Growing up with acne-prone and oily skin taught me many things. Namely, how to conceal a spot, the quickest way to take down a breakout overnight, and that moisturiser is not the enemy. It also taught me that when it came to makeup application, I had to be incredibly picky about the products I used on my face. Choosing formulas that felt light and not greasy, that wouldn't clog my pores or irritate spots, and that would minimise shine and make my makeup last longer became my top prerogative.
My skin is much less oily now—I learned the hard way that over cleansing and scrimping on moisture was not the way to deal with it—but when I need to ensure my makeup lasts all day or stands up against hot, humid weather, I employ the same useful tips and techniques that I learned as an oily-skinned teenager.
Essentially, I know how annoying it is when your makeup has slid down your face by midday, when no amount of powder will prevent your T-zone from shining, and when your pores seem to be visible no matter how many layers of foundation you apply.
My secret weapon? Primer. These days, many of the best makeup primers are designed to hydrate skin, to add glow and radiance, and to give skin a fresh, dewy finish. But if you have oily skin, then you probably want the exact opposite. The best primers for oily skin will mattify your complexion, reducing shine, preventing oil from disturbing your foundation, blurring the appearance of pores, and keeping your makeup locked in place from dawn 'til dusk.
The best formulas rely upon ingredients like silicones to create a physical barrier between makeup and skin, while creating a smooth canvas for makeup. What's more, many primers for oily skin contain ingredients like niacinamide and salicylic acid, which help in the long term to control oil, reduce breakouts, and balance skin's moisture levels.
I've tried and tested hundreds of primers over the years, so there's no better person to share an ultimate list of the best primers for oily skin.
1. Benefit Cosmetics Porefessional Face Primer
2. The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer
Silicones sometimes get a bad rep in the skincare world, but they're actually a very underrated ingredient. Since they can't be absorbed into pores, they sit on top of skin, creating a smoothing layer that makeup adheres too. The layer also acts as a barrier to prevent oil from coming through and disturbing the makeup.
3. Milk Makeup Pore Eclipse Mattifying Primer
If you prefer a silicone-free formula (the texture can be a little jarring for some), this is an excellent option. It's formulated specifically for oily and combination skin types, so contains a blend of helpful ingredients like niacinamide and bakuchiol.
4. Beauty Pie Velvet Finish Primer
5. Refy Face Primer
6. e.lf. Cosmetics Power Grip Primer
There's a good reason why this primer has racked up hundreds of five star reviews and gone viral on TikTok. The water-based, jelly-like formula is lightweight and non-greasy so looks and feels totally invisible on skin. Despite this, it impressively locks makeup in place for hours on end.
7. Estée Lauder The Mattifier Shine Control Perfecting Primer
8. Dr. Jart+ Pore Remedy Soothing Primer
I tried and tested this one over the summer, so take it from me, this one really stands up against hot temperatures and humid climates. It's a skincare-makeup hybrid, so as well as locking down makeup it utilises gentle exfoliating acids to target dead skin cell buildup and unclog pores.
9. Urban Decay All Nighter Face Primer
10. NARS Soft Matte Primer
If your skin is oily but prone to occasional dryness, it can be hard to find a primer that works perfectly for you. Enter Nars' Soft Matte Primer. The unique formula features a climate balancing technology which absorbs excess moisture in humid climates while retaining skin hydration in dry ones.
11. Paula's Choice Shine Stopper
Some primers can feel thick and heavy on skin, and if you're prone to oiliness and breakouts, you may be concerned about makeup clogging your pores. Put your mind at rest with this skincare-makeup hybrid from Paula's Choice. It instantly works to keep skin shine free, while working in the long term to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores.
12. ONE/SIZE Beauty Secure The Sweat Primer
13. Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Primer
14. Indeed Labs Nanoblur Instant Skin Finisher