The Best Non Comedogenic Foundation: Top Choices
Welcome! In this post, we'll be discussing non comedogenic foundations. That is, foundations that are made without some of the chemicals and compounds known to cause acne.
First, we'll quickly discuss some of our favorite non comedogenic foundations. After that, we'll provide some buying tips when looking at a foundation—what the product is, and how to use it in a way that will hopefully result in fewer breakouts. Then we'll provide our in-depth reviews, and discuss what may be the best non comedogenic foundation for you and your skin (or, at the very least, some choices that might be a good option!). Finally, we'll discuss non comedogenic makeup and acne—the theory behind non comedogenic makeup, how scientists believe acne is formed, and a few tips that may help you avoid breakouts. We don't discuss organic foundations here—just non comedogenic ones—but you can read our post here about our favorite organic foundations.
Non Comedogenic Foundations: Our Top Choices
Here are our favorite picks for non comedogenic foundation. We've tried include something for everyone, so we've selected our favorite powders, creams, and liquid foundations (including one powdery/liquid foundation):
Best Mineral / Powder Non Comedogenic Foundation: Bella Pierre Mineral Foundation. It offers oil-free coverage for all skin types (including acne, eczema, and rosacea), and it's tough to find a foundation that's both non comedogenic and mineral; we like this one.
Best Drugstore Non Comedogenic Foundation: Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid Foundation. Sensitive-skin friendly and non comedogenic, it's designed to cover pores, while feeling light and breathable. Our pick for best liquid non comedogenic foundation—it's hard to find a full-coverage drugstore foundation that's also non comedogenic, so we like this one a lot.
Our Other Best Drugstore Pick: L'Oreal Paris True Match. Oil-free and non comedogenic, it's made in tones to match every skin color, and it offers light- to medium-coverage with a little bit of SPF. Has a liquid-slash-powder texture that's very unique, and designed to be very blendable. Good for a natural look.
Our Best "Long-Lasting" Non Comedogenic Pick: Might Max! Max Factor Lasting Performance Foundation. These two characteristics—"non comedogenic" and "long-lasting"—are hard to find in the same foundation, and that's why we love this one. It's made in 20 shades, and we think it's a great option if you're tired of powders. As we mention below (and everywhere else we can), we love Max.
Our "Best Overall" Pick, and Our Favorite Non Comedogenic Foundation: Dermablend Cover Creme High Coverage Foundation. It's got just about everything we'd hope for in a non comedogenic foundation: it's full coverage and designed to cover acne and scars and discoloration; it's long lasting and provides a surprising 16 hours; it's manufactured in over 20 skin tones; it's got a surprisingly high SPF; and it's easy to apply. It's a cream foundation, and if you're looking for a liquid foundation, we like the Dermablend Flawless Creator Multi-Use Liquid Foundation, which has a lot of the same qualities, but in a liquid.
OK! Because we are, primarily, a website for aspiring makeup artists, in the next sections, we'll discuss how to select a foundation, what it should do, and how to take care of your skin if you're worried about acne.
What to Look for in a Foundation
We'll get to the reviews in a minute (and you can scroll down if you're in a rush!) but first let's talk about what foundation actually is.
Foundation has three main purposes: 1) It creates an even skin-tone and covers various facial blemishes, 2) prepares the skin so that all the makeup that follows (blush, highlighter, bronzer, whatever) can rest on a uniform canvas, and 3) makes textured skin a little smoother. It's not one of the flashier types of makeup, but because it can alter the appearance of the skin, it can be incredibly useful.
Foundations are usually created to match a person's skin tone, but there's another element involved: the "see-through-ness" (aka, coverage) of the foundation. Foundation has a wide range of coverage—some foundations are almost totally see-through, meaning they will even out your skin tone but you will still be able to see your actual skin, while other foundations are not at all see-through, and they will fully cover your skin, and you won't be able to see your actual skin. Coverage usually ranges from sheer coverage (the most see-through variety), to light coverage, to medium coverage, to full coverage (which is the least see-through variety, that veils the skin very effectively). The degree of coverage you choose is up to you—for many people, it's a game of trial-and-error, based on your skin's needs and what looks good, and you'll need to keep a close eye on your reflection to see what works.
Here's the thing about foundation, that makes it somewhat problematic: no matter what level of "see-through-ness" you choose, it is specifically designed to cover your face, and to do that, it uses chemicals and compounds that end up blocking your pores. And, the more coverage a foundation offers, the more likely it is to block your pores—and can give you acne (as well discuss below).
In other words, foundation can be used to cover acne, and yet the foundation itself can cause acne.
Come on! How is that fair? It's not. It's actually super-frustrating.
And that's why we have non comedogenic foundation. Non comedogenic foundation has fewer of the chemicals and/or additives that are known to clog pores, and it may therefore be less likely to give you acne when you wear it.
How to Wear Foundation and Hopefully Reduce the Risk of Breakouts
The following guidelines may be a good idea, regardless of whether you've got acne-prone skin or not. To use non comedogenic foundation in a way that is less likely to give you acne, you can:
- Switch Types of Foundation. As with most makeups, you've got a choice when it comes to the TYPE of foundation you want to use. You can use cream foundation, powder foundation, or liquid foundation. Some people find that one type makes their skin break out, while other types don't. That's not true for everyone, obviously—everyone's skin acts in very unique ways—but some people have found that the type of foundation is a factor in breakouts. You may also want to try an organic variety, as those may have fewer of the ingredients that can be harmful to your skin.
- Vary Your Application of Foundation. This is another aspect of foundation application that trips people up. Because you've got creams, powders, and liquids, you've got different methods of applying them: you can use sponges, makeup brushes, or even your fingers. Be careful with each type, but especially with sponges: many people keep their sponges for waaaaay too long, and they end up becoming bacteria traps. If you're re-using sponges, they may have a ton of bacteria in them, and your face does NOT like having bacteria smushed into it. Again, being disciplined about using clean sponges may not clear your acne, but it couldn't hurt.
- Vary Your Coverage. The "see-through-ness" mentioned above refers to coverage. If you're using heavy coverage, try using something a little lighter. That goes for regular foundations, as well—if you're having acne issues, try switching to a lighter coverage.
- Use Less. This is something no makeup wearer wants to hear, but it's true! Sometimes simply using less of a product is enough to change the skin's reaction to it.
- Remember—Much of "Acne Maintenance" is Trial-and-Error. Do you best to find out what works—and what doesn't. Be patient and focused, and you'll figure out your skin.
Finally, this is more of a "general" tip—always be aware that the color of foundation in the bottle may not be the color of the foundation when you put it on your skin.
Now let's jump into those reviews!
Five (or so) of Our Top Choices
So, instead of saying "Here are the non comedogenic foundations we like most; figure out what you want and what works for you," we'll discuss a couple of different types of foundations: we'll discuss what we think to be the best non comedogenic mineral foundation, compact foundation, and liquid foundation, and then finally we'll talk about (what is, in our humble opinion!) the best non comedogenic foundation overall.
Bella Pierre Mineral Foundation
Bella Pierre is one of the lesser-known cosmetics companies—at least, they're not as well-known as the mega-brands—but they're a fantastic company that focuses solely on mineral makeup, and their Bella Pierre Mineral Foundation is a great addition to their line.
It's free of all the usual "bad guys" you find in regular makeup: excess oils, talc (which is a clay mineral that can irritate the skin), and dyes. It's a strong option for people with skin issues (including acne and rosacea), and it's long lasting (although, in our experience, "long lasting" really depends on the person wearing the makeup!). "Long lasting" isn't always the case with non comedogenic foundations, because a long list of the "bad" chemicals in makeup are used to make it adhere to the skin—so that's a BIG plus.
This offers some UVA protection—the powder is SPF 15—and that's nice, but it's not really strong enough to make a difference. If you're in the sun, you need something stronger than that, so it might be wise to ignore this as a protection from the sun, but overall, it's a great foundation—it doesn't cake, and it evens the skin very nicely.
L'Oreal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Compact Makeup
What would a makeup review post be without L'Oreal? Incomplete! They're not everyone's favorite, but they've been around forever (the company was formed in 1909, more than 100 years ago!) and they've got a LOT of brand loyalty. There are plenty of people who will only use L'Oreal products, and so it's nice that they offer a non comedogenic foundation, because most cosmetics companies don't have L'Oreal's deep pocketbooks when it comes to developing new products.
So, how does this product perform? In our experience, pretty well! L'Oreal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Compact Makeup is oil-free, blends easily and effectively, and it's available in plenty of shades (18 of them, in fact) so you can find exactly what works for you. For some people, that's torture, and for others, that makes for a wonderful, wonderful project.
As far as drugstore options go, this is a superstar. It's not high-end, but it offers excellent coverage and feels pleasant—pretty much all you can ask for. And—if you're pining for a liquid foundation but can't use it because you're prone to acne, this may be a good substitute.
(By the way—if you're looking for the same product, but in liquid form, you should check out L'Oreal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Makeup. Also very good.)
Maybelline New York Dream Liquid Mousse Foundation
A makeup artist we know has a theory that the more makeup looks like candy, the more you want it, and there may be some truth to that, because Maybelline New York Dream Liquid Mousse Foundation has that absolutely desirable chocolate mousse color, and that makes us long for dessert. Specifically, chocolate mousse. Any cosmetic that looks like dessert—that's doubly hard to resist.
This can be a fantastic choice, and it may be a very good option if your main concern is pore coverage. Being able to provide pore coverage is an amazing thing for a non comedogenic foundation, because very often foundations that don't cause acne have to compromise a little on their pore-hiding properties. And, for a lighter-feeling foundation, it does a good job of covering rosacea and acne, as well, and it's designed to stay on for a while—up to 16 hours, which is pretty impressive for a non comedogenic product.
This isn't a "for everybody" option—we try to include as many of those as possible, but this foundation isn't one of those—it's for people with normal-to-slightly-sensitive skin. If you have extremely sensitive skin, or are very susceptible to breakouts, you may want to look at other products.
Max Factor Lasting Performance Foundation
We love Max Factor, and we really, really love Max Factor Lasting Performance Foundation.
There's actually a really fascinating story behind Max Factor products—the Max Factor brand is based off of a real man named Maksymilian Faktorowicz (seriously—that name is absolutely real and absolutely fabulous), who revolutionized makeup by making it specifically for Hollywood actresses and Hollywood directors. Those two groups of people were frustrated because actresses in early Hollywood had to re-apply makeup after every take, and Max created long-lasting makeup products that allowed actresses and directors to shoot multiple takes without having to stop and re-apply. He totally revolutionized the makeup industry, and made himself a multi-multi-millionaire in the process.
The main draw to Max Factor has always been its long-lasting, stay-on-forever property, but there are other advantages here: the product is both high-end AND non comedogenic. It's kind of difficult to find a long-lasting foundation that's designed to be 1) effective, 2) gorgeous, and 3) non comedogenic, because most long-lasting foundations rely heavily on the ingredients that cause acne—oils, mainly (and we'll discuss those ingredients below), but also chemicals that allow the product to stick to your skin. So when you find a high-end foundation that's made specifically for us acne-prone folks—that's something special. We love Max!
The Best Non Comedogenic Foundation: Dermablend Cover Foundation
Are you ready for our pick for best non comedogenic foundation overall? We're proud to announce... we're in love with...
Here's what we love about it:
It's non comedogenic AND full coverage. Have mentioned thirty or forty times that it's hard to find a full coverage foundation that's non comedogenic? Well, this one is; and
Because it's full coverage, it's designed to conceal acne, scars, birthmarks, pores, and hyperpigmentation;
It's long lasting! It's designed for 16 hours of coverage, which is even longer than the Max Factor foundation, and "long lasting" is their whole thing;
It's designed for ALL skin types, and dermatologist tested for wearers with sensitive skin and/or allergies, and it has no fragrance included in the ingredient list;
It's offered in a wide range of tones for a wide range of skin colors, from fair tones (pale ivory; almond beige) to tan and deep tones (olive; deep brown);
At SPF 30, it's got some real sun protection. Most foundations have a SPF around 20 or 25, so SPF 30 is very good;
And, lastly, it's easy to use—warm some of the product between your fingertips and apply gently. Just make sure your hands are clean, and you can touch-up anywhere.
If we were to design a non comedogenic foundation, it would probably look a lot like Dermablend.
One last thing: if you're not crazy about cream foundations (and you don't like powder foundations, like the Bella Pierre one we discussed above), Dermablend also offers a liquid foundation that we really like: Dermablend Flawless Creator Multi-Use Liquid Foundation. It's got most of the things we'd hope for in a non comedogenic foundation: it's full-coverage (excellent); it's oil-free, fragrance-free, and tested by dermatologists and for use on sensitive skin and allergy sufferers; it's blendable but you can build on it; and last but perhaps most importantly, it's vegan and uses absolutely zero animal products in its recipe (which, surprisingly, only includes ten different ingredients). This, tied with the Dermablend High Coverage Foundation, are our picks for best non comedogenic foundation overall.
What Is Non Comedogenic Makeup, Anyway?
Now that we've looked at some products that might be a good fit, let's look at some of the terms we've used.
The scientific word for acne is "comedone." A non comedogenic product is one that is created without the chemicals and additives that are known to cause acne. So, basically, "non" means "I don't want any" and "comedogenic" means "pimples."
So, the big question—does it work? Does it truly keep acne from forming?
For many people, yes! Non comedogenic products keep their skin clean and clear. And, sadly, for other people—no! Non comedogenic products don't make any difference at all. Everyone's skin is very unique, and non comedogenic makeup isn't a "sure thing" for everyone.
Let's take a look at how acne is formed—that is, the situation that's going on in your skin—and then we'll take a look at how non comedogenic makeup and non comedogenic foundation may keep acne from forming.
How is Acne Actually Formed? A Closer Look
When you read about acne, you read a lot about "pores." What are they, and what do they do?
Pores are very, very small holes in the skin that connect the inside of the skin to the outside world. Some people have large pores, and others have small pores, but there's no "normal" or "abnormal" type pore.
In general, there are two kinds of pores: pores that sweat comes out of, and pores that hairs come out of. When either of these types of pores get clogged with oil, acne can occur.
In the image below, you can see the surface of the skin, small hairs coming out of the surface of the skin, and a sebaceous gland located underneath the skin. The sebaceous gland is an organ that secretes an oil called "sebum" into the hair and skin, to keep the hair and skin from getting dried out. As you can see here, there's no acne or pimple on the surface of the skin. The sebaceous gland is producing a normal amount of oil, and the skin and the hair are fine.
Acne is formed when those sebaceous glands start creating too much sebum. When there is too much sebum, the hair follicles get swollen and blocked, and the sebum that is formed gets trapped inside the follicle, underneath the skin. When that happens, whiteheads can form.
If the follicles get swollen, but they're not blocked—that is, there's an excess of sebum, and that sebum is leaking out on to the surface—that can create blackheads.
There's a lot more to it, and a lot of it has to do with some pretty complicated chemistry, but that's a good basic description of what's happening when a person gets acne.
So, why is it that too much sebum gets produced? That's what scientists are trying to figure out. What they know is that at certain times during the lifespan—particularly during adolescence—the body experiences an increase in hormones, and those hormones can make the sebaceous glands produce excess sebum.
What they also know is that certain materials, when put on the skin—like greasy, oily makeup and foundation—can clog pores and create acne. So—let's talk about that!
Non Comedogenic Makeup and Your Skin
So, we just found out that acne is formed by an excess of sebum (oil) in the skin. When there's too much sebum, the pores get blocked, trapping the oil in your skin, and creating a swelling in your skin that can create various types of acne.
Believe it or not, regular makeup (including foundation) contains a LOT of chemicals and compounds that put extra oils into your skin. If you have sensitive skin, or if you're acne-prone, the same thing happens when you use makeup: your hair follicles/pores get too much oil in them, they get clogged, and you break out with pimples. The only difference is, instead of your body creating too much oil, you're actually putting oil into your skin and creating the blockages that give you pimples!
Many people don't experience acne when they use makeup—their hair follicles and pores don't get irritated or swollen—but there are plenty of people who do have an acne reaction to makeup. So, skin care companies and cosmetics companies created makeup products that don't have some of the oils that are known to clog hair follicles. There are, in fact, a LOT of chemicals that can clog your pores, but some of the most acne-causing are cocoa butter, coconut oil, soybean oil, and palm oil (among others). If you see any of those ingredients are in your makeup, you may want to think about buying an alternative.
So that, basically, is what non comedogenic foundation is: foundation made without the chemicals and additives that clog pores and create acne.
So, does it work? For many people, yes! For those people, regular makeup blocks pores and causes breakouts, and those breakouts happen every single time that person uses regular makeup. Non comedogenic products keep their skin healthy and clear.
For others, it doesn't work as well, or at all. If it's not makeup that's causing acne—that is, if there's another reason that acne is being formed, such as hormones, stress, or diet—then all the non comedogenic makeup in the world won't make much of a difference.
We wish that non comedogenic products were a sure thing, but sadly that's not the case. You'll have to do some testing and see if they make a difference on your skin. For some people, they're an answer to prayer; for others, they don't do much. As with all things related to acne, everyone's experience is different.
Some Quick Facts About Acne--Including a Random Tip on How to Fight It
There are a lot—A LOT—of myths about acne. Most people carry around a lot of misconceptions about pimples and healthy skin, so we figured it would be wise to take a minute and lay down some facts (and maybe dispel some rumors):
- If you think you're the only one with acne... that's not the case! Believe it or not, according to the National Institute of Health, acne is the most common skin disorder in the world. It affects people from every ethnic background and every age (although there is an increase in acne among teenagers, and a decrease in acne among people who are entering their twenties. More on that in a second).
- Different life stages can lead to an increase in acne. It's fairly well-known that teenagers get acne, but it's also common among women who get pregnant, persons taking various medicines and medications, people with food allergies, and women entering menopause. (By the way: if you're wondering whether a medication will give you acne, it should usually list acne as one of the side effects—so it's something to ask your doctor about if you're taking medications, or are going to take them).
- There are both environmental and hereditary causes of acne. If your birth mother/birth father/both your parents had acne, there's a chance that you could also get it. That said, it's not a sure thing—there are plenty of people who have parents who had acne, who never got it themselves. Your environment can also increase your likelihood of getting acne, and using greasy makeup—including greasy foundation and greasy liquid foundations—can be one of the causes.
- It's really, really common. Four out of five people—80%!—of all people have outbreaks between the ages of 13 and 30, and it's not uncommon for full-grown adults to get acne here and there. That said...
- For most people, it goes away. Most people who have acne during their teen years see it disappear—or greatly reduced—during their 20s and 30s.
- Lastly, how you treat your skin can have a lot to do with how clear your face is. That means that your skin care routine, and the makeup products that you use, can affect your complexion.
We're Not Scientists, But Here's Something We Noticed About Acne
Some people who have acne—particularly adults who have acne—have some sort of food allergy. Again—nobody here at Makeup Artist Essentials is a scientist, biologist, or medical professional, but over the years, we've known a number of people who have changed their diet and seen a dramatic increase in the "clearness" of their skin. And—this is the crazy thing—the two main culprits we've seen?
Dairy and eggs.
Yes. Dairy and eggs. That will break your heart, because eggs and dairy (oh my goodness cheese—oh my goodness ice cream) are absolutely delicious. But that's what we've noticed.
So, will changing your diet get rid of all your acne? Maybe, maybe not—but in our limited, anecdotal experience—and again, nobody here is a doctor and this is NOT medical advice—it seems like diet can make a big difference for some people.
If you do decide to alter your diet in any way, consult your doctor first, to make sure that you're altering your diet safely. When you cut certain foods out, you stop getting nutrition from those foods, and you'll need to get them from other sources. So consult your doctor to make sure you're changing your diet in a healthy way.
Something to think about next time you visit the doctor's office!
That's All We've Got for Foundations...
There you go! Some fabulous, fabulous non comedogenic foundation options. If you know of others, please email us, and we'll update the list. :)