No-Breakout Makeup: Non-Comedogenic Foundation Reviews

Also: how to find out if any foundation is right for your skin.

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Curology Team
Jun 20, 2018 · 7 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Updated June 2021

Whether you buy your makeup at a drugstore, department store, Sephora, or another retailer, it’s important to take a look at what’s in it—lest you end up with breakouts or dry, irritated skin. So we’ve rounded up a bunch of popular foundations, from high-end to inexpensive drugstore brands, to find out which are safe for acne-prone or sensitive skin.

Psst… whether or not high-end foundations are worth the premium is totally up to your personal preference — and depends on the ingredients in each product. High-end makeup products aren’t necessarily “better” for you!

How to find out if a foundation is safe for your skin

  1. Head on over to CosDNA.com and search the product name.

  2. If it isn’t on there, have the ingredients list handy. The manufacturer’s website should have an ingredients list. Alternatively, you can check makeup resources like MakeupAlley or websites that sell the product, such as Ulta or Sephora.

  3. Copy the ingredients, then paste them into the text box under “Analyze Cosmetics,” and click “Analysis.” Look in the “acne” column — if there are any 3’s, 4’s, or 5’s, we’d recommend avoiding it if you have acne-prone skin. If there are only 0’s, 1’s, or 2’s, the product can be used on acne-prone skin, and is considered “non-comedogenic.” We’d also recommend avoiding any products with 3’s, 4’s or 5’s in the irritant column if you have acne (or sensitive skin).

Irritation can lead to acne

One rule of thumb: avoid foundations and any product that contains denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol actually doesn’t clog pores (it’s non-comedogenic), but it can be very irritating and drying — especially to pimples that are already red and inflamed. Denatured alcohol is rated a “5” under the Irritant column on CosDNA.com. As with the Acne column, we’d recommend avoiding any products with 3’s, 4’s or 5’s in the irritant column if your skin is acne-prone.

A note on foundation with SPF

Some foundations contain SPF—which is great!—but don’t let that fool you. You probably still need to wear sunscreen underneath your makeup. SPF 15 may be enough sun protection for everyday use (like if you’re just going to be indoors at work most of the day), but if you plan to spend any time in the sun, consider wearing sunscreen underneath your foundation. We recommend SPF 30 at least. If your foundation does have SPF 30 or higher, remember that SPF isn’t a one-and-done deal: you need to reapply sunscreen throughout the day for it to keep working.

What’s the deal with mineral makeup?

In general, mineral makeup contains ingredients like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mica, and iron oxides. Mineral foundation tends to have fewer ingredients, which is often a good thing for people with sensitive skin. But if you have oily skin, sometimes the mineral powder combines with oil and can appear caked or clumpy.

Enough preamble—on to the reviews!

Non-Comedogenic High-End Foundations: The Good

Alima Pure Satin Matte Mineral Foundation — $28

alima pure product

Photo Credit: Alima

  • Light to medium coverage

  • 45 shades

  • Vegan, nut-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free (but pricey)

BareMinerals Blemish Rescue Loose Powder Foundation — $23

blemishrescue product

Photo Credit: bareMinerals

  • Contains acne-fighting salicylic acid

  • Powder allows for light yet buildable coverage

bareMinerals Original Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 — $32

bareMinerals product

Photo Credit: bareMinerals

  • Contains only 5 ingredients

Glo Skin Beauty Pressed Base Foundation — $50

glo product

Photo Credit: Glo Skin Beauty

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF 50+ — $39.50

it cosmetics product

Photo Credit: IT Cosmetics

  • Great built-in sun protection

  • Long ingredient list, so maybe avoid if you have sensitive skin (or if you’re a minimalist).

Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation — $37

kat von d product

Photo Credit: Kat Von D

  • Full-coverage, matte, might need setting powder

  • Cruelty-free

MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation — $31

mac studio fix it product

Photo Credit: MAC

  • Medium coverage

  • Matte finish

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation — $43

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation product

Photo Credit: Make Up For Ever

  • Buildable pigment to achieve medium-to-full coverage

  • Natural, skin-like finish

PÜR 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation SPF 15 — $29.50

PUR 4-in-1 product

Photo Credit: PÜR Cosmetics

  • Long-lasting, matte finish

  • Built-in SPF

Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup — $40

urban decay naked skin product

Photo Credit: Urban Decay

  • Lightweight feel, per its name!

Non-Comedogenic Drugstore Foundations: The Good

e.l.f. Acne Fighting Foundation — $6

elf fodunation product

Photo Credit: e.l.f.

  • Contains salicylic acid (BHA) to combat acne while wearing makeup

  • Vegan and cruelty-free

e.l.f. BB Cream SPF 20 — $6

elf sunscreen product

Photo Credit: e.l.f.

  • Reviews mention it does leave a sheen/glow, probably not ideal for oily skin

Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation — $7.99

Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation product

Photo Credit: Maybelline

  • Formulated for normal to dry skin

Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free All-in-1 Cushion Foundation — $20.50

Physicians Formula product

Photo Credit: Walgreens

  • Great if you have a talc allergy!

  • SPF 50

L’Oreal True Match Super Blendable Makeup — $10.95

L’Oreal True Match product

Photo Credit: Wal-Mart

  • Wide range of shades to match skin color and undertone (cool vs. warm)

  • SPF 17

Avoid Pore Clogging Ingredients

A few ingredients to avoid — some of these can be irritating/drying for inflamed acne or irritation-prone skin. Some can also clog pores! If you have a foundation with these ingredients, you may want to stop using it!

  • Myristic acid

  • Denatured alcohol

  • Algin

  • Polyglyceryl-3-Diisostearate

  • Isopropyl Palmitate

  • Potassium chloride

  • Isostearyl Neopentanoate (an emollient that can clog pores)

Clogged pores, nasty breakouts, irritation, and redness can result from using foundations with any of the ingredients listed above. If you’re trying to recover from a foundation that did you dirty, Curology has your back with dermatology providers and a custom prescription cream to help restore your skin back to health.

Ditch the Makeup

We know it isn’t easy to choose a foundation that checks all the boxes: the right texture, color, consistency, finish (matte or glowy?), and safe ingredients. But take it from the experts: the safety of a product’s ingredients should be your #1 concern before putting anything on your skin! Especially if you’re prone to acne or irritation.

If all these choices seem overwhelming, or your skin doesn’t seem to react well to any foundation, remember: there’s absolutely no shame in forgoing foundation! It can be beneficial to give your skin a break from makeup and let it breathe. Try just a little concealer, a tinted moisturizer, or a BB cream (check out our guide to BB and CC creams on the blog). And if you’re ready to break up with makeup altogether, try the minimalist approach: just slap on a non-comedogenic sunscreen in the AM, and you’re golden. Your skin will thank you — and you’ll have more time to snooze.

Just a reminder: we aren’t affiliated with any brands. Our product reviews are always based on what’s best for you and your skin!

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