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How to Use Foundation Powders to Hide Acne

By Megan Griffith

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

Foundation makeup can make acne worse1, or it can help clear up blemished skin for good. It’s all in how you use it. This article explains what you need to know to use foundation on acne-prone skin.

makeup foundation for acne
Make sure to choose the right foundation, as some contain oils and emollients that can clog pores.


  • Choosing the right foundation is fundamental to caring for acne-prone skin2 if you use cosmetics.
  • Foundation should provide a matte finish rather than a glossy finish. A glossy finish can turn shiny if your skin produces oil during the day.
  • Foundation should not contain oils or emollients. These can clog pores.
  • Foundation should match your skin tone.
  • Foundation should contain sun screen, but only a few sun protection ingredients are safe for acne-prone skin.
  • Certain brands of liquid foundation can help heal blemishes, but they can’t do the whole job of acne skin care. A complete acne skin care system like Exposed Skin Care can help you keep acne away for good.

What to Look for in Foundation

Foundation is the first layer of makeup applied to the skin after cleansing and moisturizer. The purpose of foundation is to provide an even layer to the skin. Foundation gives all the skin the same tone and texture, and it provides a layer to which other cosmetics can adhere.

What is needed in a foundation for acne-prone skin?

  • A foundation for acne-prone skin3 should provide a matte, non-glossy finish. You are likely to have enough problems with oil shining through your foundation without adding gloss to your face. If your makeup looks dewy when you put it on, it may look droopy by the end of the day.
  • A foundation for acne-prone skin should contain4 no emollients or oily ingredients. You don’t want foundation to clog pores.
  • A foundation for acne-prone skin should not contain ingredients that can make the skin break out, such as mint, menthol, lavender, lemon oil, linalool, or cinnamon.
  • A foundation for acne-prone skin should match the natural tones of the skin5. It should not be green, peach, orange, purple, burgundy, or lavender, unless these are your natural skin tones on your home planet. If you happen to have green foundation makeup, however, don’t throw it out. You can use it as a concealer for pimples.

People who have acne-prone skin should choose foundation that contains sunscreen. This way they only have to put on one layer to protect the skin from sun instead of two. Using foundation that contains sunscreen6 saves time and prevents clogged pores.

Foundation comes in loose powder, pressed powder, sticks, creams, cream-to-powder, and mineral makeups. If you have oily skin, you will probably do best with loose powder. Pressed powder can form streaks when oil accumulates on your skin. If you have dry skin, then you probably want to use pressed powder. Loose powder can clump on your skin if your skin dries out as the day goes on. Liquid foundation that has acne-fighting ingredients can also be a good choice for your skin.

Whichever foundation products you choose, you should think they look good and they feel good. Foundation usually comes with a money-back guarantee. Be fussy about your foundation. Get the right foundation to bring out the color and tone of your skin while keeping acne under wraps.

Choosing Foundation with Sunscreen That Won’t Make Your Face Breakout

If you have black skin, the only time you need sunscreen is when you are using a skin lightener, a peel, benzoyl peroxide, or a tretinoin topical product like Retin-A or Renova. Most of the time you don’t need sunscreen at all. If you have brown or Asian skin, you definitely need sunscreen when you use skin rejuvenation products, and to protect your skin from midday summer sun. If you have fair skin, you may need sunscreen all summer long and sometimes even in the winter, especially when you are exposed to glare from snow or ice.

Sunscreen protects your skin7, but certain sunscreen ingredients can make acne-prone skin break out. Ingredients that won’t make your skin break out include:

  • Zinc oxide,
  • Titanium dioxide (although both the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide mineral sunblocks can leave a purplish cast on black skin),
  • Avobenzone (sometimes labeled as Parsol 1789 or by its chemical name butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane),
  • Tinosorb (sometimes labeled by its chemical name bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine), and
  • Mexoryl (also known as ecamsule and by its chemical name terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid).

Any other sunscreen ingredients can make blemishes break out on your skin when your skin produces excess oil.

Blushes You Use Over Foundation

If you have acne and you want to use blushes, chances are you will get a better result with a cream blush applied over foundation. Liquid blushes are applied to bare skin. They are an easy way to treat large areas of skin, but they make large pores look larger, especially if you have recently gotten rid of whiteheads or blackheads.

Can You Use Foundation to Heal Blemishes?

There are foundation products specifically designed to help treat acne8. Foundation that includes the skin-active ingredient salicylic acid (in the right concentration and at the right pH) can break clumps of dead skin in pores and help clear the skin while hiding imperfections. Almay Clear Complexion Liquid Foundation (retailing for US $5.54) promises to get rid of blemishes—and if you don’t use a strong detergent soap before putting it on your skin, it just might. The only limitation of this product is that it does not come in the right color for very fair or very dark skin.

Almay’s Smart Shade Smart Balance Skin Balancing Makeup SPF 15 (retailing for US $4.75) provides both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection. These mineral ingredients will never cause inflammation, although they are a little too “white” for some skin tones. This product also comes in eight different shades that will work for all but the fairest and darkest skin.

It’s important to take time to find a shade of foundation that works for you, however, as another, slightly more expensive product illustrates. Almay Smart Shade Makeup SPF 15 comes in three basic tones, gray, gray, and also gray. This product spreads easily across the skin without completely obscuring the natural skin tone, but leaves the skin looking dull. Just because you have acne doesn’t mean you have to have dull skin!

What About Antioxidants in Foundation?

Many brands of foundation charge a little or a lot more for antioxidant vitamins in their formulas. Buying a foundation for skin-friendly vitamins and antioxidants is always a waste of money. Any product in a jar will begin to oxidize as soon as it is opened. The other ingredients in the product are likely to be just fine, but the antioxidants will be ruined after the very first application. And if the product comes in a clear jar, antioxidants and vitamins will be destroyed even before the container is opened.

Choosing the right makeup is just part of fighting acne. For getting rid of acne for good, you need a complete acne-fighting system such as Exposed Skin Care.


  1. Chlebus E, Chlebus M. Factors affecting the course and severity of adult acne. Observational cohort study. J Dermatolog Treat. 2017 Dec;28(8):737-744.
  2. Matsuoka Y, Yoneda K, Sadahira C, Katsuura J, Moriue T, Kubota Y. Effects of skin care and makeup under instructions from dermatologists on the quality of life of female patients with acne vulgaris. J Dermatol. 2006 Nov;33(11):745-52.
  3. Makeup and Skin Care for Acne. WebMD. 2019.
  4. Korting HC1, Borelli C, Schöllmann C. Acne vulgaris. Role of cosmetics. Hautarzt. 2010 Feb;61(2):126-31.
  5. Monfrecola G, Cacciapuoti S, Capasso C, Delfino M, Fabbrocini G. Tolerability and camouflaging effect of corrective makeup for acne: results of a clinical study of a novel face compact cream. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016 Oct 11;9:307-313.
  6. Bowe WP, Kircik LH. The importance of photoprotection and moisturization in treating acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014 Aug;13(8):s89-94.
  7. Gabros S, Zito PM. Sunscreens And Photoprotection. StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.
  8. Araviiskaia E1, Dréno B2. The role of topical dermocosmetics in acne vulgaris. J. Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016 Jun;30(6):926-35
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Goodwin Reply

The section about black skin not needing sunscreen only if using certain products is so FALSE and I can't believe I just read that! All skin needs sunscreen. Please change that before you have some clueless person actually believe that nonsense smh

January 2, 2015 at 6:06 am Reply
Itsleotime Reply

Goodwin, you are right. This "article" is filled with errors, especially the part about "black skin not needing sunscreen". What type of uneducated bulls shit is this? All skin tones (there are millions of skin tone shades) need some form of sun protection. If the skin can tan, it can certainly BURN. It just takes longer for darker skin to burn, that's all. Common sense people. You are putting dangerous information out there , instead of educating people on how to really take care of their skin. Just sad.

August 8, 2015 at 3:46 pm Reply
Anju Reply

Yeah it sounds like being racist...but whatever been mentioned above is the fact okk...everytime ppl dnt need to figure out the negativity ..try to understand the word....if ure really got knowledge. She said black which means black unless a white spot u never cant point any dark spot black skin ..n she is right why the hell they need sunscreen they already have so many blemishes n pimples by their origin n if u put more sunscreen it just worsen the case instead of clearing...thats it coz everyone favour clear skin not whitening n glowing radiant...

March 6, 2016 at 5:21 am Reply

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