The 14 Best Primers for Oily Skin of 2023

Get matte with picks from Hourglass, Neutrogena, Maybelline, and more

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Byrdie / Lecia Landis

If you have oily skin, you know the struggle of getting through a day without feeling like your makeup is melting off all too well. Overactive sebaceous glands may be the culprit, but managing shine and finding products that don’t dry your skin out, thus meeting all of your complexion’s needs, doesn't have to be tricky. 

Did you know that one of the most effective ways of controlling shine and creating a mattified base is with an oil-controlling primer? These heaven-sent products are formulated with ingredients such as silica and polymers that help you to maintain that beautiful matte finish and eliminate any greasiness. They’ll also stop your makeup from slipping off by lunchtime. 

We conducted hours of research on the best primers for oily skin, evaluating each formula on key ingredients, skin feel, and which types of skin they work best on. We also looked at whether the formula contains SPF and how it blends and absorbs into skin. After considering dozens of top-rated products, we landed on the following best in show.

Best Overall

Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer

4.7
Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer

Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Satin texture

  • Provides SPF15 protection

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

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, and we also loved its long-lasting finish and satin texture. Oh, and did we mention it has a touch of SPF protection, too? Not enough to negate the need for your regular sunscreen, but the more protection, the better, right? There’s no denying it’s an expensive option, though, so maybe grab a tester before you commit to make sure it suits your needs. 

Price at time of publish: $56

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

Best Budget

Neutrogena Shine Control Primer

Neutrogena Shine Control Primer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Long-lasting

  • Non-drying

What We Don't Like
  • Contains fragrance

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’s also non-drying, so 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.

Price at time of publish: $18

Key Ingredients: Rice protein technology | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Drugstore

Maybelline New York Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Primer

4.9
Maybelline New York Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Primer

Walgreens

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Minimizes pores

  • Can use alone

What We Don't Like
  • 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, minimizing pores and counteracting grease as it does. "It extended the wear time of my foundation and prevented it from transferring or moving around on my face," said our product tester. "Bottom line: This stuff works."

But the best bit is that it's clear, making it a great option for a range of skin tones. It's worth noting that the product feels a little greasy at first, but it sinks in fairly quickly.

Price at time of publish: $8

Key Ingredients: Silica | Skin Type: All | Dosage: A thin layer | Size: 0.6 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

maybelline baby skin instant pore eraser

 Byrdie / Olivia Hancock

Best Long-Wearing

Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Face Primer

4.7
Benefit The POREfessional Face Primer

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Minimizes pores

  • Long-lasting

  • Oil-free

What We Don't Like
  • 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 ideal if you usually wear full-coverage makeup. Once it's on, it's as though someone put a plug in each one of your pores, significantly reducing their appearance. It's also been noted that it lasts all day and well into the evening. Impressive, right? If you prefer a more natural look, however, you may prefer some of the more lightweight options in our lineup.

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

Best Balancing

NARS Pore & Shine Control Primer

Pore & Shine Control Primer

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Minimizes pores

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • 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. On the downside, while it is brilliant at counteracting oil and minimizing pores, it can be a little drying on less oily patches.

Price at time of publish: $36

Key Ingredients: African whitewood, oleanolic acid, peptides | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Best 2-in-1

Estée Lauder The Mattifier Primer + Finisher

The Mattifier Shine Control Perfecting Primer + Finisher

Sephora

What We Like
  • Can also use to set make up

  • Oil-free

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

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. It’s an expensive option, but if you’re a long-time fan of Estée Lauder, you know how reliably brilliant the famed brand’s products are.

Price at time of publish: $40

Key Ingredients: Silica | Skin Type: Oily, combination, balanced | Dosage: An even layer | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Hydrating

Bite Beauty Changemaker Skin-Optimizing Primer

Bite Beauty Changemaker Skin-Optimizing Primer

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Boosts radiance

  • Hydrating

  • Minimizes pores

What We Don't Like
  • Can pill

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. We also found that it boosted the overall look of radiance in the skin as well as minimized the look of our pores. However, it can pill slightly, when layering makeup over the top so that’s something to watch out for.

Price at time of publish: $38

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

Best Lightweight

Illamasqua Matte Veil Primer

Illamasqua Matte Veil Primer 30ml

SkinStore

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Oil-free

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

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

Best Moisturizing

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance

Sephora

What We Like
  • Rubs well into the skin

  • Very moisturizing without being sticky or oily

  • Cruelty-free

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for combination skin that has some areas of dryness.

Formulated with niacinamide and glycerin, this oil-control gel cream from Glossier helps to control shine while hydrating the skin. It has a translucent gel-like texture that works well beneath makeup, and reviewers report it spreads evenly and absorbs  quickly. It also contains willow bark extract and customized power primers to create a smooth finish. Buy this if you have an uneven skin tone and visible oversized pores that you’d like to improve the appearance of. While this does contain moisturizing ingredients, it may not be for you if your skin is particularly dry in some areas. 

Price at time of publish: $25

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, niacinamide, and willow bark extract | Skin Type: Normal, combination and oily Dosage: Pea-sized amount | Size: 1.7 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for a Full Face of Makeup

Caliray SO Blown Blurring Collagen Peptide Primer

Caliray SO Blown Blurring Collagen Peptide Primer

Sephora

What We Like
  • Blurs out imperfections

  • Creates a great long-lasting base for makeup

  • Supports skin health with collagen

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers say it can pill

If you wear full-coverage makeup, you’ll need a great base to keep your artistry in place throughout the day. This blurring peptide primer not only helps to cover imperfections such as oversized pores, but it also supports skin health with ingredients such as collagen, niacinamide, and G-P-Hyp Tripeptides. There’s also camellia oil and vitamin E within its formula to nourish, moisturize, and fight oxidative stress. This is a really popular product for good reason, but some reviewers do report pilling, so apply sparingly at first.

Price at time of publish: $36

Key Ingredients: Collagen peptides, niacinamide and G-P-Hyp Tripeptides | Skin Type: Normal, combination and oily | Dosage: Pea-sized amount | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Vegan

The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer

The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer

The Ordinary

What We Like
  • Doesn’t contain parabens or sulfates

  • Isn’t greasy

  • Great value for money

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers report pilling

The Ordinary is always a go-to for its very reasonably priced yet efficacious skincare, and we love this silicone primer for a number of reasons. First off, it’s vegan with a clean formula that’s free from parabens and sulfates. Second of all, it contains advanced adaptive silicone that helps to hydrate and blur the surface of the skin without leaving behind greasiness. Downsides? Some reviewers do complain that it can create pilling and creasing of makeup.

Price at time of publish: $7

Key Ingredients: Advanced adaptive silicones and Dimethicone | Skin Type: All including sensitive | Dosage: Pea-sized amount | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Mattifying

Milk Makeup Pore Eclipse Mattifying + Blurring Makeup Primer

Pore Eclipse Mattifying + Blurring Makeup Primer
Courtesy of Amazon.
What We Like
  • Absorbs excess oil

  • Controls shine

  • Blurs imperfections

What We Don't Like
  • Contains fragrance

If you're after a matte finish, go with Milk Makeup Pore Eclipse. This ultra-smooth, transparent primer works to absorb excess oil and fight shine while blurring imperfections. Just a heads up, it contains fragrance, which might be irritating on more reactive complexions.

Price at time of publish: $38

Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, bakuchiol, lentil extract | Skin Type: Oily, combination | Dosage: Thin layer before makeup | Size: 1.4 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Shine Control

Make Up For Ever Shine Control Step 1 Primer

Shine Control Step 1 Primer
Courtesy of Amazon.
What We Like
  • Mattifies shiny areas

  • Absorbs excess oil

  • Leaves skin velvety-smooth

What We Don't Like
  • Contains fragrance

When you need to keep a shiny T-zone under control, reach for Make Up For Ever's Step 1 Primer. This lightweight formula promises to absorb oil, mattify shiny areas, blur pores, and leave a velvety-smooth canvas in its wake.

Price at time of publish: $39

Key Ingredients: Ginseng | Skin Type: Oily, combination | Dosage: Rice-size amount in oily areas | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Soft-Focus

Tatcha The Silk Canvas Face Protective Primer

4.7
Tatcha Tatcha The Silk Canvas Face Primer

Sephora

What We Like
  • Minimizes excess shine

  • Smooths imperfections

  • Evens out skin tone

What We Don't Like
  • High price per ounce

  • Contains PEGs

We also like this balm-style primer from Tatcha, which smooths imperfections, evens out your skin tone, reduces excess shine, and leaves you with a soft-focus finish. Though the price per ounce is pretty steep, a little goes a long way—all you need is a rice-size amount for your entire face.

Price at time of publish: $54

Key Ingredients: Silk powder, silicone | Skin Type: Oily, dry, combination, sensitive, mature | Dosage: Rice-size amount | Size: 0.7 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

Hourglass’s Veil Mineral Primer was our best overall choice as it works beautifully while being kind to the environment. It also tackles heat and humidity with ease, so is a particularly great choice for the summer months. Maybelline’s Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Primer is also one of our favorite drugstore choices that work well with or without makeup. We love it on mornings when you want to go foundation free but just need a little something to smooth the complexion.

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.

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. 

On the pricier end, we're big fans of Nars Pore & Shine Control Primer and Tatcha The Silk Canvas Face Primer. But if you're looking for something more affordable, Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser is an excellent choice.

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. A couple of our favorites include Benefit The POREfessional Face Primer and Milk Makeup Pore Eclipse Mattifying + Blurring Face Primer.

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. Make Up Forever Step 1 Primer is a great choice for shine control, and Illamasqua Matte Veil Primer is a go-to for those who want to go full matte.

FAQ
  • What is the best primer for oily skin?

    If your skin is oily, a primer that’s designed to control oil while helping your foundation 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.

Why Trust Byrdie

Cat Hufton is a London-based freelance writer who has been a contributor for Byrdie since 2022. She digs deep into all things fashion and beauty to find the very best shopping must-haves—from the most effective collagen serums to the best maternity stores.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Pastor-Nieto, MA., Gatica-Ortega, ME. Ubiquity, Hazardous Effects, and Risk Assessment of Fragrances in Consumer Products. Curr Treat Options Allergy 8, 21–41 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40521-020-00275-7

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