Foundation for Oily Skin Is Tricky—I Asked Makeup Artists for All Their Secrets

Even though I'm absolutely obsessed with makeup (I'm beauty editor, duh) and even though I've personally tried what feels like hundreds of primers and foundations on my own oil- and acne-prone skin, I am not a professional. I don't prep celebrities and models for red carpets, photoshoots, and runways. There are hundreds of secret tips I've never laid eyes or ears on, and perhaps most importantly, the only canvas I've ever worked on is myself. Unlike, say, celebrity makeup artists who work with countless tones, textures, and skin types on a regular basis. (At least, pre-quarantine, anyway.)

Although we're midway through summer and oily skin feels especially relevant right now (the grease simply won't stop!), acne, oil, and excess shine is a year-round dilemma for those of us who naturally veer more slick and slippery. And if you can relate, you already know how tricky it can be to apply and wear foundation with natural-looking yet budge-proof success. To lend a helping hand in the form of secret-spilling beauty intel, I recruited two of the best makeup artists in the business, Bob Scott and Tasha Reiko Brown. Not only are they sharing eight of the best foundations for oily skin, but they're also sharing the most important application tips to make said foundations sing the second they touch your face. Keep scrolling! Everything you've ever wanted to know about the best foundations for oily skin and beyond lay just ahead. 

Bob Scott, Celebrity Makeup Artist



Celebrity clients: Padma Lakshmi, Karlie Kloss, Hannah Bronfman, Sasha Blane, Barbie Ferreira

The Foundation Recs

"This foundation is amazing for oily skin," notes Scott. "It works well on its own and applied directly onto the skin. It delivers coverage and tames shine while still looking natural once it's melted into the skin. It can also work over a light liquid foundation for extra coverage, and/or for precise blotting where the skin is more oily."

If you're looking to control oil but still want a natural-looking glow, Scott recommends embracing your natural dewiness and only applying the powder foundation to the T-zone. "Leave those areas where we add highlight uncovered and just make sure to blend."  



"Revlon's Colorstay Foundation is another favorite for oily skin. It gives smooth, long-lasting coverage that stays matte. As a bonus, it contains hydrating hyaluronic acid, so it moisturizes the skin which in effect, prevents the skin from getting too oily."



"Armani's Luminous Silk Foundation is especially great for oily skin because it is oil-free, and it sets in such a way where it actually starts to look better the longer you wear it. It keeps this soft satin finish all day."



"Black Opal made their Pore Perfecting Powder Foundation so well—it blends easily into the skin and brings a velvety smoothness to oily skin."

If you've applied powder foundation and don't want it to look too heavy, Scott suggests warming your hands by rubbing them together and pressing your palms into the areas that feel overdone. "This will take some powder away and will bring some life back to your foundation. To finish, take a smaller applicator and spot check any areas that may need more coverage or shine taming."



Scott's Best Foundation Tips for Oily Skin

Tip #1: Always apply your foundation on hydrated skin.

"If you skip hydrating your skin after you cleanse, your body will overcompensate by pushing more oil to the skin to hydrate itself," Scott explains. 

To keep your skin topped up with moisture, he suggests equipping yourself with certain essentials like hydrating mists, hyaluronic acid serums, or gel-formula moisturizers, which are lighter in weight and better suited for oily skin types. 

Tip #2: Invest in a foundation primer and makeup setting spray.

According to Scott, oily skin tends to shed foundation faster and more easily than other skin types, so he recommends using a foundation primer and a setting spray to give your foundation application even more stamina.

"I love the primer from Pat McGrath Labs, and Urban Decay's All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray—their All Nighter Waterproof Setting Powder is also amazing for oily skin."

Tip #3: Don't over-apply foundation in an attempt to control oily skin.

"Using too much foundation can cause the makeup to crease because it never set in the first place," explains Scott. "This can make the finish look heavy or cakey, so I try to use a little at a time and add layers to areas that need more coverage, instead of applying an even layer all over the face. Look to oil-controlling skincare formulas and mattifying primers to keep the shine where you want it."

Tasha Reiko Brown, Celebrity Makeup Artist

Celebrity clients: Lupita Nyong'o, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Alicia Keys, Logan Browning

The Foundation Recs

"The matte finish of this foundation keeps skin looking shine-free longer, and the pore-blurring effect it has makes it perfect for combination skin or oily skin types," Reiko Brown tells us. 

"The shade range this foundation has meant there's a perfect match for everyone. The key to its shine-free properties lies in the subtle micro-powders that are folded into the foundation formula."

"This foundation is a perfect option for anyone with oily skin who prioritizes clean beauty products. The serum texture keeps oily skin from feeling greasy."

"Oil- and paraben-free, this foundation gives skin a creamy, satin-like texture with buildable coverage. It’s matte, but it still gives your skin a beautiful yet believable skin texture." 

Reiko Brown's Best Foundation Tips for Oily Skin

Tip #1: Pre-game with a mild astringent toner containing tea tree oil.

"A great toner with tea tree oil or a mild astringent swiped across the face on a cotton pad ensures you're starting the makeup application process with an oil-free canvas," Reiko Brown explains. From there, you can go ahead with your primer and foundation. If you're really oily, she suggests a primer that's oil-free. 

Tip #2: Don't underestimate the power of translucent setting powder. 

"A major application key for oily skin types is a great translucent setting powder," notes Reiko Brown. "A translucent powder sets the foundation and provides staying power without adding an extra layer of coverage. I focus on applying the powder in the T-zone to minimize shine and control oil."

Tip #3: De-prioritize luminous makeup formulas, or see if there's a way to try a sample first. 

"Luminous formulas look great for a short time after you apply them, but then they go greasy as your natural oils eventually breakthrough. For oily skin, samples are a necessity. The formula may look good on your skin earlier in the day or directly after you apply it, but the trick is to see how wears throughout the day and how it looks by nighttime."

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