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What Makeup To Use If You Have Acne Scars (& What To Avoid)

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    Illustrated by Peter Karras.

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    If you're guilty of perennially picking at your pimples (try saying that 10 times fast) or you've battled cystic bumps since your teenage years, chances are you've been plagued by an acne scar or two. The dark marks and crater-like indentations linger, taking weeks — sometimes months — to see themselves out.

    Although makeup is the easiest way to hide these dreaded guys, certain products and application techniques (read: swiping motions) can draw attention to them rather than minimize their appearance.

    We tapped makeup artists Jamie Greenberg and Andre Sarmiento to reveal their best tips for dealing with acne-scarring: what to use, what to steer clear of, and the one step you should never skip. Ahead, we divulge the deets.


    You've never seen beauty quite like this before. Check out our Beauty Innovator Awards for the smartest, funkiest, most fresh to death products of the year.


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    Prime Time
    Before you apply so much as a drop of makeup, you should always prime. Prep your complexion with a primer that will smooth over any problem areas. Sarmiento relies on this one by Too Faced when he's working with clients who have acne scars. "This primer is incredibly smoothing and seems to fill in the scarring while brightening the whole face," he says. Greenberg also highly recommends primers for scarring — she swears by Smashbox's whole line.

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    For a drugstore option look to this celeb makeup artist favorite: it blurs, fills in pores, and helps makeup go on smoothly.

    L'Oréal Revitalift Miracle Blur, $19.97, available at Amazon.

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    This vitamin-rich primer fights against sweat, oil, and dirt, so your makeup stays no matter what you're trying to cover or how much you put on. It's as soft — if not softer — than your moisturizer, so smoothing this over any spot feels hydrating and non-irritating.

    Laura Mercier Foundation Primer, $36, available at Sephora.

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    Don't Go For The Glow
    "Makeup formulas that have a lot of luminosity, dewiness, or a high shimmer content tend to bring out texture and really emphasize the difference between the flat skin and the raised skin throughout the scarring," says Sarmiento. Lesson: Avoid. Anything. Glowy. Sadly, this includes highlighters.

    On the flip-side, matte products are the best because of their ability to absorb light and soften the appearance of the textured areas. If you're looking for a high-coverage, super-matte, and ultra long-wear base, Sarmiento recommends Kat Von D's Lock-It Foundation. "If you have oily, pigmented acne-scarring, then this might be your holy grail," he says.

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    Try this super matte, medium coverage formula. It's light on the skin and doesn't feel like a heavy base so you don't have to worry about it looking oily throughout the day.

    L'Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte 24HR Foundation, $12.99, available at Ulta Beauty.