Life with acne can be unpredictable, frustrating and embarrassing. Whether it’s the occasional breakouts or the stuff of teenage nightmares persisting through adulthood, it can be a struggle to eat right and find skin care products that won’t aggravate your skin. Not to mention, the seemingly impossible task of finding the right foundation that will cover up those blemishes without prompting your skin to go haywire. “Finding the right foundation that doesn’t feel greasy or make them break out more can be difficult for those with oily or acne-prone skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist Sandra Johnson, MD. “Generally, if your foundation isn’t formulated for your skin type, it could clog your pores and worsen acne.”
Choosing Foundation for Oily or Acne-Prone Skin
These days, makeup products come in all shapes, formulations and consistencies, so picking out the best foundation for oily and acne-prone skin can be rather overwhelming. While some makeup products won’t necessarily indicate the skin type it’s best suited for, their labels could offer you some clues. To narrow down your options, look for products that say “hypoallergenic,” “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic” as these tend to work better on problematic skin, as with mineral-based loose powder formulas.
But if you want to play it even safer, “It’s important to not only rely on the ‘non-comedogenic’ label on cosmetics, but instead, turn the bottle over and look at the ingredients list,” says Brittany Buhalog, MD, chief dermatology resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In a 2006 study using a modification of the Mills and Kligman test, Dr. Buhalog notes that researchers found ingredients like octyl palmitate, lanolin and its derivatives, isopropyl myristate and isopropyl isostearate (both esters of isopropyl alcohol) as potential contributors to acne.
“It’s really hard to rely solely on ‘non-comedogenic’ labeling, as it does depend on formulation, concentration and the individual consumer’s response. In general, avoiding petrolatum, wax, lanolin, octyl palmitate and cocoa butter is a good idea for those with acne-prone or oily skin,” adds Dr. Buhalog. With that being said, “It’s trial and error most of the time, unfortunately,” she adds.
How to Apply for Best Results
Product buildup is one of the primary causes of clogged pores and breakouts, so Dr. Buhalog says, “Try to use the thinnest foundation you can get away with! The last thing someone with acne-prone skin should be doing is applying thick foundation!” Instead, keep things light and focus on areas where you need it most. Follow it up with a concealer that contains salicylic acid “to provide some acne-treatment while you correct,” shares Dr. Buhalog.
To apply your foundation, Dr. Buhalog suggests doing so with clean hands rather than a brush or sponge. “[Some women] rarely wash their makeup tools as often as they should, which promotes bacterial and fungal growth. Finish with a loose setting powder (which typically has fewer potentially pore-clogging binders and ingredients as pressed powders) in areas that really need it like the forehead, chin and area around your nose,” adds Dr. Buhalog.
Here are some tips on how you can make the most of your foundation if you have oily or acne-prone skin:
- Consider using a mattifying gel or primer under your foundation to help keep your makeup in place.
- To minimize shine, keep blotting paper on hand.
- When you’re trying a foundation for the first time, try the product on the inside of your arm for two weeks before trying it on your face so you know how well it works with your oily and acne-prone skin.
- Don’t forget to cleanse your face at night and apply moisturizer (yes, even if you have oily skin) in the mornings and evenings before wearing foundation. Remember: Over-cleansing or skipping moisturizer could lead to irritation and more oil production and may make breakouts worse.
Ready to try out foundations formulated specifically for oily or acne-prone skin? Check out our top picks below.