One of the most ironic things about wearing makeup to cover acne is that doing so can cause you to break out even more. If you’ve been applying concealer and foundation onto freshly cleansed skin without using a primer, then you could be clogging your pores, resulting in breakouts. 

Just picking any primer won’t do, either. To find the best primer for acne-prone skin you’ve got to make sure the ingredients in the formula will benefit you and not cause more harm. 

“There are some ingredients to avoid when shopping for a primer for acne-prone skin,” clinical doctor and medical advisor for Welzo James Walker told 21Ninety.

Ingredients to avoid in the best primers for acne-prone skin

Fragrances, alcohols, and heavy oils are all ingredients Dr. Walker said to avoid so that you have the best primer experience.

“Fragrances can be irritating to the skin and can exacerbate acne symptoms,” according to the doctor.

Too many alcohols can dry the skin and even strip your face of its natural oils. Which leads “to increased oil production and breakouts,” per Dr. Walker.

Ingredients to look for in the best primers for acne-prone skin

Don’t worry if that “ingredients to avoid list” just wiped out your current primer collection. Dr. Walker has expert suggestion on what to look for in a new acne-prone-skin-friendly primer.  He recommends primers with salicylic acid, tea tree oil, zinc oxide, and silicone.

For starters, salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (aka BHA) that helps with unclogging pores and preventing acne.

“It also has exfoliating properties that can help remove dead skin cells and reduce the appearance of acne scars,” the doctor explained. 

Tea tree oil is an ingredient that’s known for its antimicrobial properties. Along with fighting “acne-causing bacteria” tea tree oil is also able to help with inflammation and acne-related redness. 

If you have oily acne-prone skin, definitely look for zinc oxide in the product’s formula. Walker says the mineral can help regulate oil production and prevent acne.

Silicone is the ingredient that helps to give you that flawless finish. According to the clinical doctor, silicone is known to create a barrier between your skin and the makeup you layer on top of the primer. This can help prevent clogged pores and breakouts.

Keep scrolling to browse through five of the best primers for acne-prone skin, including a few of Dr. Walker’s recommendations.

Soothe and cool

The Stress Remedy Primer + Redness Relief primer from CoverFX is specifically for people with sensitive and acne-prone. The product’s formula contains a curated blend of extracts and vitamins to treat inflammation and soothe the skin while preventing acne.

“This primer contains salicylic acid and tea tree oil to help prevent breakouts and control oil,” Dr. Walker explained.

Primer with SPF

Clinique is available at just about every beauty counter for a reason. The City Block Sheer Oil-Free Daily Face Protector SPF 25 is one of them. This primer has broad spectrum SPF 25 to protect your acne-prone skin from makeup and the sun. Plus, it has zinc oxide. 

Minimize pores

The Porefessional Pore Minimizing Primer by Benefit Cosmetics is one of the most popular products from the makeup brand. Dr. Walker noted that it uses a mix of silicones to help create the barrier between your skin and whatever makeup you wear. Best of all, the long wearing primer’s matte finish makes it a great choice for oily skin.

A smooth finish

Tatcha’s The Silk Canvas Protective Primer helps to blur any pimple under your foundation and concealer. The silky primer contains actual silk that gives your skin a natural healthy glow. If you have acne-prone skin that could use a boost, this is the primer to try.  

Filter-esque blur

Need a Photoshop-finish without putting in all of the effort to edit out your acne? Then try Smashbox’s Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Oil-Free Foundation Primer. The oil-free and cruelty-free base layer leans on a blend of silicones to create a smooth surface.

“This primer contains salicylic acid to help prevent breakouts and control oil,” according to Dr. Walker. 

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