How to apply make-up on acne-prone skin – 7 tips from the pros

Managing blemishes doesn't have to be tricky but it does involve helping clients put together a complete skincare plan to suit their skin goals – and that includes make-up.

The wrong make-up can inadvertently highlight redness, showcase flakes and aggravate blemishes. So, we asked the best MUAs in the business what advice you should be passing on to clients with acne-prone skin – from the best foundations to use to what application techniques to avoid.

1. It’s all about that base
“Acne-prone skin can present difficulties but with the right primer and base, achieving a smooth finish is possible. If your client’s skin is spotty but still dry, tell them to apply a gentle primer over the whole face including affected areas,” advises Helen Roche, Illamasqua make-up artist and member of the Illamasqua Art Collective.

“Illamasqua’s Hydra Veil Primer contains a soothing algae extract that calms redness, especially because acne medication can cause extreme dryness teamed with angry blemishes.”

2. Build a strong foundation
“The right foundation can reduce redness and even out the complexion. Tell your client to apply the foundation you’ve chosen for them in thin layers, building it up slowly – foundation shouldn’t go on in one thick layer. It’s also worth using a hydration spray to set the layers and treat skin,” explains Danielle Bookatz, senior brand manager for mineral make-up brand Jane Iredale.

3. Know your cover-ups  
“On areas with acne scarring, advise your client to use a colour corrector in a peach/orange tone to neutralise scars and use a translucent powder to set it,” says Dee Hargreaves, make-up artist and Airbase pro team member. “There are also huge benefits to airbrushing because it removes the need to drag a brush over the skin, risking cross-contamination.”

4. Use the soft touch  
“Tell clients that they need to be gentle, especially because they can aggravate blemishes or cause micro-exfoliation when using buffing techniques on the skin. Tell them to opt for a gentle stippling motion instead, using a soft brush or disposable sponge to build coverage,” says James McKnight, global brand ambassador for make-up brand New CID Cosmetics.

“Brushes are preferable for clients with acne-prone skin because they can be cleaned easily after each use with an antibacterial spray, avoiding spreading bacteria around the face.”  

5. Don’t overdo it 
“I always tell clients to avoid using highlighter because products with shine or iridescence only brings focus to blemishes on the skin,” says McKnight. “I advise clients to only add these products to areas which are blemish-free or use them on their eyes and lips instead.” 

6. Set your hard work
“It’s really important clients know that they need to set any coverage they put on the skin. I love using loose powder the most,” adds Roche. “It’s best to use a medium-sized soft brush to control setting the base as you need to lightly press the powder on top rather than sweeping or dusting it over the skin.”

7. Switch up the regime
“Advise your client to use skincare and make-up that’s tailored to their skin type because sensitive and blemish-preventing products contain key ingredients that help manage and reduce inflammation, spots and pimples,” explains Leona Gavriel, make-up pro for brand Mii Cosmetics.