Concealers for acne-prone skin

Concealer should cover up acne, not make it worse!

9 minute read

We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

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Concealer is the great equalizer of makeup products: men and women alike 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 breakout-free makeup. 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 downlow. 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), but we all know it’s a journey. 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).

Covering up acne with concealer works great when you’ve got the right products, but beware of concealers with pore-clogging ingredients.

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/dark spots. They don’t spread easily so will unlikely give you good full face coverage. Better for “spot treatments.”

Whichever texture you go for, 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/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 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 to 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 (it’s a good idea, anyway!)

  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.

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 indicate 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.

Dermablend Smooth Liquid Camo Concealer

  • Provides medium to full coverage with a natural finish and lightweight feel

  • Ultra-blendable and highly pigmented

  • Covers 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 throughout the day

  • “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

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer

  • Long-lasting wear up to 16 hours

  • Formulated with hydrating and light-diffusing ingredients

  • Medium buildable coverage

  • Suitable for all skin types

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

Giorgio Armani High Precision Retouch Concealer

  • Blurs imperfections and covers dark circles with a brightened finish

  • Contains light-reflecting pearls that diffuse light for a radiant finish

  • Features vitamin E and other moisturizing ingredients

  • Suitable for all skin types

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

Clé de Peau Radiant Corrector for Eyes

  • Lightweight, liquid texture effectively covers darkness without settling into fine lines

  • Buildable coverage

  • Infused with pearl for a brightened, radiant finish

  • Not only for the eye area—can be used anywhere, for example, to brighten up around the nose

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 cause acne or irritate sensitive skin. Keep an eye out for them.

  • Alcohol (irritating)

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

  • Isopropyl myristate (pore-clogging)

  • Sodium laureth sulfate (pore-clogging)

  • Myristyl myristate (pore-clogging)

  • Laureth-4 (pore-clogging)

  • Ethylhexyl palmitate (pore-clogging)

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

  • Potassium chloride (pore-clogging)

  • Fragrance (can cause irritation)

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 drying—and it can exacerbate any pimples that are already red and inflamed. 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, 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.

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. Luckily, there’s a (free!) tool that makes it easy to check any product for ingredients that can clog pores or irritate your skin. It’s called CosDNA.com, and it’s a must-have for your Bookmarks.

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 free 1-month trial (you only pay $4.95 for shipping and handling) and give it a try.

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 it 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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