Best foundation for acne-prone skin: the tried-and-tested formulas we love

Looking for the best foundation for acne-prone skin? From Clinique to BareMinerals, these are our expertly chosen picks

a collage image of some of the best foundations for acne-prone skin, including products from Nars, Clinique and more
(Image credit: Future)

Finding the best foundation for acne-prone skin that won't break you out and ruin your skin's delicate balance is a hard job. We know how difficult it is to have to search for a new holy grail foundation, especially when you're running the risk of a flare-up. 

It's natural to reach for a high-coverage foundation as soon as your skin starts acting up to try and soothe your anxieties. Unfortunately, sometimes this method can only make your skin angrier, which is where these wonderful, kind-to-skin products can swoop in to save the day. 

These foundations can provide you with that coverage you're craving whilst also soothing your acne, bringing redness and irritation down on all counts. By using light layers, you can accentuate your features and keep some of your skin-related worries at bay. 

As happens so often with the skincare industry, it can be dizzying to work out what's actually best for you, and your particular skin type and issues. For many, one of the best non-comedogenic foundations could be game-changing, as these products prevent your pores from clogging up. Or if you're on a budget, plenty of the best drugstore foundations are also worth having on hand, just be sure to check what skin type they're suited to. Below you'll find all of the acne-prone skin foundations worth knowing about, from luxury picks to dry skin saviors.

The best foundation for acne-prone skin as reviewed by a beauty expert

NARS Cosmetics Sheer Glow Foundation

(Image credit: NARS)

1. NARS Cosmetics Sheer Glow

The best natural-looking foundation for acne-prone skin

Specifications

Number of shades available: 40
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Dewy

Reasons to buy

+
Hydrating enough to stop spots becoming visibly flaky
+
Leaves a dewy glow
+
Blur imperfections
+
Doesn't leave a greasy residue

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be shiny

When looking for foundations to use on acne-prone skin, it can be a struggle to find something that will cover up acne without visibly drying out spots too much and still feel lightweight and comfortable to wear. Well, this makeup bag staple is the embodiment of creator Francois Nars famous ethos that “makeup shouldn't cover your skin—it should enhance your natural beauty, not mask it”. Packed with skin-loving ingredients , it’s delicate on problem areas while leaving a finished look in its wake. For a formula that’s marketed as sheer, it actually boasts quite an impressive amount of pigment and coverage—a must when it comes to covering up acne scars and imperfections on the face, meaning you won't need to apply too much product (and you can prevent foundation pilling). And, the hint of dew on the finish leaves skin looking fresh and glowy, rather than dull and cakey. 

If you're worried about dry skin causing acne, then the hydrating feel of this foundation should also tick your boxes, as it stops the formula from drying up around spots and blemishes. When it comes to those aforementioned skin-loving ingredients, antioxidants protect the skin from further damage from free radicals and environmental factors, while vitamin C works to leave skin looking brighter and even fade out acne scarring—a benefit you would usually only see in skincare products. The hero of the formula has to be the infusion of turmeric though, as—like the vitamin c—it works to brighten the skin and fade acne scars (a visible result that can be seen from prolonged use by the way), but its anti-inflammatory properties also calm acne flare-ups. A must-have skincare-makeup hybrid for any acne sufferers who want decent coverage but a lightweight silky feel.

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup, one of the best foundation for acne prone skin

(Image credit: Clinique)

2. Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup

The best for most people to prevent future breakouts

Specifications

Number of shades available: 10
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Natural matte

Reasons to buy

+
Buildable coverage that won’t look cakey
+
Formulated with salicylic acid
+
Lightweight and silky, rather than heavy
+
Gives a natural finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Disappointing shade range
-
Dries down quite quickly so you have to be fairly quick on application

A cult foundation from a cult brand: Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Solutions truly excelled itself in our tests. The lightweight, silky texture was easy to apply—we found it best applied with a damp make-up sponge—and although it dries down quickly, it’s something that we got used to the more we used it. 

Formulated with salicylic acid to help treat blemishes and breakouts, it’s also oil-free and works to help neutralize any redness skin might have. Another thing we also loved was the natural-looking finish; no matter how many layers were applied it didn’t look chalky. In other words, skin stayed looking like skin, just like when you use one of the best bb creams, which in our books is vital.

Oxygenetix Oxygenating Acne Control Foundation, one of the best foundation for acne prone skin

(Image credit: Oxygenetics)

3. OXYGENETIX OXYGENATING BREATHABLE FOUNDATION

The best premium foundation with exceptional skincare benefits

Specifications

Number of shades available: 9
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Natural matte

Reasons to buy

+
Has SPF30
+
Lasts really well
+
High level of salicylic acid—2%

Reasons to avoid

-
Very limited shade range
-
Is less affordable than most foundations

This foundation is on the more expensive end of the scale, but when you take into account its claims and credibility, it’s definitely worth it. It's formulated for acne-prone skin specifically, and contains 2% salicylic acid (a spot-busting ingredient), which is a much higher level than most other foundations that contain it. It’s also enriched with soothing aloe vera and vitamin E, which helps target inflammation and calm redness, and has the added benefit of SPF30, meaning you get all the benefits of the best sunscreens too. It's super lightweight, lasts all day, and has significant oil-controlling powers. 

However, we did have to take into account the extremely limited, incredibly pale selection of shades available. If you can find your shade, it's one of the best foundations for acne prone skin, and a truly incredible discovery. If you can afford it and it has a shade option for you, it’s worth the investment. 

It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Oil-Free Matte SPF40, one of the best foundation for acne prone skin

(Image credit: IT Cosmetics)

4. It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Oil-Free Matte SPF40

The best foundation for those with acne and rosacea, with a full coverage finish

Specifications

Number of shades available: 14
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Full coverage matte

Reasons to buy

+
Part of the iconic and much-loved It Cosmetics CC Cream family
+
Formulated with SPF40
+
Hydrating
+
Will cover variety of skin concerns

Reasons to avoid

-
Agin, not a very expansive shade range
-
Has heavy coverage which some may not like

Acne and oily skin sufferers rejoiced when It Cosmetics launched this oil-free, matte version of its cult CC cream, because it meant they could see what all the fuss was about, too. Despite the fact it does have heavy coverage and a matte finish, we love that it still looks relatively natural on the skin and doesn’t feel cakey or suffocating. 

It also lives up to its claims of helping to reduce oiliness and shine throughout the day, plus it’s hydrating which is fairly unheard of, even when it comes to the best foundation for acne prone skin. The added SPF40 is always a bonus addition that we can get fully on board with, and one of the best foundations for oily skin out there.

Maybelline Fit Me! Matte & Poreless Liquid Foundation, one of the best foundation for acne prone skin

(Image credit: Maybelline)

5. Maybelline Fit Me! Matte & Poreless Liquid Foundation

The best foundation for oily skin

Specifications

Number of shades available: 40
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Medium matte

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely affordable
+
Great range of shades
+
Oil-free

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t have any additional skincare benefits
-
Not quite as long-lasting as some others

When it comes to affordability and shade range, Maybelline’s Fit Me Matte & Poreless Foundation ticks all our boxes. 40 shades is impressive for any foundation, let alone one that’s suitable for oily skin types. While there's a real lack of shade diversity when it comes to foundations for acne-prone skin, Maybelline is leading by example—and despite the fact this did need topping up throughout the day, in terms of price, it’s definitely a good choice.

Giorgio Armani luminous silk foundation is one of the best non-comedogenic foundations that we tried and tested

(Image credit: Giorgio Armani)

6. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation

The best foundation for buildable coverage and a dewy finish

Specifications

Number of shades available: 40
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Sheer satin finish

Reasons to buy

+
Allows you to build coverage to your preferences
+
Good range of shades
+
Great staying power
+
Gives a very natural finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Might not have the coverage that some are after

On testing this slightly more high-end foundation proved to be almost like another, more polished and perfected layer of skin. In one application, uneven textures, visible pores and red blemishes were smoothed over, with no catching on dry patches or particularly nasty instances of acne—which is why it's one of our best foundations for acne prone skin. 

It doesn't provide the fullest coverage, but we actually liked that. We could still see a glimpse of our freckles and natural complexion, but the foundation covered imperfections expertly. It gives an almost airbrushed finish to skin, whilst still feeling very natural and not cakey at all.

The staying power of the Luminous Silk foundation was also truly impressive too; it stayed put all day despite its natural satiny finish. 

See our full review of the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation here to find out more about why our Deputy Editor loved it so much.

BareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin-Clearing Loose Powder Foundation, one of the best foundation for acne prone skin

(Image credit: Bareminerals)

7. BareMinerals Blemish Rescue Skin-Clearing Loose Powder Foundation

The best non-drying powder foundation for those that prefer a mineral foundation

Specifications

Number of shades available: 10
Formula type: Mineral powder
Finish: Natural matte

Reasons to buy

+
The mineral formula is kind to skin
+
0.5% salicylic acid helps fight acne
+
You can barely feel it on your skin

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited shade range
-
Fairly lightweight coverage in comparison to other products

Available in the US only

If you love mineral or powder foundation but suffer with problem skin, then this is the one for you. It's formulated with 0.5% salicylic acid (one of this year's top skincare ingredients), zinc, and sulphur, and will help treat blemishes and mattify skin. It has a natural matte coverage that’s easy to build up if you need to, however one layer might not be quite enough depending on your personal preferences or skin concerns.

If your skin has a tendency to go dry, you'll take comfort in the fact that it won't dry it out. If you’re taking acne medication that can cause severe dryness, this will help maintain the moisture levels in your skin as well as being kind and gentle to it, too. Plus, the mineral formula means skin will be able to breathe and won’t feel clogged up—as you should with all of the best foundation for acne prone skin, we could barely feel it during testing!


How to choose the best foundation for acne prone skin according to a beauty expert 

There’s definitely no shortage of foundations available nowadays, from affordable high street formulas to super expensive options. When it comes to acne-prone skin, though, there are a few factors that you need to consider:

You'll love your foundation more once you've finessed your skincare routine, which is why it's always worth checking out the best moisturizers for dry skin on the market too.  

Lucy Partington has been a beauty journalist for eight years, writing for titles including Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She’s a true skincare nerd who’s on a lifelong quest for a glowing complexion and loves nothing more than learning about new ingredients and products. She’s obsessed with having perfect eyebrows and collecting eyeshadow palettes she’ll probably never use.