7 Best Foundations for Oily or Acne-Prone Skin

BY Janeca Racho · August 16, 2018

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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.

1. Tarte Cosmetics Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15

Featuring Amazonian clay as its star ingredient, this lightweight liquid foundation not only delivers up to 12 hours of full coverage but also absorbs excess oil and draws out pore-clogging impurities. It’s infused with vitamins A and E, hyaluronic acid and mineral pigments to hydrate, soothe and protect skin from the sun and free radical damage.

2. Dermablend Smooth Liquid Camo Foundation with SPF 25

When you have oily skin, you can bet that the wrong foundation will start slipping off your face faster than you can say “blotting paper!” Fortunately, this shine-free liquid foundation, featuring Dermablend’s camo-pigmentTM technology, offers 16 hours of consistent wear without smudging, fading or transfer. Weightless and buildable, it delivers a flawless, natural-looking coverage that blurs fine lines and reduces the appearance of rosacea, acne, hyperpigmentation and even birthmarks. Formulated without phthalates, triclosan and sodium lauryl sulfate, this non-comedogenic foundation is allergy- and sensitive skin-tested.

Curious to know more? Learn how to cover up major skin concerns using Dermablend makeup.

3. BY TERRY Cover Expert Fluid Foundation SPF 15

Say goodbye to slick and shine with this ultra-smoothing foundation that leaves your skin with a velvety, natural finish. Its matte, non-drying formula glides smoothly, erases blemishes and fine lines and adapts to all types of complexions.

4. BECCA Cosmetics Ultimate Coverage Complexion Creme

Weightless? Check. Water-resistant? Check. Hides blemishes big and small? Check. And that’s not even the best part. This phthalate-free foundation is formulated with 21 percent pure pigment and 22 percent water and is clinically proven to deliver 24 hours of cake-, fade- and transfer-free wear.

5. Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation Acne Control

This foundation is a double-acting complexion corrector that refines the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration and other imperfections while keeping breakouts at bay—thanks to its acne-fighting formula that includes salicylic acid to de-clog pores, antioxidants to counter free radicals and aloe vera gel to reduce redness and inflammation.


6. Vichy Dermafinish Corrective Fluid Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 30

Oily skin or not, you can’t go wrong with this dermatologist-approved cream foundation! Get up to 16 hours of comfortable wear with this buildable formula that diminishes the appearance of mild-to-moderate blemishes like hyperpigmentation, scars, acne and redness. It also features Vichy’s trademark thermal spring water that delivers essential trace minerals to your skin for a healthier, more radiant complexion. And with its broad-spectrum SPF 30 UV filter, this gem is a year-round makeup-kit staple!

7. 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Healthy Skin Foundation

This full-coverage foundation gives you pristine-looking skin without the dreaded cakey-ness and breakout-causing ingredients. Featuring antioxidant- and vitamin-rich superfruits, aloe vera and green tea, it features a smooth cream-to-powder formula that leaves a velvety matte finish. Bonus points for its mineral sun protection, courtesy of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which protects skin from UVA and UVB rays.

Janeca Racho

With over 10 years of writing and editing experience, Janeca Racho has worked with clients in the fashion, entertainment, food, health and travel industries. An adventurer at heart, she will gladly trade her heels for ... Read More >

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