Primer is one of those products that people either swear by or skip altogether. However, if you’re someone with overactive sebaceous glands (translation: you have oily skin), a primer could make a noticeable difference in how your makeup goes on and wears throughout the day. Like a base coat when you polish your nails (or a primer before you paint walls), a makeup primer is a smart prep step for the smoothest possible finish.
That said, how you use a primer is crucial to its success. For starters, you should always apply it to clean skin, after any skin care products but before your makeup. Also, when the label says to use a pea-sized amount for your entire face, it’s best you follow their suggestion, because too much primer can actually cause your makeup to slip or pill (which is the opposite of the intended effect).
OK, ready to shop the best primers for oily skin? Here are some of our tried-and-true picks for every budget.
1. Maybelline Facestudio Master Prime Primer
First up: A drugstore favorite that fills in fine lines and smooths out large pores instantly. It features a water-soluble base and dimethicone (a silicone-based polymer that gives it a silky texture and matte finish). Pat a little over your T-zone, let it absorb for a minute and your foundation will go on like butter. Or wear it on its own for a quick mattifying effect.
2. Tatcha The Liquid Silk Canvas: Featherweight Protective Primer
Fans of the brand's original silk primer will love their new liquid version. It's lightweight and creamy and leaves your skin looking and feeling like, well, silk. Though most mattifying formulas leave your complexion dull and flat, this one just smooths everything out, while maintaining a healthy (non-greasy) glow.
3. DHC Velvet Skin Coat
This gel primer is a cult classic for good reason: It tamps down excess oil without making your skin look or feel dry. The velvety formula glides onto your face easily and has a soft, powdery finish that blurs out pores and reduces redness. (Fact: We rely on this stuff before every major event and wedding because it keeps our makeup looking fresh throughout the night—even after all the sweaty dancing.)
4. Neutrogena It Matters Mattifying Primer Stick
For easy de-slicking on the go, this stick is an (ahem) solid choice. Swipe it directly over any hot spots (aka areas that are prone to getting oily), blend with your fingertips and marvel at the smooth, shine-free finish it leaves behind. The silky formula isn’t chalky or greasy in the slightest, and the convenient packaging makes midday touchups a breeze—though we highly doubt you’ll need any.
5. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer
This luxe primer is admittedly a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth every penny if you’re looking for a way to prolong your foundation. The oil-free formula feels absolutely weightless on your skin and somehow makes everything it touches look better. (Seriously, it’s like the blur tool in Photoshop.) Plus, it has broad-spectrum SPF 15 for added protection. (And if you’re still on the fence about the cost, try the travel size, which is less than half the cost, before fully committing.)
6. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer
Widely considered the OG of primers (it was launched more than 17 years ago!), this makeup artist and editor favorite is lightweight and completely transparent (so it works on all skin types and tones). A pea-sized dot will give you a filter-like finish and keep oil at bay for hours. And the iconic formula recently got an upgrade: antioxidants, vitamins A and E, plus peptides for added skin benefits.
7. Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Face Primer
Punny name aside, this fan favorite remains a top seller among makeup lovers because its translucent formula glides on like silk and it can easily be layered under or over makeup. Smooth it on to quickly minimize shine, fine lines or pores (and delight in the way it makes your skin feel like a rose petal).
8. Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer
Though it seems counterintuitive, oily skin actually needs moisture to stay in balance (and an imbalance can cause your skin to produce even more oil than usual). Luckily, this hydrating primer gets the job done without feeling heavy or looking greasy on your skin. With hemp-derived cannabis seed extract and blue agave extract, it forms an invisible layer over your face to grip makeup, while sealing in moisture. Note: It does feel a bit sticky at first, but give it a minute to fully absorb before applying any foundation for best results.
9. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Mattifying Primer
There’s no denying that Rihanna knows her way around makeup. (After all, it’s largely thanks to her that we have more inclusive foundation shades and gold-foiled highlighter is even a thing.) All this to say that when RiRi launched a mattifying primer, we had high hopes and were not disappointed. The lightweight formula feels more like a moisturizer than a traditional primer and makes our skin look positively poreless.