Choosing Makeup For Acne-Prone Skin: What You Need To Know


Woman looking in mirror and putting cream on her face.
Highlights
  • Acne is a common skin condition characterized by blemishes developing all over the complexion. It’s typically caused by factors like hormones, stress, and diet.

  • Even if you have acne-prone skin, you can still wear makeup without worrying about your condition becoming worse.

  • Makeup products for acne-prone skin include ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid that fight blemishes while enhancing your complexion.

  • It’s recommended to avoid products like setting powders or makeup containing certain oils and other comedogenic ingredients that can clog pores and increase the frequency of breakouts.

If you’ve ever dealt with persistent breakouts, you might know how difficult it is to choose products that support your skin’s overall health.

When it comes to acne and makeup, it can be challenging to find the right products to enhance your features without irritating your skin.

Understanding which ingredients to look out for, products you should avoid, and techniques you can use is essential for doing your makeup while having acne.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at those factors and how you can achieve a flawless look despite your breakouts.

What Causes Acne to Develop?

Acne is a common condition characterized by pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads that develop on the skin.

These blemishes usually form when the pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to acne, but the most common causes include:

  • Excess oil (sebum) that builds up on the skin

  • Genetics

  • Hormonal changes

  • Stress

  • Diet

  • Environmental factors

Most cases of acne are mild to moderate and can be treated with a combination of skin care products and prescription medications.

Can You Still Use Makeup if You Have Acne?

Many people who struggle with acne can use makeup without having to worry about products making their breakouts worse.

People who have acne and use makeup should follow these guidelines to avoid further skin irritation:

  • Use noncomedogenic products since these are unlikely to clog your pores

  • Cleanse your skin thoroughly before applying makeup

  • Avoid full coverage foundations to allow the skin to breathe

If you’re frequently applying makeup while having acne, it’s crucial to clean your face thoroughly at the end of the day to remove the products completely. This is to reduce the risk of clogging pores and worsening your breakouts.

You should also regularly replace your makeup — especially when your products have reached their expiration dates — to avoid additional skin issues.

How to Choose the Best Makeup for Acne-Prone Skin

When it comes to choosing makeup for acne-prone skin, it’s important to thoroughly research ingredients and formulations.

This helps you identify products that will work for your skin and to understand which items may lead to more breakouts. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at how you can do this.

Foundation and concealer

Choosing a good concealer and foundation for acne-prone skin is the first step to achieving a flawless-looking complexion.

If you’re searching for acne-friendly options, it’s always best to choose an oil-free and noncomedogenic product that offers lightweight coverage.

We also recommend using a liquid foundation compared to a powder to avoid clogging your pores even further.

If you have oily skin, a matte foundation for acne-prone complexions may be a good option, too. For sensitive skin, a tinted moisturizer could also work as a lightweight foundation.

These products allow your skin to breathe and won’t irritate it or trigger excess oil production that may worsen acne.

You can also opt for products that contain acne-fighting ingredients, such as niacinamide or salicylic acid.

Key Point: What About Powder Foundation?

Although powder foundations are great for reducing excess oil, they are not always recommended for acne-prone skin.

This type of full-coverage foundation may actually contribute to acne by clogging pores, causing irritation, and preventing the skin from breathing.

If setting powder is a staple in your makeup routine, you should choose products that are noncomedogenic or switch to a spray instead.

Blush, bronzer, and highlighter

These products can make the skin appear radiant and add dimension, so choosing the right options is key.

For acne-prone skin, we recommend products with a creamy formula and noncomedogenic ingredients.

You should try to avoid powder formulas, as these products can suffocate and dry the skin, which may increase the risk of breakouts.

When applying the products, ensure that you blend them well to prevent emphasizing skin texture irregularities like acne scars.

A gentle and light application is also a great way to make sure that you achieve a natural look.

Remember to choose shades that complement your skin tone, too. Products that are too light or dark may draw unwanted attention to your acne.

Setting spray

A setting spray is vital for enhancing the longevity of your makeup and controlling excess shine. Opt for an oil-free product that sets your makeup without clogging your pores.

Products specifically designed for acne-prone skin or options containing blemish-fighting ingredients are great choices.

They help to protect your skin from environmental factors while working to reduce any breakouts, even while wearing makeup.

Prepping Your Skin for Application

Before applying your makeup, it’s important to prepare your skin.

This can be done by following a good skin care routine with acne-fighting products that may help reduce any irritation caused by your makeup.

Use gentle cleansers

The first step to prepping acne-prone skin is to use a gentle cleanser. This helps to remove excess oil, bacteria, and leftover makeup, leaving you with a clean canvas for your products.

When choosing a cleanser, opt for products that contain skin-loving ingredients that won’t strip your complexion of its natural moisture. Common options include:

  • Hyaluronic acid

  • Glycerin

  • Ceramides

  • Salicylic acid

It’s generally recommended to avoid cleansers with harsh exfoliants — like granules of beads — before applying makeup as these can irritate your skin and aggravate breakouts.

Moisturize and hydrate

After cleansing your skin, moisturizing is key. Adequately hydrating your skin helps prevent excess oil production that may cause more blemishes.

Moisturizing also keeps the skin protected from external factors and reduces the risk of irritation.

When choosing a moisturizer, look for products that don’t contain any oil or comedogenic ingredients that may block your pores. Instead, choose something that contains:

These ingredients have water-retention properties that boost your skin’s hydration, making it appear firm and smooth.

Ingredients like niacinamide and vitamin C can also help the skin fight acne by breaking down excess oil and unclogging pores.

Apply primer for a smooth base

Using a primer is an essential step for achieving a flawless makeup look, especially if you have acne-prone skin.

Primers are designed to create a smooth and even base that can help your makeup stick to your skin a bit better.

They can also help minimize the appearance of pores and fine lines, while allowing your skin to breathe.

For individuals who struggle with acne, it’s recommended to choose a primer that is silicone-free and contains skin-loving ingredients.

Woman cleaning her skin with a cotton round.

Applying Makeup to Acne-Prone Skin

Once you’ve prepped your skin, it’s time to start applying your makeup.

Using the right techniques can help you enhance your features without irritating your skin, and in this section, we’ll take a look at how to do that.

Use clean makeup brushes and tools

Having clean makeup brushes, sponges, and tools to apply your makeup with is essential for people with acne-prone skin.

Dirty makeup tools can store bacteria and dirt, which can enter the pores and cause infections. When this happens, acne can become even worse.

Regularly cleaning your brushes can help you avoid this and promote a smoother overall makeup application.

Spot conceal and color correct

Spot concealing and color correction are valuable techniques for individuals struggling with acne.

These techniques allow you to conceal individual blemishes without overwhelming the skin with heavy makeup.

Color correction also neutralizes redness and hyperpigmentation, creating an even tone for your foundation.

Avoid excessive layering

Although you may be tempted to use more makeup to make your acne less visible, heavy layers can worsen your acne by further clogging your pores and trapping dirt on the skin.

That’s why it’s important to avoid using an excessive amount of products when applying makeup to acne-prone skin.

Instead, focusing on areas that require attention — like blemish-prone spots or redness — and use techniques like color correcting to achieve a flawless look.

This also allows parts of your skin to shine through, giving you a more natural look that doesn’t draw attention to unwanted spots.

Woman applying concealer to specific spots on her face.

Should You See a Doctor about Using Makeup on Acne-Prone Skin?

It’s usually not necessary to see a doctor about using makeup if you have acne-prone skin.

But if you’re unsure about which products you can use, a board-certified dermatologist might be able to help.

They can perform a professional evaluation to determine your skin type and the severity of your acne, which may help them recommend suitable products.

You can also make an appointment with your doctor if your acne appears to worsen after using makeup.

Where Can You Learn More about Acne and Similar Skin Conditions?

If you’re concerned about your acne or want to know more about using makeup while dealing with breakouts, LifeMD is here to help.

Licensed medical professionals can provide information about acne and guidance on choosing cosmetic products that won’t irritate your skin — all from the comfort of your home.

Make an appointment with a doctor or nurse practitioner to give your skin the best possible care with LifeMD.

Joslin Ruiz, APRN, FNP-C

Joslin began her healthcare journey as an ER nurse, where she fine-tuned her expertise in both pediatric and adult care over the years. She’s spent years in family practice and telemedicine, finding immense joy and fulfillment in her work.

Talk To A Doctor

LifeMD makes it easy to stay on top of your health because talking to a doctor, filling your prescriptions, getting your labs done—and more—are all easy and cost-effective. Come discover a healthcare solution built around you and your life.

Connect with a doctor now!

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

Feel better with LifeMD.

Your doctor is online and ready to see you.

Join LifeMD today and experience amazing healthcare, discounted labs and prescription medications... plus around-the-clock access to medical guidance.