You simply can’t write about oil-controlling makeup without acknowledging the frustration of dealing with highly overactive sebaceous glands. To combat this issue, oil-controlling primers promise to not only make your makeup stay put all day (which is hard enough to achieve when you have a shiny complexion), but to also help mattify over-enthusiastic oil production.
These products typically contain polymers that simultaneously bind the foundation with your skin while also creating a smooth finish without looking greasy. Some also have ingredients that can help control shine, like silica. The result? An even, sheen-free finish and makeup that lasts all day. It almost sounds too good to be true.
Here are the most popular oil-controlling primers we put to the test.
Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer
Provides SPF protection
It took only a few seconds for us to fall in love with this primer. The words “mineral” and “paraben-free” caught our attention immediately, as we do appreciate good clean and eco-friendly makeup. Compared with other primers we've tried, this one definitely feels less greasy, so there were high hopes for it. Even through heat and humidity, our testers stayed shine-free.
Price at time of publish: $56 for 1 oz
Key Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, combination, oily | Dosage: 0.5 to 1 pump | Size: 0.3 oz, 1 oz, 2 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Neutrogena Shine Control Primer
At $12, Neutrogena’s primer is certainly a budget option, but don’t let the price fool you into thinking it’s ineffective. We were impressed with the product’s longevity, and skin remained shine-free, even after hours of wear. It glides on easily, and liquid foundation follows evenly over the top.
Also note that this product does contain fragrance, so if your skin’s on the sensitive side, be sure to do a spot test before applying it all over your face.
Key Ingredients: Rice protein technology | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Maybelline New York Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Primer
Can use alone
Can feel greasy
Maybelline's primer might be a great affordable option, but it feels just as undetectable as its pricier counterparts. And for the days when you want to go easy on the makeup application, it has enough skin-perfecting power to be worn alone. But the best bit is that it's clear, making it a great option for a range of skin tones.
Price at time of publish: $7.99
Key Ingredients: Silica | Skin Type: All | Dosage: A thin layer | Size: 0.6 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"Most importantly, it extended the wear time of my foundation and prevented it from transferring or moving around on my face. Bottom line: This stuff works." —Olivia Hancock, Product Tester
Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Face Primer
Not for those who like minimal makeup
Like a bottled Instagram filter, Benefit's primer is slightly thicker than the ones you might have used before, so it's best suited for those who don't mind wearing a lot of makeup. Once it's on, it's as though someone put a plug in each one of your pores. It's been noted to last all day and well into evening runs. Impressive, right?
Price at time of publish: $32
Key Ingredients: Vitamin E | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, combination, oily | Dosage: A thin layer | Size: 0.7 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
NARS Pore & Shine Control Primer
Can be drying
This primer from Nars mops up any excess sebum to leave an all-around matte complexion. It also contains oil-inhibiting African whitewood, nourishing oleanolic acid, and plenty of peptides to help balance the skin going forward, making it so much more than just a temporary fix.
Price at time of publish: $36
Key Ingredients: African whitewood, oleanolic acid, peptides | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Estée Lauder The Mattifier Primer + Finisher
Can also use to set make up
This one is close to joining Double Wear in the Estée Lauder Hall of Fame. An oil-controlling primer as well as a "finisher," you can use this as a base before your makeup to keep any shine at bay. Then lightly tap an extra layer over the top of your foundation and concealer to lock it all down. If you're not a fan of powders, this is your new go-to.
Price at time of publish: $40
Key Ingredients: Silica | Skin Type: Oily, combination, balanced | Dosage: An even layer | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Bite Beauty Changemaker Skin-Optimizing Primer
Now, we may want to mattify skin, but we don't want to take away all the sheen that makes us look fresh and glowy. Bite Beauty's Changemaker primer hits that sweet spot just perfectly. It feels more like a moisturizer than a primer, thanks to hyaluronic acid and olive oil included in the formula.
Key Ingredients: Willow bark, hyaluronic acid, olive oil, maqui berry | Skin Type: Oily, combination, balanced | Dosage: An even layer | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Illamasqua Matte Veil Primer
If you don't like the feel of heavy creams on your skin, Illamasqua's super-light gel-cream formula could be a winner. While the mattifying ingredients work to absorb excess oil and literally form a shine-controlling "veil" over your face all day, oil-free moisturizing agents such as glycerin make sure you don't dry out either. Because who wants flaky makeup, right?
Price at time of publish: $45
Key Ingredients: Aluminum starch, glycerin | Skin Type: Oily, combination, acne-prone | Dosage: 1 scoop | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Super-Matte Finish
Becca Cosmetics Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector
Provides antioxidant protection
Reviewers note bottle is hard to squeeze
“Too matte” is not a phrase one expects to hear from a girl who publicly laments her oily complexion, but here we are: Becca’s Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector is fantastically effective. If a super-matte look is what you're striving for, then this is the product for you. I heard that this stuff lasted all day, and indeed it was a good eight or nine hours before I thought my skin started to show hints of that all-too-familiar sheen—a Herculean effort!
Key Ingredients: Enantia Chlorantha Bark | Skin Type: Ace-prone, combination, dry, mature, balanced, oily, sensitive | Dosage: Pea-sized amount | Size: 1.3 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
There’s a strategic way you’re supposed to apply this particular formula, too. It absorbs fast, so foundation needs to go on quickly afterward. If you rub it into the skin, it can dry and ball up (not cute), so instead, warm up your hands first and then tap the primer across your face until it absorbs.
What To Look For in a Primer for Oily Skin
Consider Your Budget
Primers are trendy at the moment, and considering their benefits, it doesn’t look like that’ll change anytime soon. This means lots of different options, all touting basically the same technology. So when choosing the best one for you, don’t feel like a major investment is always necessary.
Pore Blurring Abilities
One of the benefits of oil-balancing primers is that they tend to make pores look less noticeable, which is a total bonus. If that filtered look is what you’re after, there are many primers at your beck and call.
Formulas That Go Heavy on the Matte
Most of the best oil-controlling primers are designed to help balance oil while also promoting a natural finish on the skin. However, if you crave an ultra-matte look, you’ll find a few products with the ability to give you the no-shine finish you desire.
What is the best primer for oily skin?
If your skin is oily, a primer that’s designed to control oil while helping foundation to adhere to the skin could be the ideal product to use. Primers are available in a variety of textures—from liquid to gel cream—and are ideal for a wide range of skins and preferences.
Is primer suitable for oily skin?
An oil-controlling primer can work wonders for those prone to a serious case of shininess. It not only helps to balance excess sebum, but it can also extend the life of your makeup for a fresher look that lasts all day.
How can I control my oily face with makeup?
When it comes to excessively oily skin, certain types of makeup can work wonders. But you can also tackle the problem two-fold by using an oil-controlling primer before you apply foundation to provide an extra measure of oil control while helping the foundation to better adhere to the skin.
How We Researched & Tested
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Polymers in Personal Care and Cosmetics. Cosmetics Info.org