The Best Foundation for Large Pores and Acne Scars: Our Picks
Foundations are something of a universal favorite among makeup lovers—they cover imperfections of all kinds, from pores, to scars, to discoloration, and the provide a smooth, even surface for the rest of your makeup to rest on. What’s not to love?
Cosmetics companies seem to know how much we love them, so that made thousands and thousands and thousands of options for us to choose from. It can be a little overwhelming to choose one.
So in the post below, we’ll explore our picks for the best foundation for large pores and/or acne scars, and we’ll answer some of the questions you might have about them: how to choose the right option for you, how to apply and wear it, and some common problems you might run into. If you'd like to do some further reading about acne, we've written a post about non comedogenic foundations
Foundations for Large Pores: Our Reviews
Here are the foundations we think are good options if you’ve got large pores and/or acne scars…
…and here’s why:
Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation Makeup
For those with oily skin and large pores, we think the Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation Makeup can be a great place to start.
This drugstore foundation has amassed a cult following for a few reasons, the most obvious of which is that Maybelline makes it in a really wide range of shades, so almost anyone can find a color match. From “Fair Porcelain” to “Classic Ivory” to “Light Beige” to “Golden” to “Caramel” to “Mocha” to “Espresso,” Maybelline really covered their bases (and that’s probably where the “Fit Me” name comes from).
As for coverage, Maybelline concocted the Fit Me formula to be very versatile, and coverage levels can start off in the “medium” coverage, but with a little effort, sheered out or built up to full or almost-full coverage. Because it is made to offer a very matte finish, it’s designed to keep oily skin from looking greasy throughout the day and can save the need for setting powder. What makes us think this could be one of the best foundations for large pores is the fact that it’s a silicone (silica) formulation: silicone can diffuse texture and give a pore-blurring effect, to potentially make the skin look smoother. Just be sure to wash your foundation off thoroughly, as silicone left in pores too long can cause breakouts.
It’s worth noting that sometimes the foundations oxidize to become a touch darker depending on skin chemistry, and Maybelline may want to give some thought to further identifying the undertones of their foundations, but… that’s pretty common for drugstore cosmetics like this one, and as far as drugstore makeups go, and we still give this one high marks.
By the way: we couldn’t find out whether this cosmetic is cruelty-free or not, but if you’re looking for a similar foundation that we know for certain is guaranteed cruelty-free and (and has a slightly higher coverage), you may want to check out the Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation + Concealer. Also a good choice, in our estimation.
It may be a good fit for: people with large pores looking for a drugstore foundation with medium to medium-full coverage in a wiiiiide range of tones.
L’Oreal Paris Makeup Infallible up to 24HR Fresh Wear Liquid Longwear Foundation
We think the L'Oréal Paris Makeup Infallible up to 24HR Fresh Wear Liquid Longwear Foundation is another great drugstore option—it, too, is offered in a wide range of tones (30 or so, when we last checked), and it's designed for long-lasting wear. Foundations that flake out mid-afternoon are a huge disappointment, so we appreciate that L'Oréal concocted a formula that's designed to be both easy-to-find and enduring. It's also sweat-resistant, which is what we'd hope to see on a last-lasting foundation—after all, the longer you wear it, the more likely you are to perspire a little bit.
Where it matters most—in terms of large pores—it's seems to be designed for versatility. It includes three oil absorbers meant to keep oily or combination skin from getting greasy, but because it’s a liquid foundation (as opposed to a powder foundation), it may work well for those with dry skin—which is great, because people with dry skin can still have large pores! It's also non comedogenic, meaning that the ingredient list omits a lot of the chemicals that are known to cause acne. Very nice.
In terms of finish, the 24HR Fresh Wear is designed a sort of satin-matte finish, which means that it isn’t very matte or dewy, just natural-looking. That, in our humble opinion, is a good look for just about everybody, but you still have options: it's crafted so that you can set it for a more matte look, or you can spray a hydrating setting spray if you want a dewy-er look.
They get props, too, for packaging it with a pump, which is both convenient and hygienic.
We find that this foundation offers fairly high coverage and a lot of playtime for blending and building-up since it isn't designed to set instantly. All in all, we think this has a very broad appeal, and this gets our vote for “best foundation for large pores” in the “drugstore” category.
It may be a good fit for: people with oily, combination, and/or dry skin, looking for a drugstore foundation with a satin-matte finish.
bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30
The bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30 is another one of our top picks, and we think it's a great option for people who are looking to avoid silicone. For a lot of people, silicone is not a problem—you'll find it in a lot, and we mean "a lot a lot," of cosmetics, and you can actually select cosmetics because their base is silicone—but it has been known to cause a skin reaction/acne in some people, so if you're looking to avoid it, this would be our top pick.
Here's why: the formula itself is also made with primarily natural ingredients. Instead of silicones, it contains coconut alkanes—which can do a decent job of blurring pores. Are they better than silicone? That's up for debate—some people think so and others don't—but they are one of the best-known alternatives, and chemists have said that the compounds are very similar, and actually offer a "velvet skin feel." Nice!
(By the way: if you look at that ingredient list, you’ll see that “silica” is included in the bareMinerals Complexion Rescue. Silica is actually different than silicone: it’s all-natural, whereas silicone is not. Yes, makeup chemistry is super-complicated, and yes, we’ll keep this sort of thing to ourselves in the future. OK—chemistry lesson over!)
As for coverage, the all-important factor of any foundation, Complexion Rescue is designed for a light-to-medium natural coverage that doesn’t feel heavy, and a natural finish that is hydrating and more on the dewy side. bareMinerals only offers it in about 10 shades, but since the coverage is so light, we think one shade could likely match a few skin tones. Because of the dewy finish, we think this foundation would be a better choice for those with dry skin or those with normal skin who like to look ‘glowy.’
A lot of foundations geared towards large pores tend to be matte and high coverage, so we really appreciate that this product offers something different while still helping to minimize the look of pores and other texture issues.
May be a good option for: people looking for a silicone-free foundation with light-to-medium coverage and a dewy finish.
PUR 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup with Skincare Ingredients
The PUR 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup with Skincare Ingredients is another one of our top picks, and we think it can be a great option for those with large pores and very sensitive skin. It's composed to be nice and gentle, and that's usually a concern for people with large pores, and from what we can see, it's designed for both coverage and breathability.
It’s a powder foundation, but it offers coverage we categorize somewhere in the neighborhood of "medium but buildable," which is nice to see in a powder foundation—powder foundations get a bad rep for not being buildable, so it can be a bonus when you find one with decent coverage.
Mineral makeups can sometimes be a little bit dry, but this actually includes some ingredients (like shea butter) to keep it from feeling too dusty. In general, powder foundations work better for those with oily skin, but we think this formula could for combination skin types as well.
PUR formulated this powder with some phenomenal skincare ingredients like ferulic acid, an organic compound known for its antioxidant properties, and Vitamin E, which is known to fight free radicals and is believed to have anti-aging effects. Powder foundations are usually easier to apply than liquid ones, and we think that’s true for this one. This will come in handy for makeup newbies and anyone who needs to get ready in a rush in the morning.
One thing we should mention: The SPF is gooooood… but not great—an SPF of 15 is a decent, but not enough to really protect you from the sun's rays, so if you're looking at this as your sole means of protection from the sun, it probably won't do the trick.
By the way, you may be wondering what the "4-in-1" refers to, and that is: foundation, concealer, finishing powder, and SPF—a very nice team!
May be a good fit for: a powder foundation for people with large pores and sensitive skin with medium/buildable coverage.
Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup
The Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup is a high-end, oil-free foundation, and it gets our vote for best foundation for large pores overall. It's designed to do what a high-end foundation is supposed to do, and that's offer some serious coverage capability.
That coverage capability comes from an ingredient we mentioned earlier: silicone. As a silicone-based cosmetic, it has the capability to camouflage pores with a single layer, and then provide a semi-matte to matte finish—and if you have oily skin, as many people with large pores do, that kind of matte finish + coverage is usually what you're hoping for.
Estee Lauder offers it in a wide shade range, and we think that's a great decision—higher-end foundations can be limited in scope, so it's nice to see a range of tones, from "Espresso" to "Deep Spice" to "Cashew" to "Pure Beige." Higher-end foundations usually don't surprise you with tone—in the best situations, it's a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" situation—so you should definitely consider your actual skin tone if this is the foundation you're interested in.
Two quick notes, before we wrap up: 1) Double Wear generally dries down and self-sets pretty quickly, which is part of the reason why it tends to have really long wearability. If you find that foundations tend to slide off your skin after a few hours, this one may be worth a shot, buuuuut... 2) That "quick-set" capability may make it a less-than-ideal option for beginners, who might not be as speedy with their makeup application. So if you are a beginner and have your heart set on this one, just be aware that you may need to practice a little bit.
Overall, we're big fans, and this gets our vote for best overall. Thumbs up, smiles all-around.
It may be a good option for: people who are looking for serious, long-lasting, full-coverage. Our pick for best foundation for large pores overall.
How to Choose a Foundation When You've Got Large Pores
There are a few key things to consider when you start your search for a foundation for large pores. They include:
The Main Ingredient to Look for: Silicone
The old discussion about foundations used to be “oil-based” vs. “water-based” formulas, but the world of liquid foundation has mainly moved towards silicone, which is in a lot of cosmetics. Formulas still include water (and occasionally oil), but with a few exceptions, most foundations are water-in-silicone emulsions, which means that they have a silicone base with water droplets suspended in them.
We’ll talk about why that’s important to know in a bit, but first, let’s talk about the benefits of silicone for those with large pores. Certain silicones (especially cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, and cyclohexasiloxane) are really useful when used in cosmetics—they have a mattifying effect and the ability to diffuse the appearance of whatever is below them, acting sort of like your favorite FaceTune filter, but right on the skin. Good foundations with silicones can feel very smooth and velvety to the touch, and can absorb oils throughout the day.
They’re usually the main ingredients in primers, but they’re also pretty indispensable in foundations for large pores. They’re usually hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, but as with anything, there can be exceptions. Because they are synthetically-derived there is some controversy surrounding their safety, but there’s not too much conclusive research about it (and we included some links in the reviews above about that discussion).
If you’d rather stay away from silicone-based foundations, the best-known alternative are liquid foundations with coconut alkanes (like the bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream, above).
Consider the Coverage
A lot of people concerned with visible pores think that the only thing that can help hide their pores are high coverage foundations, but that’s not necessarily true. Foundations with all kinds of coverage levels can still do a great job of diffusing texture issues in the skin, so take the following into account:
Tinted moisturizers and foundations that offer light coverage can help to even out the skin tone a bit and to diffuse the appearance of redness, but they won’t cover blemishes, dark spots, or more intense facial redness. If you like a more natural look or don’t see the need to cover your skin too much, they can be a great choice.
Medium coverage foundations are the next step up. They will cover redness and unevenness in the skin quite well, and they will diffuse and lightly camouflage blemishes, though they won’t conceal them completely.
Many foundations offer light to medium coverage, which means the first application will be very light, but applying more layers will cover a little more while still looking fairly natural.
Full coverage foundations, which are sometimes even branded as foundation-concealers, will be very pigmented, so good ones can totally cover the skin. They can hide everything and make the skin look very smooth, including features you potentially want visible like freckles or beauty marks. Lastly…
Many foundations are advertised as offering medium to full coverage, or as “buildable,” which means that the first application will offer medium coverage while a second layer will bring it up to full coverage. We've written a complete guide to foundations for freckles, if you'd like to read more.
Best Finish for Your Skin Type
The next thing to consider is the finish you would like your foundation to have. Finish can be a little tricky, though, because your skin type will influence what kind of finish the foundation will have on your skin.
In general, those with large pores are more likely to have oily skin, but there are a ton of exceptions—people with normal, combination, or dry skin might also deal with large pores, and there are some people who have large pores but on certain parts of their face. Here, we’ll go through each of the finishes, and describe which one should work for you, based on your skin type.
Matte Finish. Matte finish is a very flat, non-reflective finish that is usually favored by those with oily skin. Matte foundations will usually also absorb facial oils throughout the day to keep the skin from looking greasy, though by the end of the day they may end up letting some oil through and looking semi-matte. These foundations often don’t require powder, because they usually self-set.
Demi-Matte Finish. Demi-matte is still a matte finish, but it’s not as intense as full matte. Brands sometimes refer to it as a velvet finish or matte-not-flat. These foundations can register as more natural or satiny on those who have oily skin, while they might be the perfect level of mattifying for those with combination or normal skin. Usually, powdering them will move them all the way over to being matte.
Natural / Satin / Skin-Like Finish. Natural, satin, or skin-like finish is the language you’ll see used to describe foundations that are neither matte nor dewy (which we’ll talk about in a second). They are a bit reflective, in a way that is meant to mimic normal skin that is free of makeup. They can end up looking very dewy or even greasy on those with oily skin, though it also depends on whether they are set with powder or not. They are usually best for normal and combination skin, or those with dry skin who would like a slightly more matte look. And finally…
Dewy Finish. Dewy finish, which is more commonly advertised as being “radiant” or “luminescent.” Here, people with large pores, no matter their skin type, need to be a little careful. In some instances, radiant foundations have shimmer in them, which can highlight texture issues and large pores, instead of hiding them. That, obviously, is the opposite of what most people with large pores want. If the radiance simply comes from more reflective emollient ingredients then these foundations are usually fine, especially for those with dry skin or normal skin who would like more of a glow.
Tips on How to Use Foundation
This is our step-by-step guide on how to use foundation for large pores, with some professional tips and tricks:
Always start with clean skin before applying any makeup. Even if you have oily skin, it’s still a good idea to moisturize. Wait at least a few minutes to allow your moisturizer to completely sink into the skin.
If you like, apply a pore-filling primer, especially to the parts of your face where your pores are more visible, like the T-zone. Smooth on a very tiny amount, and then give it a few minutes to settle.
If necessary, apply a color-correcting concealer.
Dispense a small amount of foundation (at least half of what you think you’ll need—trust us!) either directly on your applicator, or on a clean surface into which you can then dip the applicator, like the back of your hand or small metal tray.
For fuller coverage, use a flat-topped foundation buffing brush, and apply the product to your skin with a combination of stippling motions to dispense and circular buffing motions to blend and diffuse. This will give you a very smooth application that can blur pores beautifully.
For lighter, more dewy coverage, use a damp makeup sponge, and stick to stippling or bouncing motions. The coverage will be a touch lighter than with a brush, but still nice, and the finish can look just as nice.
With thicker foundations you may find that the best applicators are your fingers. You simply rub the foundation into the skin in long, downward motions, and you will get a lighter, more natural coverage. The heat of your fingers can make the foundation a bit more fluid, and you can end up with a very nice, seamless application.
In general, we recommend avoiding dry sponges, which soak up too much foundation, as well as flat foundation brushes which tend to give a very streaky finish.
Start with a very thin, seamless layer of foundation, and then build up with a second layer if you think you need any more coverage. If you require more than two layers to achieve the coverage you like, it’s a sign you need to switch to a foundation with a fuller coverage.
Once you’ve finished applying your foundation, you can apply concealer and cream contour or highlight if you like.
If necessary, set your foundation with a powder, using tapping motions in order to avoid disrupting the finish of your foundation.
Your base is done! You can now finish the makeup in whichever way you like.
FAQs About Foundation
Running into trouble with your foundation? Here are some frequently asked foundation questions, and our advice:
Why doesn’t this super popular foundation work for me?
The biggest misconception people have about foundations is that it’s one-size-fits-all situation. It’s absolutely not. In reality, foundation is one of those products that acts very, very differently from person to person, based on factors like skin type, sebum chemistry, skin acidity level, application method, and other products in the beauty routine—and dozens of other factors, as well. This doesn’t even take into account preferences for coverage and finish! This is why the foundation your best friend or favorite beauty guru swears by may not work for your skin. There is no “best foundation,” really—just the foundation that works best for you.
Will using foundation cause breakouts?
It can, sure. For some people it does, for others it doesn’t. There are a lot of factors that go into acne, and there isn’t a good method of predicting which products will or won’t cause breakouts because human skin is so individualized. Even comedogenicity ratings can’t be relied on, unfortunately, and lots of people who use non comedogenic products still suffer from breakouts.
If your skin is acne prone, consider patch testing new foundations by applying them for a few days in a row on a small patch of skin. If you notice unusual breakouts over that patch, then it’s a sign that particular foundation is comedogenic for you (that is, it may cause acne).
I can’t get good coverage—what’s going on?
You may be “painting,” instead of “tapping.” There’s an important principle to know that applies to nearly all makeup products: when you want to apply more, bounce or stipple it over your skin, and when you want to thin it out, drag a brush or sponge over it in a circular or back and forth motion. You may not be getting enough coverage because you’re brushing the product on as though it were paint, instead of tapping it on gently. It just so happens that the bouncing motion in that tap helps the foundation sit more nicely on the skin, and prevents it from settling into or highlighting the pores. So, tap tap tap!
Which should I use first, concealer or foundation?
If you usually apply concealer first, you’ll be surprised by how much even a light layer of foundation can cover. That’s why it’s best to apply foundation first, give it a few moments to settle, and then apply concealer only where necessary. The only exception is for color-correcting concealers, which should go on first.
Why is my foundation clumping, pilling, or breaking up?
Remember when we mentioned water-in-silicone foundations earlier? Now it’s relevant. The reason why foundation clumps or pills up is usually that it’s not playing nicely with one of the other products you’re using—usually either moisturizer, sunscreen, or, if you’re trying to combat large pores, a primer.
To avoid having this from happening, make sure that your primer and foundation both have the same kind of formula, so if your foundation is water-in-silicone, then your primer should be the same. If you have an oil-in-water formula, like the bareMinerals Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream we mentioned above, then your primer has to be an oil-in-water formula as well (or you should skip primer altogether and only use moisturizer). This doesn’t apply to powder foundations, of course, since they don’t contain any water.
During the actual application time, you should also make sure that moisturizers, which are usually water-in-oil formulations, have enough time to sink into the skin completely. In general, the more products you layer on your skin before foundation, the more likely you are to run into issues.
How do I keep foundation from getting darker or oxidizing?
Sometimes, when even the best foundation for large pores comes into contact with the air or with the acidity of the skin, it can turn a few shades darker. It’s hard to predict if a foundation will oxidize because it really depends on your personal skin chemistry, so even great foundations may oxidize on some people (while working perfectly for others).
Primers can help to prevent oxidation by forming a barrier between the skin and the foundation, so you can try to apply a primer all over your skin before putting on foundation. You can also experiment with a foundation that’s a shade or two lighter, if you find a formula that you like despite it oxidizing.
Other Beauty Tips for People with Large Pores
There is more to making skin with large pores look amazing than just foundation. Here are some more of our tips—we hope they help!
Skincare for Large Pores
Proper skincare can go a long way towards making the skin look better under makeup, and helping to improve texture overall, so here are a few skin products to adopt if you have large pores:
Using a cleanser every night is a no brainer, since cleanliness is such an important part of skin health, and it’s essential to ensuring that the skin can absorb any leave-on products. No matter your skin type, it’s always a good idea to choose a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser with a low pH.
Exfoliation is important because it removes dead skin buildup, and it helps maintain healthy cell turnover over time. The best exfoliant for those with large pores is salicylic acid (sometimes referred to as BHA), a gentle acid that can penetrate through oils to exfoliate within the pore to help clear clogs. Using a product with 1%-2% SA at least a few times a week is great for keeping the skin smooth, fresh, and soft, while overtime it can help reduce the visibility of large pores by keeping them clear of debris.
Vitamin A is another ingredient that has well-documented effects when it comes to skin texture. Vitamin A increases the skin cell turnover rate in a way that thickens the lower levels of skin while thinning out the top layers of dry, dead skin cells, and helps to regulate sebum flow and prevent clogged pores. This means it helps with the look of large pores as well as acne, fine lines, pigmentation, and scarring. Just be aware that Vitamin A can make the skin more photosensitive, so using daily SPF is very important, and obviously, you should see a doctor before making any decisions related to your health.
Lastly, keeping the skin moisturized is very important. Hydrated and moisturized skin is happier skin, just in general, but it also looks much better under makeup and the pores tend to look smaller as well. Moisturizers contain ingredients called emollients (silicones are in that category), which help fill in micro-gaps in the top layer of the skin, turning it into a smoother layer over which foundation glides nicely. They also include humectants, which are ingredients that pull water into the skin, and plump it up. This causes the skin to momentarily expand around the pores in a way that tightens them and makes them look smaller.
Primers, especially silicone-based ones, work in two ways to improve the look of pores. First, they help to literally fill in the pores, which is great under foundation, but they also have a nice effect all on their own since they can diffuse light particles in a way that makes the skin look photo focused. On days when you’re not wearing makeup, you can just put on some primer, and that can often be enough.
Be Careful with Shimmer
Shimmery or sparkly products are like the opposite of a primer—they seem to emphasize the texture of anything below them. Applying a shiny highlighter on top of larger pores will draw attention to them, so either eschew shimmer altogether or just be careful with where you apply it.
Airbrushed foundation has an incredible finish—after all, there’s a reason why it’s so common for brides on their big day—but it does require a bit more skill than your typical foundation. If you really want the best of the best, an airbrushing kit is guaranteed to offer you the most diffused, pore-minimizing coverage.
How to Make Your Foundation Last
The key to learning how to get your foundation to last is to experiment. Mix and match the following tips to see which will work best for you:
Don’t forget to moisturize! When the skin is saturated with water, it won’t absorb the foundation, so it will look better for longer.
Powder will always increase the longevity of your makeup. The key is to apply very thin layers of foundation, followed by a good dose of powder that is bounced or tapped over the skin rather than brushed over it. You can also try baking, which is a method of applying a very heavy layer of powder, letting it sit on the skin for 5-10 minutes, and then brushing it off. However, there is a price to pay—well-powdered makeup will last a long time, but it can also look dry or cakey, so experiment until you find your balance.
Using a setting spray can also make a big difference. Setting sprays are made with polymers that create a film over the makeup, to help keep it in place. You can use a setting spray in addition to powder or instead of it. You can also experiment with applying multiple layers of setting spray throughout your makeup application.
You can also try the controversial Wayne Goss Method, which consists of applying a very light layer of translucent powder to moisturized skin after or instead of primer, and then following it up with a liquid or cream foundation. This method can pre-set your foundation and create an additional barrier over your skin, but be aware that it doesn’t work for everyone.
You’ve Got Options
If you’ve got large pores, you have a lot of options, and there are some fantastic cosmetics that can help you achieve the look you want—so learn what’s out there, find what works for you, and enjoy the process! Discovering makeups is a life-long thing, thank goodness, and it’s fun to appreciate the ride. Thank you for reading, and have fun with your next look!