The Best Foundations for Oily, Breakout-Prone Skin

Different makeup foundations

Updated 06/20/22. When you’re prone to clogged pores and breakouts, trying a new foundation can be more stressful than exciting. After all, foundations are notorious for causing closed comedones, which are clogged pores that can turn into full-blown blemishes. To avoid that, you want to find one that’s relatively lightweight, feels comfortable to wear all day long, and most importantly, works well with your skin. 

But how do you know if something will work well with your skin? Well, a few years ago, I did a test called the Oil-Migration Test to provide some guidance on which popular foundations might work best for people with oily, breakout-prone skin. I’ve recently seen it circulating on Instagram and Tik Tok, so I thought I would do it again with some updated foundations. Keep scrolling to see the results of the test, find out which foundations I recommend, and learn why even this test has its limitations. 

The Oil-Migration Test

While not completely scientific, the oil-migration test can give us a sense of how much oil or emollients (slipping agents) are in each foundation. It can also give us a sense of how far they spread (if they don’t spread very far, the idea is that the foundation might stay in place better). Here’s how it works: I started by selecting five popular foundations. The foundations I selected were: 

  • Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation
  • Make Up For Ever HD Skin Undetectable Longwear Foundation
  • NARS Light-Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation
  • Ilia True Skin Medium Coverage Serum Foundation
  • Kosas Revealer Skin-Improving Foundation SPF 25

I then applied a small amount of each foundation to individual oil blotting sheets. After 24 hours, I checked each piece of tissue paper for oil rings. 

The idea is that the extent of migration (AKA the size of the ring) can give us some insight into how much oil is in the formula and how much that oil might spread. My intention was to find out which foundation contained the lowest percentage of oils/emollients, as these might be better suited for oily, breakout-prone skin. After all, anyone who has oily skin knows that when your skin’s natural oils mix with an oily foundation, your makeup can transfer, smudge, or vanish pretty quickly—especially in the t-zone. (That means the foundations that showed less oil migration might also stay put on oily skin longer). 

Check out the picture below to see the results of my oil-migration test after 24 hours! 

best foundations for oily skin

The Results

Based on this test alone, I would say that the Makeup For Ever HD Skin Undetectable Longwear Foundation would be the best one for oily, breakout-prone skin types because it has the least oil migration out of all five foundations. From there, the NARS and the Kosas foundations would be next, because had fairly small oil rings. The Ilia and Chanel foundations would be last because they had the largest oil rings. In order, my foundation picks would be: 

  1. Make Up For Ever HD Skin Undetectable Longwear Foundation
  2. NARS Light-Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation
  3. Kosas Revealer Skin-Improving Foundation SPF 25
  4. Ilia True Skin Medium Coverage Serum Foundation
  5. Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation

However, before you completely write off a foundation based on this test, know that it’s not a 100% accurate depiction of how a foundation will interact with your skin. In other words, this test has its limitations. 

Everyone’s skin is different, and just because a foundation contains oils and emollients, it doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work for you. After all, you can’t judge a product based on the ingredient label alone. One ingredient, or type of an ingredient, can’t tell you everything about the overall formula. It also has to do with the combination of the other ingredients that are included. Still, though, I’m hoping this test provides you with a good jumping-off point when it comes time to try a new foundation! 

It’s also worth noting, that when I did this test a few years ago, the foundations that came out on top (in no particular order) were: 

  1. Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation
  2. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation
  3. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation

The Bottom Line

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I consider makeup an extension of skincare. In fact, I believe everyone should wear makeup daily to offer additional sun protection. (Yes, makeup can actually benefit your skin!)

As is the case with skincare, choosing the right makeup for your skin is a very personal process, and there is never any guarantee that a product will work for you just because it works for someone else. Take your time, accept that you might need to do some trial and error, and always patch test a new product before applying it to your skin! Choosing a new foundation can be challenging, but hopefully, this post gives you a good place to start and takes some of the guesswork out for you!

Watch the video below to see the full oil-migration test. 

Next, find out whether or not silicone ingredients in skincare products cause breakouts

Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


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  1. This article is so amazing, I love to read more. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Posted By: Makeup Foundation  | 

  2. i soon as I read this I went to sephora and got samples of the foundations for acne-prone and oil skin to find which one I love most. Thank you!!

    Though, I have a quick question. Would you use the same brand for concealers as well

    Posted By: Erica Krolczyk  | 

    • Not necessarily since the formulas differ. It may be helpful to try the oil migration test with a few concealers to find which is best for your skin type!

      Posted By: Ella Stevenson  | 

  3. Thank you for this invaluable article Renee. Impartial, thorough and explanatory. Just what the doctor ordered!

    Now all you need to do is carry out a similar process, in establishing the best concealer, face powder etc. for oily, acne prone, sensitive skin!

    Perhaps I can treat you to a cuppa when you’re next in London? xxx

    Posted By: Veronica Kaneti  | 

  4. I found myself wondering TODAY what the best foundation(s) is for my acne prone oily skin. Imagine my excitement when seeing this post with the exact answers I was looking for?! Thank you for sharing!

    Posted By: Michelle  | 

    • Yay! So glad you found what you were looking for 🙂

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  5. Hi there! I am 61 and I’ve always had good skin thank God for my good genes. I did cook it quite a bit under the sun when I was young and was a smokers for many years and my skin is not bad at all. But I do have issues with finding a foundation that doesn’t settle so much into my lines. Right now I’m using Laura Mercier and I like it but I’d like to find a second one I can go to if desired. Also, under my eyes!!! OMG what big issues I have! I will put on under eye concealer and it looks patchy from the second it dries! Same goes for my kid concealer as well. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    Posted By: Lourdes Varela  | 

    • Hi! I don’t have enough experience with makeup to make suggestions, but I recommend going to Sephora or someplace similar and asking a consultant to help you find something suitable. Good luck!

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  6. From a long time i am searching for the perfect foundation accourding to my skin shade. But i don’t know how to choose the shade. Thanks to your blog now i can choose my foundation shade.

    Posted By: sneha  | 

  7. What about powder mineral foundation?

    Posted By: Pam McKinzie  | 

    • I only reviewed liquid foundations for this post, but powder foundations can definitely be a great option for oily skin as well. It just depends on what kind of finish you prefer to have on your skin!

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  8. You’re the best! Any “clean” foundation recommendations? Thank you!!

    Posted By: Felicia  | 

    • Hi there! I don’t have any recommendations unfortunately, however I suggest reading this blog post I wrote about clean beauty if it’s a topic you’re interested in! Clean Beauty

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  9. Renée, I can’t thank you enough for the diligent testing/ analysis of foundations for oily, acne prone skin and your excellent, detailed article! My combo skin becomes very oily and acne prone in the summer due to living in the South (something I know you personally understand from being in Texas) and it’s always been a challenge finding a foundation fit, especially because I don’t wear it that often. I’ve followed you for years and use several of your products and trust your advice more than I do any other “voice” in the industry. We’ve exchanged a few comments on the Into the Gloss FB page and your insight is always spot on for me personally. I love your blog and I’ve spent years obsessed with skincare and own an obscene number of products due to switching to “all natural” from sites like Credo; Integrity; Detox; Follian, etc., while not giving up and actually adding to Biologique Recherche; a few “Sephora” brands (Tatcha; Farmacy; DE; Biossance; Dr. Jart; Glow Recipe, etc); some other esthetician’s like JoAnna Vargas and Shari Darden and finally brands like Allies of Skin; Luzern , etc . I went especially nuts with Hawaiian skincare by purchasing almost the entire lines of Mahalo; Leahlani and Honua. I have become a cautionary tale of excess and overwhelmed at the sheer number of products I have and trying to utilize them before they expire. It’s exhausting and extremely expensive and reading your articles really drives home the fact that I have to simplify and NOT try to buy everything I “want” and ignore the new launches that seem to happen hourly! I do not have an esthetician or dermatologist since I moved, which has been detrimental. I’ve also gone out of my way to avoid anything with silicones, which is an extremely hard feat and your articles on how to use them and clarifying that some ingredients that have a bad wrap, so to speak, can be used in certain formulations have been beyond helpful!!! I’ve learned so much about prevention; acne; skin types and specialized treatments for targeted concerns and skin types from you….I want you to know what an incredible and valuable service you provide with your blogs and your no nonsense approach and content, while coming across like a friend and ally. I appreciate you and your work so much!! Thank you ??

    Posted By: Christine Russell  | 

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’m so glad you’ve found my advice helpful and informative

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  10. No Bare Minerals??? Really? I have been wearing it for years, with no issues. I was under the impression that liquid foundation formulations weren’t appropriate for oily/acne-prone skin. Hmmm…

    Posted By: teachermrw  | 

    • Hi! Bare Minerals is a great choice for someone with acne-prone skin. As far as liquid vs. powder, both can be used, it just depends on your preference. It’s all about finding a foundation that works well with your skin!

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 


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