Concealer and acne often have a fickle relationship: While you may want to pile on the concealer when you're experiencing a breakout, unfortunately, too much product—or the wrong formula—can actually end up making blemishes worse. It can feel like an endless cycle, but with a little bit of navigating, you can find a concealer that will cover up acne without causing more irritation.
"There are a lot of opinions about makeup and acne but I think, like most things in life, moderation is key," says dermatologist Papri Sarkar, MD. "I don't think it's reasonable to ask patients with acne-prone skin who often have redness, brown spots, acne scars, or active acne to skip makeup. For some people, makeup makes them more confident, more socially engaged, and simply better at performing at work or school. I do think it's reasonable to say that they should be mindful of how they're using their makeup and how much they're using."
About the Expert:
To use concealer without sacrificing the health of your skin, Dr. Sarkar has a few tips:
Always apply makeup on clean skin. "Applying makeup on skin that's already dirty or greasy is more likely to clog pores, which is often the first step in forming an acneiform lesion," she says.
Check your concealer's expiration date. "Older makeup can build bacteria and other organisms in it and cause or flare acne," notes Dr. Sarkar. "So storing it properly and keeping track of use-by dates are helpful. I suggest putting the date you opened it on the bottle and checking the back of the label. It usually has a 'use by' symbol that looks like an open container or an expiration date. The use-by date on the container usually says 6M or 12M, which means you should only use it for 6 or 12 months after opening it."
Opt for non-comedogenic ingredients. "Pick lighter formulas that don't contain shea butter, coconut oil, etc.," she says. "Not all people react to those ingredients even if they have acne, but since a higher percentage of people with acne react to those, steer clear unless you're sure you don't."
Try not to layer too heavily. "Layers of makeup stay on longer and look more perfect, but the thicker [the makeup is] or the more layers you put on, the more likely the makeup is to clog your pores," says Dr. Sarkar. Instead of buildable formulas, you might instead look for a full-coverage concealer. And instead of touch-ups, she recommends doing a quick face wash-and-refresh if you can. "Wiping or washing off to start with a clean slate and then reapplying usually keeps their skin clearer and their makeup looking better. Also, this can help to keep the number of layers people are tempted to use lower—like setting spray or setting powder layers."
Ready to find the best concealer for your acne-prone skin? Here are 15 formulas we're loving.
Looking to cover up a fresh pimple that popped up overnight? This formula combines full-coverage pigments with a combination of acne-fighting ingredients like oil-absorbing zinc oxide, kaolin clay, witch hazel, tea tree, sulfur, and a gentle AHA/BHA complex. So not only does it deliver flawless-looking results, but it can also act as a drying lotion, minimizing the appearance of blemishes with or without makeup.
This medium-coverage concealer feels almost weightless on the skin and blends like a dream. While the pigments conceal everything from dark circles to discoloration to blemishes, the formula's skincare benefits get to work behind the scenes. This clean concealer features an antioxidant blend of Albizia Julibrissin bark extract and vitamin C to brighten, protect, and boost the skin renewal process.
If your blemishes tend to fall into the category of cystic acne or you have a blemish that feels mega inflamed, this medium-coverage concealer may be the go-to move. That's because the formula features arnica, a soothing natural ingredient that may help decrease swelling and promote faster healing.
This concealer stick comes in a convenient pen-like applicator, making it super easy to apply the product to pimples and blemishes directly. Plus, the formula includes a combination of skincare ingredients that can actively fight blemishes.
Dr. Sarkar notes that opting for makeup products that feature acne-fighting ingredients can make a big difference. "If I were going to formulate a blemish-fighting spot treatment that doubled as a makeup, I would include things like salicylic acid, kaolin clay, sulfur and add some ingredients like licorice extract." (Ahem, this formula features all of those ingredients!)
Her one piece of advice: Makeup products made with acne-fighting ingredients may dry out the skin if they're used as everyday products. So it may be a good idea to have one acne-fighting concealer that you use when you're dealing with active breakouts, and one non-comedogenic formula you use when your skin is clear.
If you're a fan of makeup that is extremely long-lasting, KVD VEGAN BEAUTY's products are hard to beat. This concealer is no exception to the brand's reputation for long-wear beauty products. It's a versatile, full-coverage concealer that can easily brighten, cover blemishes, highlight, and act as a color corrector. It's fragrance-free, alcohol-free, oil-free, and is infused with an ultra-moisturizing Hydra-Boost Complex to keep the skin smooth and nourished all day long. Plus, with instant one-coat coverage, you can get long-lasting effects without having to layer or reapply—a big bonus for skin types that may not react well to layers of makeup.
After one Ipster received this in her GlamBag she wrote, "This concealer is amazing, I love how it covers blemishes and truly matches my skin tone!"
If you have oily skin, this creamy concealer is an ideal choice for you. The oil-free formula is non-acnegenic and can last up to 24 hours, even staying put when faced with sweat or water. With coverage that teeters more on the medium side, it's a great daily go-to for tackling everything from brightening up the under-eye to disguising dark spots.
"This brand is one of my faves," wrote Ipster @vrgsweetface. "This concealer is epic, so lightweight and it covers everything!"
Tend to prefer a polished, full-coverage look? You won't have to worry about this long-lasting concealer fading quickly after application. This full-coverage, creamy concealer features a longwear formula that lasts for up to 16 hours. It's also made without any parabens or skin irritants so you can apply knowing it won't make your breakouts any worse.
"Perfect consistency and fantastic coverage," one Ipster writes. "This can be applied flawlessly without leaving a textured or unnatural appearance. The tint/color was also a perfect match for my skin."
Are you a big fan of the flexible feel and natural finish of GLOSSIER's Stretch Concealer but finding that it's not working well with your acne-prone skin? While that formula includes a few ingredients that may clog pores, this MILK MAKEUP concealer offers a similar feel and finish with a lower risk of activating breakouts. The super flexible formula is infused with chamomile to help calm redness and soothe skin while marshmallow root extract gives the concealer a super elastic texture that moves with the skin—no creasing or cracking will be happening here.
Want to expertly tone down redness? You might try using a green concealer before applying the concealer that matches your skin tone. Because green and red (the color of acne) sit opposite each other on the color wheel, green can essentially neutralize those pesky red spots, allowing your regular concealer to work even better. This formula is even made with acne-prone skin types in mind. It's oil-free, non-comedogenic, and it features niacinamide, an ingredient that calms redness and helps control oil.
This high-coverage, matte finish concealer can flawlessly disguise blemishes for up to 16 hours without creasing, cracking, or looking cakey. Plus, the ultra-smooth concealer is non-acnegenic, sensitive skin tested, and ophthalmologist-tested, making it an ideal everyday pick for anyone who often deals with breakouts.
You shouldn't have to spend a fortune to find a concealer that won't clog pores. Case in point: this tried-and-trusted formula from MAYBELLINE. The oil-free concealer disguises redness, flaws, and blemishes all while allowing skin to look like skin. The non-comedogenic formula has even been dermatologist-tested so you can feel even more confident that it's potentially a great match for your skin type.
As Dr. Sarkar mentions, it's usually a good idea for acne-prone skin types to steer clear of makeup that features heavy moisturizers like shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil, but if you have dry skin or combination skin, choosing a concealer that includes moisturizing hyaluronic acid may be a great choice. In this formula, non-irritating hyaluronic acid weightlessly hydrates while fully loaded pigments expertly disguise discoloration and imperfections. An added bonus: hyaluronic acid can also plump the skin, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
If you tend to focus a lot of your concealer application on the eye area, this brightening concealer stick is the perfect pick. While both sides of this two-in-one formula offer full coverage, one side is for correcting those blemishes, dark spots, and other imperfections, while the other side is an eye concealer packed with brightening pearls and spherical blurring powders to instantly illuminate the eyes and smooth the appearance of the skin.
As many of us have learned, adult acne is a real thing. If you're looking to use concealer to disguise both acne and fine lines, this multifunctional concealer is a great pick for those skin concerns. In this formula, marine plant extracts and niacinamide work together to reduce the appearance of fine lines, pores, and redness. It also features caffeine to minimize puffiness and tighten up the skin.
If you often struggle to find a concealer that seamlessly blends in with your skin tone, try this concealer that comes in 50 (yes, 50!) different shades. You can be sure to find something that not only suits your skin tone, but your skin's undertone as well. With an exact match, it becomes *that* much easier to expertly conceal everything from blemishes to under-eye circles.
Want to discover even more beauty products for your skin type? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.
Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below!