Best foundations for acne-prone skin to help keep breakouts at bay

Our expert rounds up the best foundations for acne-prone skin, from Clinique to Oxygenetix

selection of the best foundations for acne-prone skin including NARS, IT Cosmetics, and Clinique
(Image credit: Future/brands pictured)

The best foundations for acne-prone skin have to tick several boxes. Not only do they need to provide decent coverage without making your skin look cakey, they should absorb excess oil without drying out your skin and—most importantly—not worsen existing breakouts.

While intuition might tell you to reach for a higher-coverage foundation when your skin is acting up, unfortunately this can sometimes make the situation even angrier. It's therefore important to pay close attention to any chosen formula and ensure that it's filled with skin-loving ingredients and nothing heavy or pore-clogging.

As with all of the best foundations, formulas for acne-prone skin should leave your skin feeling and looking healthy. In the search for the most suitable beauty buys, we tested a bunch that claim to be good for acne-prone skin to see how well they live up perform. These options can provide you with that coverage you're craving, disguising angry redness, without aggravating your acne. 

How we tested the best foundations for acne-prone skin

For most people who struggle with acne or blemish-prone skin, the best non-comedogenic foundations are the ideal match because they don't contain pore-clogging ingredients. If you're on a budget, plenty of drugstore options also perform well, provided they're suited to your skin type.

Below you'll find all of the acne-prone skin foundations I deem it worth knowing about, from luxury picks to dry skin saviors. When testing these, I tried each product at least twice for a full day and assessed the following factors.

  • Formula
  • Range and number of shades 
  • Price point
  • Finish
  • Ease of application
  • How long it lasted on the skin

During the testing process, I tried a range of foundations including popular formulas that are well known for being specifically for acne-prone skin, newer products, and some underdogs that—although not necessarily marketed for acne-prone skin—are still very suitable.

Meet the tester
Lucy Partington
Meet the tester
Lucy Partington

My skin can be sensitive to some ingredients but it’s generally quite hardy, is a bit blemish-prone and falls on the slightly oily side.

In my personal opinion, the best foundation for acne-prone skin should first and foremost be non-comedogenic as standard, as this means the formula won’t further clog your pores. The finish, however, is entirely personal—historically they have fallen under the matte category, but there are now a few other options on the market for a more satin-y or radiant look. 

The best foundations for acne-prone skin as reviewed by a beauty editor

NARS Cosmetics Sheer Glow Foundation bottle

(Image credit: NARS)

1. NARS Sheer Glow Foundation

Best natural-looking foundation for acne-prone skin

Specifications

RRP : $47/£35
Number of shades: 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 have a shiny finish

Finding a formula that disguises acne without visibly drying out spots and that still feels lightweight and comfortable to wear isn't easy. But this makeup bag staple is the embodiment of creator François 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 balances being gentle on problem areas while still making a difference. In fact, for a formula that’s billed as sheer, I found it actually boasts quite impressive pigment and coverage. This is a must for concealing any imperfections or scarring, as you won't need to apply a lot of product (and run the risk of foundation pilling). The hint of dew to 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 this prevents the formula from drying around spots and blemishes. When it comes to those aforementioned skin-loving ingredients, antioxidants like vitamin C brighten and protect the skin from further damage from free radicals and environmental factors. The hero of the formula has to be turmeric, though, as—like vitamin C—it works to brighten the skin and help to 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. Overall, this is a must-have skincare-makeup hybrid those who want decent coverage with a lightweight, silky feel.

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup bottle

(Image credit: Clinique)

2. Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup

Best foundation for acne-prone skin to prevent future breakouts

Specifications

RRP : $33/£31
Number of shades : 10
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Natural matte

Reasons to buy

+
Buildable coverage, not cakey
+
Contains salicylic acid
+
Lightweight and silky, not heavy
+
Natural finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Disappointing shade range
-
Dries down quite quickly, so you have to apply fast

A cult foundation from a cult brand: Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Solutions truly excelled itself in my tests and is a well-recognized favorite for many people with acne. Its lightweight, silky texture was easy to apply—I found it best applied with a damp make-up sponge—and although it dries down quickly, this was something that I soon got used to the more I used it. 

Formulated with salicylic acid to help treat blemishes and breakouts, this foundation is also oil-free and works to neutralize any discoloration in the skin. Another thing I loved was its natural-looking finish; no matter how many layers I applied it didn’t look chalky. In other words, my skin stayed looking like skin, just like when you use one of the best BB creams, which in my book is vital.

Oxygenetix Oxygenating Acne Control Foundation bottle

(Image credit: Oxygenetics)

3. Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation

Best premium foundation with exceptional skincare benefits

Specifications

RRP : $66/£55
Number of shades : 9
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Natural matte

Reasons to buy

+
SPF 30
+
Lasts really well
+
High concentration of salicylic acid—2%

Reasons to avoid

-
Very limited shade range
-
Expensive

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. A favorite among celebrities, it's formulated specifically for acne-prone skin, and contains 2% salicylic acid (a spot-busting ingredient and a form of beta-hydroxy acid), a much higher level than most other foundations that contain it. It’s also enriched with soothing Aloe vera and vitamin E to target inflammation and calm redness. It also features SPF 30, meaning you get some of the benefits of the best sunscreens for face, though it's of course better for your skin to apply a separate formula. It's ultra lightweight, lasts all day, and has significant oil-controlling powers.

However, I do have to point out the extremely limited, incredibly pale selection of shades available here. If you can find your shade and afford this formula, it's one of the best foundations for acne prone skin, and a truly incredible discovery.

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

(Image credit: IT Cosmetics)

4. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Oil-Free Matte SPF 40

Best foundation for acne-prone skin with redness

Specifications

RRP : $44/£33
Number of shades: 14
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Full coverage, matte

Reasons to buy

+
Cult favorite product
+
Formulated with SPF 40
+
Hydrating
+
Disguises variety of skin concerns

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a very expansive shade range
-
Some may prefer lighter coverage

Those with acne-prone and oily complexions 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, I love that it still looks relatively natural on the skin and doesn’t feel cakey or suffocating. 

As well as disguising discoloration like redness with ease (the CC is a hit among those with rosacea), 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 SPF 40 is always a bonus that I'm fully on board with, and this is easily one of the best foundations for oily skin around. 

Maybelline Fit Me! Matte & Poreless Liquid Foundation bottle

(Image credit: Maybelline)

5. Maybelline Fit Me! Matte & Poreless Liquid Foundation

Best foundation for oily acne-prone skin

Specifications

RRP: $8.99/£5.99
Number of shades : 40
Formula type: Liquid
Finish: Medium, matte

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
No additional skincare benefits
-