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Makeup for Oily Skin: Primer, Foundation and Powder

Punkmarkgirl is a freelance writer with a passion for DIY projects, natural health, and makeup featuring the best products for oily skin.

closeup of a woman's face and skin

closeup of a woman's face and skin

Makeup for Oily Skin

Finding the best products and makeup for oily skin can be a challenge. This article will provide a list of primers, foundations, and powders for oily skin and will detail a brief review of each. The solution to stopping oily skin can be found if you select the right products. This article also includes a list of products that you should avoid if you have oily skin.

When you have oily skin, you know how difficult it can be to find long-lasting makeup that won't fade or rub off. Many products are suited for dry or combination skin and do not last for more than a few hours. Finding the right products becomes even more difficult in the summer when high temperatures and humidity put any makeup to the test. Below, you'll find an A-list of products that allow you to stay shine-free and fresh-faced during any season.

Face Primer For Oily Skin

Did you know that makeup actually lasts longer on oily skin when primers are used?

After exfoliating and using an oil-free face wash, you should apply a primer before using foundation, in order to smooth the skin and help makeup bond to the skin. The right primer will protect your pores from the foundation, while giving you a perfect airbrushed finish. Those with oily skin should avoid primers with a high silicone gel content, as most of them do not effectively absorb oil and can plug pores.

The best primers for oily skin are:

  • Clarins Instant Smooth Primer: A pale pink thick primer that easily glides onto skin and becomes transparent. Very gentle on any skin type, and especially compatible with oily skin to reduce the appearance of pores, lines, and blemishes.
  • Mattify! Cosmetics Ultra Powder: A clear powder primer that soaks up 5 times its weight in oil, blurs blemishes and refines pores. The Mattify Powder is highly effective alone, but those with extra oily skin may want to apply the Clarins Primer first, and then the Mattify Ultra Powder. This method provides the most oil control and the longest-lasting foundation

Don't bother spending money on:

  • Derma Doctor Tease Zone Oil Control Gel / Primer: This may work on combination skin, but does absolutely nothing to stop very oily skin. Gives a slick coat to the skin when used under makeup, and actually doesn't allow for long-wearing foundation. Skin gets oily within an hour of application.
  • Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Light: Leave this for those with dry or combination skin. It does not allow for long-wearing foundation on oily skin and actually causes the skin to feel oilier. The high concentration of silicone gel in the product can also clog pores and lead to breakouts.

Foundation for Oily Skin

Using a quality oil-free foundation will help makeup last longer on oily skin.

After primer, apply a foundation designed specifically for oily skin. Most drugstore liquid foundations do not provide long wear on oily skin, so you are better off with high-end brands. Investing in a quality foundation is well worth the extra cost, especially if you want to avoid constant touch-ups. If selecting a mineral foundation, avoid those with Mica and Bismuth (as these ingredients cause oily skin to look even greasier).

Here is a list of the best foundations for oily skin:

  • Clarins Truly Matte Foundation (Liquid): Provides medium to full coverage, is sweat-resistant and lasts 6-8 hours.
  • Estee Lauder Max Coverage Foundation (Liquid): Full coverage, lightweight & water-resistant, lasts 8-10 hours.
  • Illuminare Ultimate All Day Mattifying Mineral Foundation (Liquid): Full coverage, mineral makeup, water-resistant, lasts 8-10 hours.
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation (Liquid): Full coverage, oil-absorbent, lightweight, lasts 10-12 hours.
  • L'Oreal True Match Blendable Compact (Pressed Powder Foundation): Medium coverage, blendable, lasts 4-6 hours.

Don't bother spending money on:

  • Revlon Colorstay Foundation: Feels thick, heavy and greasy on oily skin. It provides minimal coverage and does not stay put for more than a couple of hours, even when primer, setting powder, and fixative spray are used.

Setting Powder for Oily Skin

Applying setting powder over the foundation gives you a fresh, matte finish.

To maximize the longevity of your foundation, apply an oil-absorbent setting powder. It is important to either pat the powder onto the skin, using a powder puff or gently brush it onto the skin with a fluffy powder brush. Never rub the powder onto the skin, or it will cause your foundation to streak and smudge—giving you an uneven finish.

Powder will set your foundation for long wear, and help absorb skin oil that would otherwise disrupt your makeup. The Mattify! Ultra Powder, mentioned as a primer above, also works beautifully as setting powder. It is ideal to use as a re-touch powder because it is transparent and does not look heavy - even if reapplied several times throughout the day. Avoid repeated touch-ups with dark-colored powders, as this can lead to heavy "cakey" looking makeup. Also, avoid powder formulas that contain mica because they cause oily skin to look shinier.

Here is a list of top face powders for oily skin:

  • Mattify! Cosmetics Ultra Powder (Loose Transparent Powder): Super oil control face powder, blurs imperfections & pores, perfect for touch-ups, sets makeup 4+ hours.
  • Coty Airspun Powder (Loose Colored Powder): Somewhat oil absorbent, blends easily, blurs pores, sets makeup 3+ hours.
  • Estee Lauder Double Matte (Pressed Colored Powder): Somewhat oil absorbent, stay-true color with a perfect finish, sets makeup 3+ hours.
  • Maybelline Mineral Powder (Pressed Colored Powder): Smooths skin, covers minor blemishes, sets makeup 2+ hours.

Don't bother spending money on:

  • Urban Decay De-Slick Mattifying Powder: This strangely tinted white/lilac face powder does absolutely nothing to absorb oil. Worst of all, it comes in a compact that seems to absorb oil from the powder puff, leaving a greasy topcoat inside the compact. Most drugstore brands of pressed powder are better than this one.
  • Diorskin Crystal Nude Matte Skin Perfector: A waxy, sticky compact that does very little to control oil and smudges makeup when applied over foundation. Also, when you blot the sponge over your face, sebum transfers from your face - to the sponge - to the container, creating a breeding ground for bacteria.

Eye Makeup for Oily Eye Lids

Long-lasting eye makeup can be a challenge for those with oily skin and eyelids. Sebum (skin oil) dissolves the composition of eye shadow, resulting in fading and creasing. Those with oily skin will have longer-lasting results with oil absorbent and/or waterproof eye makeup.

Here is a list of the best eye shadows for oily skin, plus waterproof mascara:

  • Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Shadow (Eye Shadow Pencil): Waterproof eye shadow with a huge array of color choices, easy to apply, dries quickly.
  • Stila Cosmetics Smudge Stick Waterproof Eyeliner (Gel-Based Automatic Eye Liner): Smudge-proof, long-lasting, a large array of high pigment colors.
  • Wet & Wild H20 Proof (Liquid Eye Liner): Waterproof, smudge-proof, lasts until you remove it, perfect for a smoky eye or cat-eye looks.
  • Mattify! Cosmetics Long Lasting Eye Shadow (Loose Powder Shadow): Very long-lasting, use wet as a liner or dry as a shadow, oil absorbent, doesn't crease, high pigment.
  • MAC Eye Shadow (Compact Powder Shadow): Long-lasting, very high pigment, easy to blend, comes in a vast array of colors.
  • Cover Girl Lash Blast (Waterproof Mascara): Creates long and lush lashes, dries within 1 minute, stays on until you take it off.
  • L'Oreal Telescopic (Waterproof Mascara): Small round brush allows for targeted application, incredibly long-lasting and waterproof.

Don't bother spending money on:

  • Cream Eye Shadows: They streak smudge, smear, and remain sticky all day, even when a setting spray is used. Unless the cream shadow is marked "waterproof", this type of shadow won't have any staying power on oily skin.

Makeup Setting Spray

Finally, to set your makeup in place, for hours, a setting spray should be used. Even if you've applied all of the longest-lasting, waterproof formulas available, you may still find that your oily skin causes makeup to smudge. Using a setting spray ensures at least 4 hours of budge-proof, smudge-proof, waterproof makeup. There aren't many of these on the market, but the ones that do exist all work wonderfully to prevent makeup meltdown.

Mist the spray onto your face with eyes closed, after all makeup has been applied. It usually takes 30 seconds for the spray to dry fully. If you need, minor touch-ups with liquid makeup can be done over the spray throughout the day, and face powder can be easily applied once the spray has dried, without any problems.

Here is a list of the best setting sprays for oily skin:

  • Model in a Bottle: Water-resistant, feels 100% natural, dries to a perfect undetectable finish, sets makeup for 6-8 hours.
  • Ben Nye Final Seal: Water-resistant, feels somewhat natural, touch-ups with liquid makeup not recommended - flakiness occurs, sets makeup 6-8 hours.
  • Urban Decay All Nighter: Dries to a lightweight and undetectable finish, feels 100% natural, best applied under and over makeup, sets makeup 4-6 hours.
  • Mehron Barrier Spray: Feels somewhat natural, very long-lasting, sweat-resistant, works well in high humidity, sets makeup for 6-8 hours.

Don't bother spending money on:

  • MAC Fix + Spray: This is more of a "refresher" than a spray designed to set makeup. The product is packed with vitamins and feels ultra refreshing - but does not set makeup for long wear. Suited best toward dry skin, skip this one if you're oily.

I personally have tried hundreds of products for oily skin that failed the test of longevity. The items I mention in this article are tried-and-true for long wear on oily skin, and many are items I use consistently to achieve a flawless shine-free face. I've spent hundreds—maybe even thousands of dollars trying various products to control my oily skin. About 80% of all I've purchased were not worthy of repeat purchasing. To date, the products mentioned above are the top products I've found for shiny skin. This guide can help you select the best products for you, without having to spend a fortune guessing which items are suited for a shiny face! The products mentioned can be found at department stores, Sephora, Ulta, or by typing the product name into an online search engine.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Ashley Bergin


Rupali on July 13, 2020:


Oily skin power

Ashley Bergin (author) from san francisco on March 29, 2018:

@ Sharon

My article included products that I have used, and that have worked very well on my oily & acne prone skin. Bare Minerals caused horrible skin irritation and even gave me a rash - which is why it isn't on the list. After doing some research, I found that one of its ingredients (called Bismuth Oxychloride) causes problems for many women with oily skin. Please don't assume I'm being paid by these companies. That would be nice..however, it is not the case. These are all products that I have used and had success with.

Sharon on March 28, 2018:

No mention of Bare Minerals powder foundations yet Maybelline made it onto this list. Lots of pore clogging things on these lists that oily girls should be avoiding as well. Stay away from these forums girls. They are all loaded with brands in their lists because they have been paid by these companies. Urban Decay will keep the oil at bay but will cause acne if you overuse it also. Let your skin breath and avoid those silicones!

Debbie Coulter on May 20, 2016:

Thank you for your comments. They were very helpful and I appreciate your honesty in comparing the high priced ones to the drug store.

Vivian on October 05, 2015:

Special thanks to you for this great seminar,I have been suffering from oily skin and have stop using foundation powder but no improvement. Pls advice me on what to use.

Vivian on October 05, 2015:

Special thanks to you for this great seminar,I have been suffering from oily skin and have stop using foundation powder but no improvement. Pls advice me on what to use.

BuyMeBeauty on July 24, 2015:

Love this post- I don't usually have oily skin, but sometimes in the humidity of summer it can look oily. I'm going to try some of the matte powders you listed on top of my makeup- I think that will help!

Missy on January 26, 2015:

I'm still going through oily skin in my mid 40s. It's so bad that I recently decided to stop wearing foundation. Still, no dice. Anyway, I'm going to try some of these products. I would like to look nice even 1-2 hours after applying makeup. Even after a whole day!

Ashley Bergin (author) from san francisco on August 21, 2014:

Hi Esther! Well I'm not sure what you have and haven't tried. I would suggest using the Mattify Ultra Powder before and after your makeup, and keep blotting sheets handy to sop up oil after an hour or so. Also, definitely try the Model in a Bottle makeup setter spray, because it will help your makeup stay on, even if you do get oily. Those are by far the top 3 must have products if you have oily skin. I've searched for years, and they are the only ones that even come close to working for me.

Esther on August 20, 2014:

I'm always embarrassed at work the way my face shines of oil. I apply makeup in the morning before setting out to work as normal,, but after few hours my face will nearly be dripping of oil,,, I don't know what I'm not doing right,,, I need help with the best oil control products and makes,, please help any one,,

Wendy on April 06, 2013:

I've found Estee Lauder's Double Matte liquid foundation to be a life saver. While it is a little thick, it covers VERY well. I top with Lancome's Translucent powder which is also mattifying.

While my whole face is oily, my eyes are the worst. The oil on my eyelids has been known to pool down my lashes and get into my eyes. Not fun at all. Lorac's Behind the Scenes Eye Primer solved this issue single handedly. My eye makeup doesn't crease in the slightest as well. If I'm having a really oily day, I make have a little flaking at the outside corners of my eyes but I'll take that over oil & makeup sliding into my eyes.

MAGALLY on January 24, 2013:


Agnes on November 29, 2012:

I have really oily skin after doing some research I came across Revlon Colorstay Foundation so I decided to try it out and I have to say it doesn't work my face feels greasy after I put it on and my face gets shiny within 1 hour so Im glad I found this page I will have to try out some of this stuff.

Lindsay on October 07, 2012:

I also use the Revlon Colorstay Foundation (for oily skin types). While I do still get oily looking skin, this is the ONLY foundation that will LAST a long time on me, most foundations just melt off my skin within a few hours! I work out wearing this makeup, not only does it stay put, but it also doesn't cause breakouts like many other foundations have done in the past. I have also gone to the beach/swimming and it stayed on after a full day of fun in the sun!! I will be trying the primers suggested here because I still do get the oily look, but it's no worse looking than without the foundation on.

TeachableMoments from California on August 19, 2012:

Voted up, useful.

I too use Revlon Colorstay Foundation and I love it. I have extremely oily skin and after trying countless products I can honestly say Revlon's Colorstay Foundation is the best. Revlon makes two different types-one for oily skin and one for dry skin. Perhaps the one you used was for dry skin. If so, try the one made especially for oily skin. I've gone swimming in this makeup, in 90 degree heat, and Revlon Colorstay Foundation still stayed on.

Margaret on July 15, 2012:

well it started off well - until the moment it said "don't even bother buying Revlon Colorstay Foundation" - because exactly that foundation suits so well for oily skin - I have oily skin, I'd even say very oily and I use it, and I love it - it covers everything I need it to cover and it doesn't feel so heavy whatsoever - the foundation lasts a really long time - so if you want to go to gym after work - you'll find that your face will still look pretty great after gym and all the sweat!! I know this because I workout after work and I have that foundation on. So I don't even know if most of the things here said are true...

Kara Louise on July 02, 2012:

Where can you buy these products in Victoria ? Or even an online websit?

Fotinoula Gypsyy from NYC BABY on May 28, 2012:

Great article, very descriptive and helpful!

DiamondsandMoore on March 18, 2012:

Very informative. Thank you so much for the good information. Have spent a fortune also and this has really helped me. EXCELLENT !!!

Zoey from South England on April 02, 2011:

This hub was brilliant. I have oily/dry skin and spend a fortune on make-up and moisturizers etc that claim to fix the problem but often don't. I will know what to buy and not to buy now. Thank you for sharing, voted up and awesome :)