My Makeup Never Fails to Get Oily During the Day—Here's the $10 Solution

Primers can be a controversial topic in the beauty industry. While some, like myself, swear by them, others can't stand them or think they're completely pointless. But, in my opinion, they're a must-have product if you have oily or acne-prone skin.

Oily skin can be tough to deal with, especially if you have combination skin, which can be both dry and oily. After speaking to countless experts, including makeup artists and dermatologists, I discovered that all seemed to agree oily skin equals unbalanced skin. The deeper layers of your skin might be dehydrated. And when that happens, the skin tends to start producing more oil to overcompensate for the dryness on the surface. 

This was definitely the case for me, but it can also take time, and the right skincare, to bring balance back to your skin. I've found that using a serum with multiple molecular weights of hyaluronic acid has been a game changer. Hyaluronic acid is lightweight and helps bind water to the skin to decrease moisture loss and leave the skin feeling more balanced. In the meantime, you can try a mattifying, noncomedogenic (meaning it won't clog pores) primer to keep your makeup from melting into a mess within a few hours. Keep scrolling for my top picks and a peek at how my $10 favorite performs. 

Best Primers for Oily Skin



Best Overall: E.l.f. Cosmetics Matte Putty Primer

Pros: Budget-friendly, infused with kaolin clay and white charcoal to absorb excess oil, minimizes the appearance of pores, and doesn't clog pores.

Cons: Clay and charcoal may be too drying for some, contains silicones, and may not be suitable for acne-prone skin.

I honestly can't believe this primer is only $10. I know not everyone is into primers, but I can vouch for this one. Give it a try if you tend to have oily or acne-prone skin. I'm wearing it in the photo above, which was a dewier makeup look, but I loved the airbrushed finish it created with my foundation. Normally, I'm not into formulas that intensely mattify because my skin is finicky and can be both oily and dry. This one, however, helps keep excess oil at bay without being too drying, providing the perfect happy medium. It's velvety and creates that porcelain-skin effect. I usually like a dewier look when it comes to my everyday makeup, and this primer doesn't make my complexion look dull or dry. Instead, it creates the perfect base for my foundation and other products to shine. It's proof you can create a glowing look and still keep things matte. To be transparent, I also have acne-prone skin, and this primer has never irritated it. However, it does contain silicones, which can irritate reactive, highly-sensitive, or acne-prone skin.

Customer Review: "This girlie is great. My face is really oily, and my pores are really noticeable around my nose, but if I wash my face and put putty primer [on] straight after, my pores are barely visible for the whole day. [It] may feel tacky at first, but just give it a bit, and it won't feel like that anymore."

Tatcha The Liquid Silk Canvas: Featherweight Protective Primer

Pros: Protects skin from pollutants and includes layers of silk to minimize pores, fine lines, and blemishes.

Cons: Expensive.

I know most of us don't want to spend more than $15 on a primer, but Tatcha's Liquid Silk Canvas is worth the extra dollars. This is my go-to primer most days. It keeps my makeup looking fresh for days in the office. It also never turns my face into an oil slick by the end of the day and gives my foundation such an airbrushed look. We can thank ingredients such as fibroin, sericin, and silk powder in the formula for that.

Customer Review: "This primer makes every foundation I wear look absolutely beautiful, and my skin looks soft. I was hesitant to pay this much, but this primer truly looks fantastic under foundation."

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

Pros: Completely noncomedogenic and suitable for sensitive skin. Blue agave extract grips makeup to prevent caking, while hyaluronic acid and cannabis seed extract boost hydration.

Cons: A bit tacky or sticky after application.

A dermatologist once told me that if you're experiencing oiliness, your skin might be dehydrated within its deeper layers and is overcompensating by producing more oil. Let me tell you, my life changed after hearing that statement. I always assumed I should toss formulas made for drier skin types because they'd make me even oilier, but they can actually help to balance out my skin. This primer, in particular, is a favorite of mine because although it's incredibly featherlight and hydrating, it's also noncomedogenic and won't clog pores or cause acne.

Customer Review: "I have been using this religiously. It is a staple in my makeup kit. It's such a great primer, I have combination skin, and it helps my foundation stick to my face and stays throughout the day. I've gone through five bottles at least."

Paula's Choice Shine Stopper Instant Matte Finish Oil Control Primer

Pros: Unique microsponge technology controls excess oil production, minimizes the appearance of pores, and has a lightweight formula.

Cons: May be too drying for some.

Paula's Choice offers this mattifying primer with unique "microsponge" technology that helps reduce shine by mattifying the skin's natural oils. It also minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores and lasts for hours.

Customer Review: "I have rather oily skin in my T-zone area. I add a face moisturizer with SPF, and my face looks so shiny and greasy, and my pores stand out even more. I dabbed on a little Shine Stopper, and the shine was gone! My face is perfectly matte after applying this product. My skin feels amazingly smooth, and my pores? What pores? I don't see any pores. The weather is mild now, and I've only had to apply it once in the morning, and it lasts until I wash it off in the evening. The summers in my area are humid, muggy, and oppressive. I'm curious to see how the product stands up against that weather, but even if I have to reapply once or twice a day during the dog days of summer, that's fine. Everyone's face biome is different, and some products work better for some than others, but for me, the Shine Stopper is a game changer. I couldn't be more satisfied with the results."

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Primer

Pros: Provides a natural, matte finish, blurs the appearance of pores, lightweight and breathable formula that lasts all day.

Cons: Contains silicones like dimethicone and may not be suitable for highly sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Baby Skin lives up to its name. It will create a smooth, silky, matte base for makeup but is also lightweight, breathable, and hydrating.

Customer Review: "I have pretty oily skin, and this was my go-to for years. It does its job and is cheap, perfect for people not looking to spend a lot of money on makeup and want something easy to find."

Make Up For Ever Step 1 Primer Shine Control

Pros: Mattifying formula absorbs oil to control excess shine. Ginseng in the formula promotes radiant-looking skin.

Cons: May be too drying for some.

In addition to controlling shine, this primer contains ginseng to protect against environmental aggressors. Plus, mineral clay powder helps absorb excess oil on the skin's surface. 

Customer Review: "Love this stuff. I wear it under my makeup as a base, [and it] does wonders for my acne and oily skin. I find it still helps matte the look, but I mostly use it to keep the makeup out of my pores."

Milk Makeup Pore Eclipse Mattifying + Blurring Makeup Primer

Pros: Provides a soft matte finish. Niacinamide minimizes oil and pores, while baukchiol smooths skin texture.

Cons: Contains a strong natural fragrance.

If Milk's Hydro Grip isn't quite your thing, don't worry, the brand has another pore-snatching offering you might want to consider. Pore Eclipse is a water-cream hybrid formula with skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide to minimize pores, bakuchiol to smooth skin texture, and lentil extract to help reduce shine. With an almost perfect five-star rating on Sephora, it's safe to say this one is a fan-favorite primer for oily skin.

Customer Review: "I have been looking everywhere for a good primer, and I have never found one this good for dry skin. This product is underrated. It's unfair, and you get so many uses out of it. I bought the mini size to try, and I now have the full size, but I did not run [out] of the mini size after using it every day for two months."

Best Primers for Oily Skin



Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Primer

Pros: Absorbs excess oil, provides an airbrushed finish, formulated with microspherical powders to blur out blemishes.

Cons: Expensive, may be too drying for some.

I completely swear by Hourglass formulas. The brand's Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick ($48) is my absolute favorite stick foundation, and the primer doesn't disappoint either. It's translucent and smooth and keeps my foundation looking pretty matte without drying out the surface of my skin. I love the gel-like formula because it glides on easily and never feels like you're actually wearing a primer.

Customer Review: "This is the best primer I've ever tried. I bought it, swallowing the typical sky-high Hourglass price point after Laura Mercier discontinued my previous favorite, and it really is a special product. Feels amazing on the skin, works with all my foundations, improves wear time, and you don't need lots of it to get all the benefits. I wish it wasn't nearly 60 dollars, but in this case, the price point matches the performance."

Bobbi Brown Primer + Mattifier

Pros: Controls oil, blurs pores, helps balance skin's moisture levels.

Cons: Contains silicones like dimethicone and may not be suitable for highly sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Bobbi Brown's Primer + Mattifier provides all the usual benefits, including pore-minimizing and oil control, but as a bonus, it also helps to balance the skin's natural moisture levels. I love this one because it's breathable and does what it says. I never get dry or oily throughout the day when I wear it, and I feel like it helps curb any potential breakouts from wearing a face full of foundation all day.

Customer Review: "Used to use the Becca mattifying primer and have been on the search for something comparable since it was discontinued. I think this is it!! Almost the same consistency and keeps me matte for hours. Not all day, but for a while."

Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Face Primer

Pros: Budget-friendly, contains SPF 20 sun protection, enriched with clay to control shine, matte finish for up to 16 hours.

Cons: May be too drying for some.

This drugstore classic from Maybelline has been a go-to for me since high school. When I started getting into makeup, this was the first primer I snagged at Target. Even now, as a beauty editor with plenty of options, I still use it! It keeps my foundation firmly in place without making my skin tight or dry after a few hours.

Customer Review: "Goes on clear, very soft finish. Holds makeup on skin well. Lasts all day, didn't sweat off."

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Mattifying Primer

Pros: Blue agave extract helps mattify skin, is oil-free, and extends the wear of your foundation.

Cons: May be too drying for some.

This is another fan favorite among those with oily skin. I'll admit this one isn't in my regular rotation because it's a tad too mattifying for me, but it does what it says. I'd say it's a good option for those who tend to get oily right after applying makeup. It'll definitely curb that and pairs great with the brand's Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Foundation.

Customer Review: "Best primer for oily skin. If you want your makeup to last all day, this primer does the job. The creamy consistency dries down lovely for pre-makeup application. Leaves skin feeling soft and matte."

Benefit Cosmetics The Porefessional Face Primer

Pros: Minimizes the appearance of pores, lightweight formula, and smooths skin texture.

Cons: Contains silicones like dimethicone and may not be suitable for highly sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Benefit's Porefessional Primer is a cult classic. Professional makeup artists swear by it. It works well for most skin types, not just oilier skin. It has a balm-like texture that creates a smooth canvas. I've been using this for ages, and it never fails me. If you have combination skin like I do, give it a go. You won't regret it.

Customer Review: "I have used this for years, and it totally blurs my complexion to perfection. I use it as a base after primer and before my foundation, and it's perfect. Super easy to apply." 

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base Priming Moisturizer

Pros: Enriched with vitamins B, C, and E to replenish skin. Hyaluronic acid, squalane, and shea butter hydrate and balance the skin.

Cons: Expensive and may not be suitable for acne-prone skin.

This priming moisturizer from Bobbi Brown is a rock star. It has an almost perfect five-star rating on Sephora because it's that good. Yes, it's a pricier option, but you're honestly getting two products in one, so I'd say that makes it worth it. The formula is enriched with vitamins B, C, and E to brighten, replenish, and hydrate the skin. Other powerhouse moisturizers like hyaluronic acid, squalane, and shea butter help lock hydration deep into the skin so it's more balanced and less likely to become an oil slick throughout the day.

Customer Review: "I can't say enough great things about this product. I have been using this product for a couple of years, and there really isn't anything like it. It nourishes the skin, applies evenly, and works well for my combination skin! I'm in love and have tried many other products to see if they compare, and nothing can compete!"

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

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