best foundations without salicylic acid for acne-prone skin

“What are the best foundations for acne-prone skin without salicylic acid?,” a reader asked me the other day.

Salicylic acid is a godsend for oily skin: it exfoliates the pores from the inside out, preventing them from getting all clogged up and causing breakouts.

Why would you want a foundation without it? A couple of reasons come to mind:

  • Although rare, it can cause irritations in some people
  • You’re already using a separate exfoliant with salicylic acid (overexfoliaton is NEVER good)

In these cases, a salicylic acid free foundation works best. Here are my favourites:

Best For Warm-Toned Complexions: Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Makeup ($28.50)

Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Makeup has a creamy, slightly fluidy texture with a matte finish that provides medium to full coverage, helping to cover breakouts and other imperfections. Plus, it has oil-absorbing properties that soak up excess oil, helping to keep your skin matte for a few hours (but you may still need to use blotting paper during the day). Did I mention it blends like a dream and lasts long, too? You can choose between 20 shades, but they are mostly warm-toned. If you have a cooler complexion, you may struggle to find a good match.

Available at: Feel Unique, Sephora, and Ulta


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Best For Versatility: Dermablend Flawless Creator Multi-Use Liquid Pigments ($40.00)

Do you want to be able to customise the coverage of your foundation, going full on bad skin days and lighter on good ones? Or maybe you need more coverage on your breakout-prone areas and less on clear patches of skin? Dermablend Flawless Creator Multi-Use Liquid Pigments is for you. A drop applied straight from the dropper provides light to medium coverage, while 4 give you a full coverage effect that covers even the most hard-to-hide imperfections. If you need the extra moisture, you can mix the drops with your moisturiser or serum (NEVER sunscreen – you’ll dilute the SPF!). Did I mention you have 20 shades to choose from?

Available at: Dermstore and Ulta

Best On A Budget: Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid Mousse Foundation ($5.49)

Are you on a budget? Then try Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid Mousse Foundation. One of the few matte options available at the drugstore, it provides medium to full coverage that looks natural – if you apply it right. Its texture dries really fast, so it’s easy to overdo it. Resist the temptation – a little goes a long way. They’ve recently expanded the shade range to a whopping 24! It’s impossible not to find a match!

Available at: Target and Walmart

Best With SPF: MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation ($36.00)

First things first: foundations with SPF won’t give you adequate sun protection – unless you apply them generously like sunscreen. But hey, even a little sun protection is better than nothing (especially when nothing is the alternative). Either way, MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation has a lightweight, water-like texture with a satin finish that’s neither matte nor moisturising. In other words, it’s the ideal combination for acne-prone skin. The catch? The SPF comes from mineral UBV filters (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) so it may photograph white. It’s not something I’d wear if I knew I’d get my picture taken. Oh, there are 16 shades, both cool and warm, to choose from.

 Available at: Asos, Look Fantastic, Nordstrom, and Ulta

What do you think are the best foundations for oily, acne-prone skin without salicylic acid? Share your thoughts in the comments below.