Makeup for Acne-Prone Skin


In this Article:

When you have acne-prone skin, trying to find makeup products that won’t make you breakout can be tricky. Does a product need to say its non-comedogenic? Are there certain ingredients to avoid? We'll address these concerns and more, plus provide our expert makeup recommendations.

Before we delve into this topic it’s incredibly important to know that using the right skincare routine for acne is critical. Everything pales in comparison. Finding gentle, fragrance-free products that contain proven acne-fighting ingredients is the starting point (and we stress gentle).

Remember, acne cannot be scrubbed away and harsh drying ingredients only make it worse, creating more breakouts. Using a core skincare routine that includes a gentle cleanser, a salicylic acid based exfoliant, and an anti-acne product containing benzoyl peroxide (each also formulated to be skin softening) is the key to combatting acne. These are proven ingredients that can bring about dramatic improvement, including fewer post-acne marks.

Now we can address the big question lots of people have: Does makeup cause acne?

Does Makeup Cause Acne?

Acne is influenced by a variety of factors—but makeup isn’t one of them. Of course, if you aren’t removing your makeup at night that’s another story (hello, clogged pores), but the makeup itself isn’t blame...that’s your fault for falling asleep still wearing your makeup—especially heavy makeup. Don’t feel bad, we’ve all done it!

Not getting all of your makeup off is also a problem so using a soft washcloth with your gentle water-soluble cleanser or a very soft cleansing brush can make a big difference.

What is possible is that certain types of makeup can worsen breakouts for those already prone to developing them. The types of ingredients and formulas you want to avoid aren’t necessarily what you would expect—we’re about to bust one of the biggest myths in the cosmetics industry and help you make sense of it all!

Is Non-Comedogenic Makeup Better?

You’ve no doubt seen the phrase “non-comedogenic”—you may even look for it when shopping for makeup, believing such products won’t clog pores or contribute to acne.  Unfortunately, you really can't trust any product that makes claims of being non-comedogenic (or the less common "non-acnegenic") because there are no approved or regulated standards for these statements anywhere in the world.

With no guidelines or standards in place, even the thickest, greasiest, creamiest foundation around can claim it "won't clog pores"! (As a general rule, the thicker the product, the more likely it is to be pore-clogging.)

And be wary of the claim "oil-free"! Lots of ingredients can make skin feel greasy but don’t contain or get listed as traditional oils. Shopping for oil-free products isn't a slam-dunk solution for acne-prone skin.

Like most of the beauty advice from the seventies (hello, baby oil and sunbathing), it’s time to retire the whole concept of “non-comedogenic”. It’s just not a helpful claim, and besides, how many of us have bought products claiming they won’t cause breakouts—and we broke out anyway? Instead, let’s look at what you really should avoid when shopping for makeup for acne-prone skin.

What to Watch Out For

Steer clear of alcohol-based (listed as SD or denatured) or fragrance-loaded makeup. This is sage advice for all skin types, but it’s especially true for those that have oily, acne-prone skin because these types of ingredients can trigger a reaction that exacerbates breakouts and oiliness. Suffice to say, it’s really, really important to avoid.

Avoid thick, or solid makeup products like stick or creamy compact foundations. The types of ingredients that help keep these products in a solid or semi-solid form are iffy for those with breakout-prone skin. We can understand the temptation to use solid foundations or stick concealers if you’re trying to conceal breakouts and red areas—they often offer the high-power coverage you want—but fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to consider. We share our favorites below.

Expert Makeup Picks for Acne-Prone Skin

When using makeup to help conceal present or past breakouts, resist the urge to cover your entire face in a blanket of full-coverage foundation. Most will find the combination of a medium coverage foundation and strategically applied full-coverage concealer adds the extra help where you need it most while giving you a much more natural-looking result.

These foundations offer coverage with an attractive skin-like finish. Equally important, they omit the types of skin-aggravating ingredients that make breakouts worse.

  • Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Makeup
  • Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation
  • Paula’s Choice BEST FACE FORWARD Foundation SPF 25 (we love that this doubles as your sunscreen)
  • Rimmel London Stay Matte Foundation
  • Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Makeup

Our favorites below work especially well for building medium-to-full coverage that camouflages breakouts and red areas. Set with powder for extra staying power!

  • Kat Von D Lock-it Tattoo Concealer
  • Lancome Maquicomplet Complete Coverage Concealer
  • Revlon ColorStay Concealer
  • Smashbox 24 Hour CC Spot Concealer

What about blush and bronzer? There are too many to list, but generally speaking, powder blushes and bronzers are typically the best option for acne-prone skin. While gels or liquids aren’t the worst, they tend to easily "grab" over areas of uneven skin texture or pool in enlarged pores (not a good look).

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Products for Acne Breakouts.

Recommend Products

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

View Media Highlights

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!

Skip to Top of Page
[{"Key":"SpecialOffers","Name":"SpecialOffers","BrontoID":"0bbf03e9000000000000000000000000ead0","Label":"Web Specials & Daily Deals","DisplayDescription":"","DisplayRestrictions":"","Value":null},{"Key":"SpecialOffersLessFrequent","Name":"SpecialOffersLessFrequent","BrontoID":"0bbf03e90000000000000000000000012122","Label":"Web Specials","DisplayDescription":"","DisplayRestrictions":"Less Frequent","Value":null},{"Key":"BeautypediaExclusives","Name":"BeautypediaExclusives","BrontoID":"0bbf03e9000000000000000000000000eace","Label":"Beauty Exclusives","DisplayDescription":"Expert Advice Newsletter ","DisplayRestrictions":"twice a month","Value":null},{"Key":"BeautypediaUpdates","Name":"BeautypediaUpdates","BrontoID":"0bbf03e9000000000000000000000000ead1","Label":"Beautypedia Updates","DisplayDescription":"New reviews on Beautypedia ","DisplayRestrictions":"twice a month","Value":null}]


Paula’s Choice Auto Delivery is a quick and convenient way to make sure you never run out of your favorite products again. Just select the products you can’t live without, choose how often you’d like them delivered and we’ll take care of the rest.

Get 10% off your first order when you sign up today.