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Buying guide for Best primers for oily skin

When you have oily skin, keeping foundation and other makeup on your face can be a challenge. That’s why prepping your skin with a primer is such an important step in your makeup routine. But if you’re going to to take the time to prime your face, you have to be sure to use a primer designed for oily skin.

All primers are meant to help your foundation stay in place without fading, creasing, or melting off. A primer for oily skin is specifically designed to form a barrier between your skin and the foundation, so your skin’s natural oils aren’t able to break down the makeup. Many formulas absorb excess oil from the skin to keep your makeup flawless and shine-free all day.

Which formulas are best for oily skin? Which ingredients should you look for? We answer these questions and more in our convenient shopping guide. Read on to learn more about primers for oily skin and to discover which products we’re recommending.

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When applying primer, make sure it absorbs fully by using a circular motion to massage it into the skin.

Key considerations


Primers for oily skin typically come in two different consistencies: lotion and gel.

Lotion primers are thin and lightweight, much like light moisturizer. They work well for absorbing oil and filling in enlarged pores, which can be an issue with oily skin. Some lotion primers have hydrating properties, so you don’t have to worry about it drying out your skin.

Gel primers have a thicker consistency and are effective at filling in pores and fine lines and correcting other skin texture issues. They usually offer the smoothest finish for your makeup, yet they can still absorb oil and prevent shine from breaking through your makeup.


If your skin already has excess oil, adding a primer that contains more oil would only make your foundation more likely to melt off, crease, or fade. Therefore, any primer for oily skin should be free of oil.

However, some primers for oily skin have a silicone-based formula. Silicone has a thicker consistency that can help fill in pores and smooth other texture issues. Silicone also gives the primer greater slip, allowing it to spread over the face more easily. What’s more, a silicone primer can form an extremely effective barrier between your skin and your makeup, so oils from your skin won’t break through and break down your foundation.

If you have an acne problem, you may also want to choose a primer that contains salicylic acid, an oil-soluble beta hydroxy acid that can penetrate the pores to help dissolve dirt and oil. Salicylic acid can also help reduce oil secretion from your skin, so your makeup is better able to stay intact.

Some primers for oily skin contain natural clays or silica, a highly absorbent mineral. Both ingredients can absorb excess oil and sweat from the skin to help keep your makeup looking fresh all day.


Foundation primers are available in several finishes, but most primers for oily skin have a matte finish. A matte finish is completely flat, so it doesn’t add shine to your face. Since oily skin is usually shiny, you wouldn’t want to use a primer that only makes your makeup look greasier.



Most primers for oily skin are colorless or translucent, so they can work for any skin tone. However, some primers are tinted. A tinted primer can help even out your skin tone or correct certain tones in your skin.

A primer in a skin-tone color may come in a single shade that’s meant to work with all skin types. If you have extremely fair or deep skin, though, you may have an issue with these primers matching your skin tone. If this sounds like you, look for skin tone-colored primers that come in several shade choices, such as light, medium, and dark.

Color-correcting primers for oily skin use color theory to help correct discoloration in the skin. Colors opposite one another on the color wheel cancel each other out, so it’s just a matter of figuring out which primer shade would help you correct your skin issues.

Some common color-correcting primer shades include the following.

  • Green: Since oily skin is often prone to acne, there may be a red discoloration to the skin. A green primer can help correct red and pink tones in your skin.
  • Pink: If your oily skin is somewhat dull, a light pink primer can help brighten your complexion.
  • Purple: A light purple or lavender primer can help cancel out yellow tones or sallowness in your skin.
  • Yellow: A yellow primer can help hide blue or purple tones in your skin.
  • Peach: A peach primer can help soften the appearance of dark spots and sun spots in your skin.


Because many primers for oily skin are gel formulas with a thicker consistency that’s designed to fill in pores, they usually come in squeeze tube packaging. They’re easy to use, though you can sometimes squeeze the tube too hard and dispense more primer than you need, which can be wasteful.

Some oily skin primers are packaged in a bottle with a pump dispenser. These tend to be thinner, lotion-like formulas that aren’t as effective at filling in pores and correcting texture issues.

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Expert Tip
Primer is best applied with clean fingers. Using a brush often doesn’t allow it to fully sink into the skin.

Primers for oily skin: prices

Primers for oily skin vary in price based on their ingredients, formula, and packaging. You could pay anywhere from $5 to $75 for an oily skin primer.

The most affordable primers for oily skin are lightweight lotion formulas and silicone-only gel formulas. Their ingredients are usually lower in quality, and the packaging typically consists of basic plastic tubes. These products generally cost between $5 and $23.

Mid-range primers for oily skin are usually lotion or gel formulas that contain mattifying ingredients in addition to silicone, such as natural clay or silica. They typically come in either a plastic tube or a pump dispenser and cost between $23 and $42.

The most expensive primers for oily skin are usually lotion or gel formulas that contain mattifying and acne-fighting ingredients in addition to silicone, such as natural clay, silica, and/or salicylic acid. The ingredients are extremely high in quality, so the primers are typically paraben- and fragrance-free. They generally come in either a plastic tube or a pump dispenser and range from $42 and $75.

" Some pore-filling primers can also be applied over foundation to fill in pores throughout the day. "


  • Always start with clean skin before you apply primer. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove excess oil and dirt from the surface of your skin. Consider this the first step of your makeup routine.
  • If you plan to use moisturizer and/or sunscreen, apply it before your primer. Allow it to sink in for at least five minutes before moving on to your primer application.
  • Avoid applying too much primer to your face. If you do, your foundation may ball up or crease when you apply it. A pea-size amount is usually all you need for your entire face.
  • If you’re using an oily skin primer to help smooth the look of pores or fine lines, use a clean finger to gently tap the product into the skin rather than just spreading it over the area.
  • Let your primer dry for two to three minutes before applying foundation over it.
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Even if you use a primer for oily skin, you should set your foundation with powder to help it last all day.


Q. Should I apply foundation primer for oily skin to my entire face?

A. If your skin is oily, you likely need to apply primer all over your face to keep your makeup looking fresh all day. However, the T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin) is usually the oiliest area of the face, so you should start by applying the primer there and spread what’s left on the rest of your face.

Q. Can I wear a primer for oily skin without foundation?

A. Oily skin primer can help smooth out the look of pores, fine lines, wrinkles, and other texture issues, so yes, you can use it even if you’re not wearing makeup. If you opt for a tinted primer, it can even out your skin tone for a fresh, healthy complexion without makeup.

Q. Will primer for oily skin clog my pores?

A. To avoid clogged pores, be sure to choose an oil-free primer. Silicone can be irritating for some people, so you may want to opt for a formula that has silicone a little further down the ingredient list.

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Expert Tip
Match your primer to your foundation formula. Use a silicone-based primer with a silicone-based foundation and a water-based primer with a water-based foundation.
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