Ultimate How-To: Makeup for Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Dealing with acne can feel like an isolating experience, but you’re definitely not alone. Up to 85% of teenagers get acne, and 40% to 55% of adults are diagnosed with low-grade, persistent acne and oily skin.

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When you experience a breakout, it can be tempting to use any products you can get your hands on. But the wrong skincare products can contribute to acne by clogging your pores, irritating existing spots, and even allowing bacteria to fester into a full-fledged infection.

We believe everyone is beautiful with or without makeup. If you feel called to explore makeup, use it as an empowering tool with this easy, four-step process that includes specifically formulated products for sensitive acne prone skin.

Step 1: Primer for Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Heard of primer but didn’t think it was for you?

Primer creates a smooth canvas for your foundation and helps your makeup last the whole day. Before putting any other cosmetics on your face, begin with a primer for acne prone skin. A primer helps makeup stick to your skin and prevents cracking, caking, and uneven pigmentation. Primer also keeps thick makeup ingredients out of your pores.

Choose the right primer for your skin type

There are many different primers out there, so find the one that works for your skin. In addition to your primer, you can use a green-tinted colour corrector for concealing and cancelling out redness from acne. Use a small amount and apply it precisely for the most natural look. Remember: you want to neutralise redness on your complexion, not turn your whole face green.

Step 2: Concealer for sensitive acne prone skin

What is concealer?

Concealer is a type of cosmetic that’s used to mask dark circles, acne, age spots, large pores, and other small blemishes visible on the skin. Compared with foundations, concealers have a thicker consistency. A concealer is used to hide irregular pigmentation by blending the imperfection into the surrounding skin tone.

Choose the right concealer for your skin type

When it comes to oily skin, look for a concealer that’s oil-free and has long wear. If you have dry skin, look for a concealer that has hydrating benefits. For combo skin, it depends on what you want to conceal your face and where. Choose an oil-free option for your T-zone and a hydrating concealer for your cheeks or eyes.

Select the right concealer shade

If you’re looking for a natural finish, your under-eye concealer shouldn’t match your skin colour. While you want your foundation shade to be spot-on, you need to strategise a bit more with concealer. The goal with dark under-eye circles is to lighten the area. Choose a concealer that’s a couple shades lighter than your skin.

  • When you're working on acne or rashes from sensitive skin, the objective is to make them blend into the rest of your skin. So, choose the same shade as your foundation.

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Our Favourite Concealers for Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

When looking for a concealer to hide rashes or acne, select a concealer that’s designed for your face, and not a waxy under-eye concealer.

Concealer application for sensitive acne prone skin

Apply the concealer directly to the pimple and to any red or discoloured areas surrounding it. Blend so that there are no obvious edges, but not so thoroughly that the spot becomes visible again.

  • When it comes to applying concealer, some makeup artists suggest using a clean finger to lightly dab on the product. The warmth from your skin helps soften the concealer, making it smoother to apply. However, if you choose to use a brush, we recommend the M.A.C Cosmetics 195 Concealer Brush.

Step 3: Foundation for Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Why do we use foundation?

Foundation is exactly what the name suggests: it’s the base upon which you build your entire makeup look. To break it down simply, foundation is a cosmetic that's applied to the whole face (and sometimes the neck, décolletage, and body) to create a uniform skin tone. When it comes to foundations, one size doesn’t fit all. It’s important to find a formula that works with your skin, not against it, to ensure the best possible result.

When considering foundation options for sensitive acne prone skin, we suggest products that are oil-free and non-comedogenic for the biggest benefits.

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Select the Right Foundation Coverage

The first aspect of foundation is coverage, which refers to how much pigment is in the foundation. Highly pigmented formulas provide full coverage, whereas formulas with lower concentrations of pigment fall somewhere in the sheer-to-medium coverage range. A sheer or light-coverage foundation is a great place to start if you haven’t used foundation before. With a lighter foundation, you can always build your coverage by applying more of the product until you’re satisfied.

Selecting the Right Foundation Finish

Most foundations are described as sheer, dewy, matte, or satin. Sheer and dewy foundations often bear words such as 'glowing' or 'luminous'. They contain light-reflecting pigments and shimmer to give the skin a radiant finish. These foundations are better for those who want to make dull skin look healthier and younger. A dewy makeup finish is great for dry skin types. Matte foundations are meant to give the skin a natural, shine-free finish. Matte products rarely contain Mica or other reflective ingredients. A matte finish is ideal for oily or combination complexions.

  • Depending on the formula, light- or medium-coverage foundation can give a more natural finish to the skin and is a great option for those looking to cover acne, hyperpigmentation, or scarring. Pixi Beauty Balm is a great option. This rich, nourishing cream formula offers buildable medium-to-full coverage.

Select the right foundation shade

Select the right foundation shade

The best way to pick a foundation is to match it to your chest. If you’re tanner there, you can also test makeup colours on the back of your hand. Ensure that you check the foundation swatch in natural light. Interior lighting can be misleading, so be sure to see your foundation under the sun or near a window.

Foundation application for sensitive acne prone skin

It’s time for your foundation to work its magic. If your acne breakout is limited to a few trouble spots, you may need to apply foundation only to these areas, blending until the colour disappears into your skin. If you have pimples all over or suffer from severe redness, apply foundation all over your face, blending carefully with a makeup sponge or blending brush.

After you've applied foundation, you might need to add a bit more concealer to troublesome areas. Apply lightly, blending carefully into your foundation so that no lines or colour contrasts are visible.

Step 4: Finishing Powders and Setting Sprays for Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

Excess oil can create shine, resulting in movement in your makeup. Oil can even change your foundation colour when the oil oxidises on your skin. It’s natural to want your makeup to last as long as possible. So, when deciding between a setting powder or a setting spray, make the decision based on your skin type.

Choosing Between Setting Powder and Setting Spray

Choosing Between Setting Powder and Setting Spray

If you have oily skin that’s prone to acne breakouts and blackheads, a setting powder will generally give you a less shiny finish. A mineral-based powder will absorb excess oil and give your skin a blurred, soft look. Youngblood Pressed Mineral Foundation is a great non-comedogenic option for sensitive skin, as it’s free from talc, perfumes, and chemical dyes.

To prevent irritating your skin or smudging your makeup, use a kabuki or blush brush to apply setting powder. Sweep the powder across your nose, forehead, and chin, and lightly dust any other acne-prone areas.

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If your skin looks flaky or feels dry, a dewy-finish setting spray will lift your look. The best makeup setting spray will keep your makeup looking as fresh as when you first applied it. Setting sprays are similar to powders in that they can absorb excess oil and set your makeup. But unlike powders, sprays won't change the look of your makeup. Instead, these liquids contain ingredients such as Witch Hazel and Glycerine to keep your makeup from melting away.

Brand and product inclusions are at the sole discretion of Adore Beauty’s highly trained Customer Service team. We do not seek or accept payment from brands or individuals listed in our guides.

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