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Acne, Make Up and You: Our Best Tips

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

There is a standard guide to the formulas used to make just the brands of makeup sold in the United States that is over 2,000 pages long. Cosmetics companies are constantly thinking of new ways to help their customers make their skin more beautiful, or maybe just to help their customers think they are making their skin more beautiful.

best makeup for acne
People with acne can use makeup, but it is essential to remove the makeup every night.

If you have acne, however, you need to be careful about the kinds of makeup you wear and even more careful to take off your makeup at night. This article will give you the basic guidelines for using makeup when you have acne, and tips for finding low-cost products that work.


  • People who have acne can wear makeup1, but they need to take it off every night.
  • Makeup for acne-prone skin is similar to makeup for any other kind of problem-prone skin.
  • A matte foundation helps keep skin tone even.
  • Alcohol and fragrances should be avoided. They may make your skin break out.
  • Makeup has to match your skin tone. Fortunately, most specialty stores will let you bring back unused products that do not work for your skin tone or texture.
  • Cream or stick foundation tends to streak on oily skin. Cream-to-powder foundation tends to clump on dry skin.
  • Concealers cover up blemishes you have not treated. It is important to choose the right color concealer to avoid creating an even more noticeable irregularity on the skin.
  • Most powders work as well on acne-prone skin as they do on normal skin. The main difference in prices is packaging. Inexpensive and expensive powders are often made by the same company, but sold under different brand names.
  • It is essential to remove makeup from the skin every night. Silicone is better than detergent for removing makeup from acne-prone skin.

What Do You Need to Look for in Makeup Products If You Have Acne?

People who have acne need some of the same qualities in makeup products as anyone else who has problem-prone, oily skin2. Foundation needs to be matte, so it will evenly coat the skin and disguise blemishes.  None of the cosmetics used on acne-prone skin3 should contain alcohol, botanicals, herb essences, essential oils, fragrances, or chemicals that make the skin break out. Makeup should match skin tone. It should not be peach, ash, lavender, or orange, unless you come from a different planet and those colors match the skin tone of your species.

When you buy makeup at a cosmetics counter4, the salesperson is counting on your absolute trust in what you are being told. If you have acne, unfortunately, you can’t afford to believe everything the helpful salesperson tells you. You have to avoid products that clog your pores and your have to avoid products that can irritate your skin—which also clogs your pores. Let’s take a look at a few products that almost always work on acne-affected skin.

The Best Foundations for Acne-Prone Skin

Even if you don’t have acne, choosing the right foundation5 is a time-consuming, frustrating process. You have to choose a shade that is an exact match for the color and tone for your skin as it appears in daylight. If you choose a shade that does not match, you have to start all over again. If you have oily skin, you have to choose a product that does not streak a few hours after you put it on. If you have dry skin, then you have to choose foundation that does not clump after you put it on.

You have to decide how much coverage you want, and whether you will use a cream, a liquid, or a stick, keeping in mind that cream or stick products usually are not flattering on oily skin6, and cream-to-powder products are not flattering on dry skin.

Fortunately, you do not have to keep using a foundation that does not work for your skin. If you keep your receipts, most stores will allow you return used makeup for a refund. Foundation may cost up to US $300, but there are inexpensive products to try first:

  • If you have very oily skin, you may want to start with Boots No. 7 Stay Perfect Foundation, which retails for US $13.99.
  • If you have normal to dry skin, you may want to start with Almay TLC Truly Lasting Color 16 Hour Make Up, which retails for US $16.99.

The Best Concealers for Acne-Prone Skin

Concealers cover up blemishes7 you have not treated. You take a little dab of concealer, about half the size of a pea, and place it on the back of your non-dominant hand (the hand you do not use for writing and handling objects). Work the concealer with a feather brush, and then use the brush to dot it on a blackhead or pimple. With clean fingers, spread the concealer over the blemish, and use your thumbs to make sure it blends evenly into surrounding skin.

Concealers should yellow or brown to cancel out the colors of skin blemishes. If you have fair skin tones, you will probably get better results with a yellow concealer. If you have Asian skin tones, you may get a better result with brown concealer than with yellow. If you have brown or black skin, you should use brown concealer or no concealer at all.

Choice of concealer color matters. If you are not careful in your choice of concealer, however, you may wind up just exchanging one visible discoloration for another.

Start with L’Oreal Paris True Match Concealer, which retails for US $8.95.

The Best Powders for Acne-Prone Skin

Powder gives the skin an even finish that conceals blemishes, scars, and fine lines. It is hard to find a powder that is bad for your skin. The main difference between inexpensive powder for your face and expensive powder for your face is packaging. L’Oreal for US $9 and Lancome for US $38, both made by the same company, are equally good on acne-affected skin. If you are going out into the sun and you don’t want to burn, consider buying powders that contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide. If you have dark skin, you won’t want to use them because they can leave a white cast on your skin, but if you have dark skin you won’t need the sun protection.

The Best Makeup Removers for Acne-Prone Skin

The best makeup removers are fragrance-free. This keeps them from irritating pores and causing breakouts. It also makes them safer to use around the eyes.

The best makeup removers work easily and with minimal effort. It is easier to control a makeup remover you add to a cotton swab rather than one that has been soaked into a remover pad. And the best makeup removers use silicone rather than detergents that can irritate the skin, especially Asian skin types.

Good makeup removers that most people find affordable include:

  • L’Oreal Paris Clean Artiste Waterproof & Long Wearing Eye Makeup Remover, which retails for US $6.99 for 4 oz/112 g, and
  • Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, which retails for $7.99 for 5.5 oz/154 g.

Your choices in makeup will also be easier when you can keep acne under control with a complete acne care system, such as Exposed Skin Care.


  1. Hayashi N, Imori M, Yanagisawa M, Seto Y, Nagata O, Kawashima M. Make-up improves the quality of life of acne patients without aggravating acne eruptions during treatments. Eur J Dermatol. 2005 Jul-Aug;15(4):284-7.
  2. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Cologne, Germany. (IQWiG); 2006-. Skin care for acne-prone skin. 2013 Jan 16.
  3. Dall’oglio F1, Tedeschi A, Fabbrocini G, Veraldi S, Picardo M, Micali G. Cosmetics for acne: indications and recommendations for an evidence-based approach. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Feb;150(1):1-11. Epub 2014 Oct 15.
  4. I have acne! Is it okay to wear makeup? | American Academy of Dermatology. 2019.
  5. Choosing the Right Foundation, Powder, and Cover Sticks for Teenage Skin Care. WebMD. 2019.
  6. Endly DC, Miller RA. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Aug;10(8):49-55.
  7. Cosmetic camouflage | DermNet NZ. 2019.
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