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Concealers for acne-prone skin: Your guide to a blemish-free look

While your skincare routine works hard to fight breakouts, the right makeup products can help you conceal unwanted spots.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 24, 2024 • 12 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristin Beseke
concealers acne prone skin header
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jan 24, 2024 • 12 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristin Beseke
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.

In this article

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The key takeaways

  • Selecting a non-comedogenic concealer with a texture that aligns with your skin type is crucial for those with acne-prone skin. 

  • Liquid concealers are generally suitable for oily to normal skin, cream concealers are better for normal to dry skin, and stick concealers are ideal for targeted applications on normal to dry skin.

  • Be wary of ingredients that can exacerbate acne by clogging pores or irritating the skin, such as coconut oil and certain types of alcohol. 

  • To achieve the best results, test concealer shades on your chest rather than your forearm and consider your skin tone (whether it’s warm or cool). 

  • Concealers we recommend for acne-prone skin include Maybelline Fit Me Concealer and Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer.

Concealer is a versatile makeup product: people use it to hide pimples, acne scars, dark spots, and more. But there are so many concealers out there, it can be tricky to choose the best one for you—especially when you’ve got acne-prone skin. To help you avoid makeup with pore-clogging ingredients, we’ve researched the best non-comedogenic concealers and put them all in one place.

As skincare obsessives, we’re always on the lookout for the best makeup that won’t contribute to breakouts. So many Curology members come to us for help with acne, so we’d never recommend makeup or skincare products that are known to cause breakouts! This guide will give you plenty of concealers to choose from, all with the peace of mind that someone has done the work of screening ingredients for you.

How to choose the right concealer for your skin type

We’ve all got our (sk)individual quirks, and we’re all about embracing them—but sometimes, we’d rather keep them on the down low. That’s where concealer comes in: It’s the trusty sidekick of the makeup world. If your goals involve clearing up acne, we’ve got you (treating acne is kind of our thing). 

And there’s no need to wait to enjoy the look of a smooth, breakout-free complexion—just stick with no-breakout makeup, and always keep an eye on the ingredients of your makeup (we explain how below).

The best concealer to use for your skin type will depend on your goals—you’ll want a different consistency for covering pimples or red spots than, for example, covering dark under-eye circles. To start, here are some general guidelines for how to choose the right concealer for your skin type based on texture and color.

Concealer textures

  • Liquid: Best for oily to normal skin. Can make dry skin look drier. Best for light coverage, such as undereye circles.

  • Cream: Best for normal to dry skin. More hydrating.

  • Stick: Best for normal to dry skin, for touching up on the go, hiding blemishes or dark spots. They don’t spread easily so will unlikely give you good full face coverage—better for “spot treatments.”

Whichever texture you go with, you’ll also want to consider the finish: Whether the concealer will give your skin a “dewy,” hydrated look, or a matte finish. Matte concealers are a good choice for oily or combination skin. To get the best results, use a primer first, then apply your concealer with a blending sponge or fine-tip makeup brush to avoid transferring oil.

Concealers with a glowy, dewy finish should be more creamy. An oil-based concealer is fine to use—just make sure it’s non-comedogenic! For example, coconut oil clogs pores, so avoid coconut oil-based concealers if your skin is acne-prone. You wouldn’t want to cause more breakouts in the process of covering up your existing pimples.

concealers acne prone skin 2

Concealers for targeted areas on your face

Just like with foundations, concealers come in a variety of textures to achieve the desired finish. Some are designed not to crease when used around your eyes, while others are designed to provide full coverage of pimples or red spots. Here’s a quick guideline for choosing the right consistency.

Concealers for pimples and redness

Cover pimples or post-acne spots with full-coverage, highly pigmented, matte finish concealers. A thicker consistency makes it easier to blend it in for a seamless finish with the rest of your skin or foundation.

What if you’ve got dry or flaky skin around a pimple you’re trying to cover up?

Matte, dry-textured concealers might make it look—well, funky. So in this case it might be best to go with one of these options:

  1. Moisturizer or primer under your concealer 

  2. A liquid or moisturizing concealer with full coverage

  3. Foundation first, then concealer

  4. Balm concealer—thicker than liquid or creamy concealers

How to choose the right concealer color

Certain brands offer many different options, so if you’re stumped, it can be helpful (and fun) to go try some on in your local store. Certain stores that sell makeup, like Sephora, offer color-matching services and allow you to try on different products until you find the right color and texture for you.

concealers acne prone skin 5

Tips for choosing the right concealer

  • Test concealer shades on your chest rather than your forearm since the skin on the chest is generally closer to that of the face.

  • When in doubt, opt for a lighter color: Concealers can turn darker over the course of the day when they are exposed to air and skin oils.

  • Figure out if your skin tone is “warm” or “cool,” two common ways that makeup brands distinguish their range of shades. Warm complexions are ones that are more “golden,” whereas cooler complexions tend to be more “pink/rosy.”

  • Another interesting way to determine complexion type is to look at the color of the veins in your arms: bluish/purple indicates a cooler complexion while veins with a greenish color indicate warmer undertones.

Check out our guide to primers on the Curology blog for more product recommendations!

Best concealers for pimples

Depending on what you’re trying to cover up, you’ll need a different color concealer. To cover acne or redness, use a concealer that matches your skin tone. You can also use a green primer, since green cancels out red.

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best, so our team of licensed dermatology providers reviews and assesses countless products on the market to offer a few recommendations. So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our rigorous standards.

Dermablend Cover Care Full Coverage Concealer

  • Provides full coverage with a natural finish and lightweight feel

  • Ultra-blendable and highly pigmented

  • Can helps cover acne, pigmentation, redness, and dark circles

  • Non-comedogenic, fragrance-free

  • Covers blemishes and uneven skin tone

Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer

  • Formulated with SPF 25 to provide sun protection

  • “Illuminating Complex EX” helps diminish the appearance of damage caused by dryness and provides hydration

  • Reduces the visibility of wrinkles around the eyes

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Away Concealer

  • Effectively camouflages dark circles, redness, and spots

  • Persian Silk Tree Bark extract helps create the illusion of a lifted upper eyelid, reduces the appearance of crow’s feet, and helps with dark circles

  • Wild Indigo extract, a native Indian plant used in Ayurvedic remedies, gives the skin a luminous appearance

  • Palmitoyl glycine may help reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles

BareMinerals BAREPRO 16-Hr Full Coverage Concealer

  • Full-coverage, crease-proof, long-lasting waterproof wear

  • Formulated with antioxidant-rich raspberry seed oil, blackcurrant seed oil, and sea lavender

  • Creamy stick formulation is convenient to apply

Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer

  • Full coverage with a matte finish

  • Conceals and doubles as a contour/highlighter

  • Creamy, easy-to-blend formula won’t flake or crease

  • Mango seed butter and shea butter hydrate the skin

  • Helps illuminate skin for a lifted effect

  • Vegan, dermatologist-tested, and cruelty-free

Best under-eye concealers for acne-prone skin

A concealer with yellow or pink undertones is best for covering up under-eye dark circles, veins, or dark spots. An orange or peach-based concealer is good for hiding brown or yellowish areas.

IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer

  • Highly pigmented, long-lasting, waterproof coverage

  • Offered in 48 shades for a closer match to your skin tone and undertone

  • Infused with “anti-aging” peptides, hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants

  • Great for dry and/or mature skin and those who are out and about for long periods

  • Effectively conceals the appearance of dark circles, redness, hyperpigmentation, and broken capillaries

  • Designed not to crease or settle into wrinkles and fine lines

  • Creamy, moisturizing feel

Lancôme Effacernes Waterproof Protective Undereye Concealer

  • Offers full coverage with a natural finish

  • Evens skin tone and covers dark circles

  • Long-wear, waterproof formula

  • Soft, matte finish

YSL Touche Éclat All-Over Brightening Pen

  • Brightening, radiant finish without any shimmer or glitter

  • Medium, buildable coverage with a lightweight feel

  • Vitamin E and hyaluronic acid help keep skin hydrated

  • Good for normal to dry and/or aging skin

Best drugstore concealers

Maybelline Fit Me Concealer

  • Non-comedogenic and fragrance-free

  • Offers natural, medium coverage with a lightweight feeling

  • Affordable drugstore option

  • Recommended for normal to oily skin

L’Oreal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Concealer

  • Offers buildable, natural cover with a lightweight feeling

  • Caters to both skin tone and undertone (cool vs. warm) for a closer match

  • Infused with vitamin E and vitamin B5 to nourish the skin

  • Recommended for all skin types, but especially normal to dry skin

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer

  • Highly pigmented with a glowy finish to cover up under-eye dark circles

  • Infused with goji berry and haloxyl

The most important thing to consider when choosing a concealer

Some ingredients found in makeup, including concealers, can clog pores or irritate the skin—both of which can lead to acne breakouts. If you’re using concealer to cover up pimples, the last thing you want is for that concealer to cause more pimples!

Makeup ingredients to avoid

Here are some common makeup ingredients that may contribute to breakouts or irritate sensitive skin. Keep an eye out for them.

  • Alcohol (irritating)

  • Coconut oil, aka cocos nucifera oil (pore-clogging)

  • Isopropyl myristate (pore-clogging)

  • Myristyl myristate (pore-clogging)

  • Laureth-4 (pore-clogging)

  • Ethylhexyl palmitate (pore-clogging)

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), (drying and pore-clogging)

  • Fragrance (can cause irritation in patients sensitive to smells/odors)

Note on the different types of alcohol in cosmetics

One rule of thumb: Avoid foundations and any product that contains alcohol, denatured alcohol (aka “alcohol denat.”), or isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol doesn’t clog pores, but it can be very irritating and drying¹—which might not be so great for your acne. Some products have very small amounts of alcohol (found towards the end of the ingredients list) which might not irritate skin, but it’s best to err on the side of caution if you’re particularly sensitive.

The exceptions: Alcohols that are okay for your skin

Other types of alcohols, including cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol, are non-irritating,² and are used to give a pleasing texture and help keep ingredients stable in products. Stearyl alcohol has a long history of safe use in personal care products, with no evidence of comedogenicity.

Coconut alcohol is another kind found in skincare and cosmetic products that is an exception to the “no alcohol” rule. Derived from coconut oil, coconut alcohol is an emulsifier with emollient properties. It’s considered a non-comedogenic (i.e., won’t clog pores), non-irritating, safe, and effective ingredient.³

How to check if a product has pore-clogging or skin-irritating ingredients

Some common ingredients in makeup can clog your pores—even if the product is labeled “non-comedogenic!” Because that term isn’t regulated by the FDA, beauty products can (and often do) claim their products won’t clog pores, even if they do contain pore-clogging ingredients. 

When you know how to check the ingredients list yourself, you can make better choices when choosing which makeup to use. You can start by exploring our comprehensive guide on reviewing skincare products, which contains a list of pore-clogging ingredients to avoid.

Check out our quick-and-easy guide to checking products for pore-clogging ingredients!

Don’t be afraid to break up with your makeup

We know it isn’t easy to find a concealer with the right texture, color, finish, and ingredients that won’t clog pores or irritate your skin—but now, you’ve got plenty to choose from that we’ve checked out for you. Each and every one of the products we recommend here has a unique look and feel, so you’ll probably want to try out a few to find what works best for you. But take it from the experts: a product’s ingredients should be your #1 concern before putting anything on your skin.

The cruel irony of makeup is that acne-free, smooth skin actually wears makeup better, so getting any skin condition under control should be priority numero uno. If you’re using concealer to cover up pimples, post-acne spots, hyperpigmentation, or redness—why not let us help you out with that? Become a Curology member and you’ll get your very own customized skin treatment, prescribed by one of our dermatology providers. Start with a trial!

If you’ve gotten this far and you feel ready to break up with makeup altogether, we salute you! Even if you’ve got pimples, there’s absolutely no shame in owning them while your acne heals. It can be beneficial to give your skin a break from makeup (even non-comedogenic makeup). For a truly minimalist approach, just apply a non-comedogenic face sunscreen in the morning to protect your skin from sun damage, and you’re golden. Your skin will thank you—and you’ll have more time to hit the snooze button.

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FAQs

Which brand of concealer is best for acne-prone skin?

For acne-prone skin, it's vital to choose a concealer that’s non-comedogenic to avoid clogging pores. Maybelline's Fit Me Concealer is a good option as it is non-comedogenic and provides good coverage without being likely to aggravate acne.

What concealer to use to hide acne?

To hide acne effectively, use a concealer that matches your skin tone and provides full coverage. Look for matte finish concealers with high pigmentation to cover redness and blemishes effectively. Options like Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer and BareMinerals BAREPRO 16-Hr Full Coverage Concealer are recommended for their full coverage and acne-safe formulations.

Is concealer OK for acne?

Yes, concealer can be used on acne as long as you choose a non-comedogenic product. It's important to avoid ingredients that can clog pores or irritate the skin, such as coconut oil or denatured alcohol. Also, ensure to apply it gently to avoid further irritating the acne.

Is Maybelline concealer good for acne?

Maybelline offers several concealers that are suitable for acne-prone skin. The Maybelline Fit Me Concealer, for instance, is non-comedogenic and offers a natural, medium coverage which is suitable for normal to oily skin types.

Does concealer help acne?

Concealer doesn’t treat acne but helps to conceal its appearance. Some concealers contain ingredients like salicylic acid, which can help in treating acne while providing coverage.⁴ However, it’s essential to avoid concealers with pore-clogging ingredients that might worsen acne.

How do you cover acne with concealer?

To cover acne, start with a clean and moisturized face. Apply a small amount of a full-coverage, matte concealer directly on the acne. Use a blending sponge or brush to gently blend the concealer into the skin. Setting it with a light powder can help maintain the coverage.

What acne-safe concealer is best for my skin?

The best acne-safe concealer for you will depend on your skin type and tone. For oily and combination skin, matte-finish concealers are recommended. For dry skin, choose a hydrating formula. Brands like Maybelline and Tarte offer acne-safe options in various shades.

Is concealer good for acne-prone skin?

Yes, concealer can be beneficial for acne-prone skin when used correctly. Choose non-comedogenic, oil-free concealers that won't clog pores. Avoid concealers with ingredients that can exacerbate acne, like coconut oil or alcohol.

What is a good concealer for acne?

A good concealer for acne is one that provides adequate coverage without clogging pores. Products with ingredients that combat acne, like salicylic acid, are beneficial.

What concealer can I use on acne?

You can use a non-comedogenic, oil-free concealer on acne. Look for products that provide full coverage and are formulated for acne-prone skin.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Lachenmeier, D.W. Safety evaluation of topical applications of ethanol on the skin and inside the oral cavity. J Occup Med Toxicol. (2008, November 13).

  2. European Chemicals Agency. Health surveillance data - Alcohols, C16-18. (n.d.). 

  3. Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. Amended Safety Assessment of Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Coconut Acid, Hydrogenated Coconut Acid, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Ammonium Cocomonoglyceride Sulfate, Butylene Glycol Cocoate, Caprylic/Capric/Coco Glycerides, Cocoglycerides, Coconut Alcohol, Coconut Oil Decyl Esters, Decyl Cocoate, Ethylhexyl Cocoate, Hydrogenated Coco-Glycerides, Isodecyl Cocoate, Lauryl Cocoate, Magnesium Cocoate, Methyl Cocoate, Octyldodecyl Cocoate, Pentaerythrityl Cocoate, Potassium Cocoate, Potassium Hydrogenated Cocoate, Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Cocomonoglyceride Sulfate, Sodium Hydrogenated Cocoate, and Tridecyl Cocoate. (2008, September 23).

  4. Lu, J., et al. Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes. Exp Dermatol. (July 2019).

Kristen Jokela is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.

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** Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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