Best Makeup Tips for Acne-Prone Skin

makeup tips for acne-prone skin

Makeup tips for acne-prone skin using professional artistic tricks give you the best results when unwanted blemishes need to be concealed. It's important to hide both uneven skin color and texture issues associated with the breakout. You also need to be careful that the pustules of acne lesions don't pick up makeup and get accentuated!

As a dermatologist, I know it’s best to use mineral powder on acne-prone skin because you want to avoid potentially comedogenic pore clogging ingredients in liquid foundations that can worsen acne. Learn how to conceal acne lesions using mineral powders like a pro with the information here.

Know that it takes art and skill to cover acne well and it's possible to master it. You may need two colors of makeup: one to help neutralize color problems and the other to match your facial complexion to create a final even skin color.

Use the color wheel like a pro to cover acne marks with makeup

color wheel to use makeup to cover acne

The color wheel shows you what colors neutralizes others. The wavelengths of some colors cancel others out. They are opposites on the color wheel. For example, green neutralizes red and yellow neutralizes purple. Opposites on the color wheel are called complimentary colors. Applying a complementary color cancels the original color out.

For example, green makeup color placed lightly over a red acne spot will almost make the spot invisible to the human eye!

It's magic for makeup artistry. Here are some tips for expert concealer application to hide complexion flaws.

Figure out what color the spot on your skin is that you want to cover up with makeup and apply the complementary color.

The most common skin color flaws associated with acne are:

  • best way to apply makeup for acne prone skin
    red (like a freshly inflamed pimple or redness left after a pimple has healed)
  • purple (like an older pimple going away or a really big one - ouch!)
  • brown (hyper-pigmentation left behind when a pimple is healed)
  • white like a scar
  • dark mark from an indentation imparting a shadow.

Most acne color flaws are red and purple. Look at the color wheel and apply the opposite color. Red's opposite is green, purple's opposite is yellow. These wavelengths cancel out what retinas see. Makeup concealers come in both green and yellow colors. 

Pro-Tip: To cover a spot with a combination of red and purple, you may need both green and yellow concealers.

Layer makeup for the best acne coverage

To cover red and purple marks:
  • Apply your complementary concealer color by patting the color on the spot until you can tell it has “neutralized” the unwanted color. Don’t apply it thickly; just pat. You don't want to create a green or yellow spot by applying so much product.
  • Once the color is neutralized, then layer your makeup on top.
To cover darker or lighter color flaws:
  • Use lighter or darker makeup to adjust a tan/brown/peachy tone. To lessen the shadow in an indentation, apply a lighter makeup than your skin tone to “soften” the indentation's shadow.
  • Layer your matching skin tone makeup on top.

What is the best makeup to use for acne prone skin?

The best makeup for acne prone skin is mineral makeup powder. That's because liquid makeups add more base ingredients that may clog pores, feel heavy, clump in blemishes or look shiny on your skin. Mineral powders that are finely milled will provide complete coverage minus excess ingredients that might add more trouble for your complexion.  

best mineral makeup for acne prone skin

If you have oily skin, choose a mineral makeup with kaolin clay that will absorb excess oil produced during the day. My Loose Mineral Powder is a combination of natural mineral powder plus kaolin clay and works well for acne prone skin.  

Apply loose mineral powder with a brush.

If you prefer makeup in a compact, my pure Pressed Mineral Powders are oil free and ideal for acne prone skin. 

pressed mineral makeup powder for acne


Pro-tip: Don't use expired or old makeup when you have acne

Makeup products don't last forever. Old makeup can become contaminated with germs that can infect acne lesions. Learn about when to throw out old makeup.

Related helpful tips: read Dr. Bailey's advice on makeup and skin health best practices.

Keep your makeup brushes clean to prevent acne and skin infections

best makeup brush set for acne

Pimples and blemishes are sometimes moist and open. It's really important that your makeup and brushes are clean. My Makeup Brush Set is washable. You can clean your makeup brushes with a little shampoo in a glass of water and let them airdry. You can also hand wash the cotton makeup bag. I recommend investing in brushes that hold up to washing so that you are never tempted to use dirty brushes on your precious skin. 

Is it best to apply sunscreen before or after your concealer?

That depends on whether you are using a tinted sunscreen.

  • If you are not using a tinted sunscreen, then apply sunscreen under your concealer and makeup.
  • If you are using a tinted sunscreen, then try applying your concealer first then your tinted sunscreen.

Tinted sunscreen can be used in place of foundation. Layer mineral powder matched to your skin tone on top. If you don't get enough coverage for the acne, then apply more concealer.

Pro-tip: Always apply sunscreen under your final makeup application

Sunscreen is the most important skin care product to prevent skin sun damage that includes future wrinkles and skin pigment problems. All dermatologists recommend that you apply your makeup on top of a really good sunscreen every day.

Wear sunscreen to prevent pigmented acne marks called PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation)

best sunscreen for acne

PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) are the brown marks that acne leaves behind. They can become permanent like a tattoo, so prevention is important. Wearing broad spectrum sunscreen will lower your risk of PIH when you have acne, as discussed in this clinical medical paper. My Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted SPF 50 Sunscreen will absorb oil throughout the day and is an excellent makeup primer with a matte texture. My Sheer Strength Matte Tinted SPF contains over 3.2% iron oxide to help protect your skin from visible and digital

The bottom line with makeup for acne:

I recommend wearing a really good broad spectrum mineral zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreen that's tinted and applying mineral makeup on top. You can use color wheel concepts with your concealer under or over your sunscreen before layering your mineral foundation.