverage as you need it, from light to medium, to even out skin tone and hide blemishes. Ere Perez recommends using a Kabuki brush to dab powder on, then blend it in circles. Unfortunately, it comes in a limited number of colors.

Smashbox 100% Liquid Light Technology Halo HD Foundation

Smashbox, the foundation of choice when you’re about to do a photo shoot or appear on TV. Seriously, this stuff hides a lot of imperfections but doesn’t overwhelm your face. Marie Claire gave it the Most Wanted Beauty Award and Allure awarded it Best Foundation for Oily or Acne-Prone.

One of its top features is the fact that the 10 Smashbox colors tend to blend well regardless of your skin’s natural undertones. You end up with a flawless, satiny and dewy finish that brightens your face and enhances your appearance.

How to apply foundation successfully every time

  • Wash your face and apply moisturizer, then wait five minutes for that to sink into your skin. Put on primer, then foundation, if you have a long day ahead or have extra oiliness or large pores to disguise.
  • Go the extra mile and exfoliate your face once or twice a week. Removing dead skin makes for an even more flawless complexion. Be careful not to over-scrub acne-prone skin.
  • Fingers are okay for applying foundation—but wash your hands first. For better coverage, use a brush or sponge to smooth on foundation. Dab extra amounts over blemishes or use a concealer.
  • With both powders or liquids, start applying foundation at the middle of your face and work outwards and downwards, always with downward strokes, even over your ears and down onto your neck so you don’t leave a mask-like line.
  • If your foundation can be applied over your eyelids (some can’t), take advantage of that fact to hide those little veins that show up after a bad night’s sleep.

Skin care and makeup removal at the end of the day is essential

Remember to gently clean and moisturize your face at the end of the day. Don’t leave makeup on—even the best formulas can clog pores with the help of the grime that builds up on your skin during the day. If you’re too tired, settle for a makeup removing wipe and a splash of Micellar Water. It only takes a minute but you’ll save yourself hassle in the long run.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleasing Towelettes, Night Calming

Safe for tired eyes, and doesn’t dry out skin.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Water

Hydrate your skin every day.


We hope that you discovered the best foundation for you today, the one that will give you perfect coverage and the power to keep acne under control. Visit us again soon for new reviews of the best in skin care products.