Skin Care

Foundation Primer for Oily Skin

It so important to have a solid skincare routine as well as knowing what makeup products work best on your skin. Today’s post is all about what primer you should use if you have oily skin. It does not matter if you wear makeup every day or once in a while.

A foundation primer is not necessary, however, if you’ve never used a primer prior to applying your makeup foundation and you begin after reading this post you will notice the difference. It’s really a life changer!

Furthermore, oily skin makes your face very shiny even when you wear makeup. However, I’ve learned that using an oil-free primer really helps control how my face looks after a couple of hours of wearing makeup.

So first, what is a foundation primer? According to makeup artist Stephen Dimmick, a foundation primer prepares your skin for your favorite tinted moisturizer or foundation, giving it something to hold onto so it lasts throughout the day. (Source HuffPost).

Ingredients to Look for In Makeup Products

Glycolic Acid is an important ingredient for oily skin because is commonly used to unclog pores and treat acne. A lot of beauty products contain this ingredient, however, if you have oily skin and are acne-prone this ingredient will actually help your acne.

Hyaluronic Acid produces moisture to your skin. This is often an ingredient that works wonders for individuals with dry skin. However, those with oily skin also need to use a moisturizer. Additionally, studies indicate that hyaluronic acid helps with wrinkles and skin elasticity as we age.

Niacinamide has many benefits, however, those with oily skin can expect by using this ingredient to improve the appearance of enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines, and dullness.

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Diane S. Berson, MD from the American Academy of Dermatology tells her clients when purchasing cosmetics products to use on their acne-prone skin to focus on ingredients such as niacinamide. Dr. Berson stated: “to reduce irritation, some cosmeceuticals now include anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as niacinamide for barrier repair, and antioxidants.”

Retinol is another ingredient that I look for when I am purchasing makeup products because it contains vitamin A. Vitamin A is commonly found in anti-aging formulas that target wrinkling and hyper pigmentation. However, it is very much effective for individuals who have oily skin and are acne-prone. Retinol is also known to unclog pores and fade dark spots. So why not use products that contain retinol when you’re doing your skin a favor.

Salicylic Acid is known to treat skin problems such as acne. Furthermore, using salicylic acid helps unclog pores and it also helps prevent new acne breakouts.

I like wearing makeup, however, when I wear makeup to cover a blemish or two I do not want to end up with more blemishes because of the makeup I’m using.

Therefore, it is important to be gentle with your skin and use products that are also labeled non-comedogenic. There are more ingredients that I look for in the products that I purchase, however, these are just a few that I know off the top of my head.

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Foundation Primers for Oily Skin

  1. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer
  2. Benefit Meet The Porefessionals Mini Primer Trio
  3. Too Faced Hangover Face Primer
  4. bareminerals Prime Time Original Foundation Primer
  5. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer
  6. MAC Prep + Prime Skin
  7. Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector (TM)
  8. Shiseido The Makeup Refining Makeup Primer SPF 20
  9. Clinique Superprimer Face Primer – Universal Face Primer
  10. Estee Lauder The Mattifier Shine Control Perfecting Primer + Finish

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer

What it is: A transparent primer gel that smoothes skin and blurs flaws and was developed to help makeup look better and last longer on set.

  • Paraben-free; phthalate-free; fragrance-free; talc-free; oil-free
  • Cruelty-free
  • Vegan

Research was also conducted for this product on 103 women after one week of use:

Research results:

  • 93% saw blurred imperfections
  • 93% saw smoother skin
  • 91% saw minimized pores and lines
  • 95% said it helped makeup go on flawlessly
  • 94% said it worked well with their skin tone
  • 94% agreed foundation blended more easily

Benefit Meet The Porefessionals Mini Primer Trio (Limited Edition)

What it is: A limited-edition trio of primers to prime, mattify and brighten your skin tone.

Too Faced Hangover Face Primer

What it is: A hydrating face primer infused with priobiotic-based coconut water and skin revivers.

  • Paraben-free; sulfate-free; phthalate-free; gluten-free
  • Cruelty-free
  • Vegan
  • Made in Italy

bareminerals Prime Time Original Foundation Primer

What it is: Create an ultra-silky and smooth canvas for the most flawless foundation application ever.

  • Paraben-free; sulfate-free; phthalate-free; synthetic fragrance-free
  • synthetic dye-free; petrochemical-free
  • Made in the USA

Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer


What it is: An oil-free, weightless and multipurpose primer that goes beyond traditional formulations.

    • Paraben-free; sulfate-free; phthalate-free; oil-free; gluten-free; fragrance-free; synthetic dye-free
    • Not tested on animals
    • Vegan
    • Made in the USA

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MAC Prep + Prime Skin

What it is: A lightweight gel lotion formulated with special-effect silicones.

  • Oil-free
  • Non-acnegenic
  • Improves radiance

Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector (TM)

What it is: A targeted mattifying primer that controls oil for up to 12 hours.

  • Silicone-free; oil-free; alcohol-free; fragrance-free
  • Cruelty-free
  • Made in Italy

Shiseido The Makeup Refining Makeup Primer SPF 20

What is it: Prime skin and erase imperfections for a beautiful, natural finish and improve the wear of your foundation.

Clinique Superprimer Face Primer – Universal Face Primer

What it is: A primer that smoothes and corrects skin with a lightweight, oil-free formula.

Estee Lauder The Mattifier Shine Control Perfecting Primer + Finish

What it is: A must-have mattifying primer that creates a silky-smooth canvas for makeup application by controlling oil and reducing shine for a healthy-looking finish.

I hope you all find this post useful, however, if you currently use these products or others please comment below and let me know. This is not a comprehensive list, however, I do believe that these are the best primers for individuals with oily skin.

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  1. Carolyn says:


    When I put on primer my pores seem to get irritated and I break out. What would you recommend for super sensitive skin? Or should I skip the primer? Thanks!

    1. Nia M says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      What primer are you using? There may be something in that primer that is not helping your sensitive skin. I would stop using the primer you’re using and switch to another one. Sometimes you have to test multiple primers to find the one that works for you. I’ve tested all of the ones that I’ve posted in this article. However, I have some favorites because of the ones I tested. Furthermore, I would not recommend that you just skip using primer at all.

  2. Missy says:

    What a great post about primers. I really like that you explain the top ingredients to look for and what their purpose is.

    I don’t usually wear makeup and when I do, I usually only use a little on my eyes; but now I’m curious about primers. I realize these primers are recommended for oily skin, but what if you have dry or combination skin? Would these work well or if not do you know some that would be more appropriate?

    1. Nia M says:

      Hi Missy,

      Thank you so much, I’m just trying to educate everyone especially those that are acne-prone. I wish I had this information when I was going through my acne phase.

      When you wear makeup around your eyes, such as eyeshadow and eyeliner? Do you apply primer prior to applying eye shadow?

      The primers I posted are for all skin types, however, I’ve noticed that they’ve worked very well with my oily skin and others have said the same. I could do some research for you and let you know if there are any specific primers for dry/combination skin. However, you would be able to use these if you wanted. It really depends on what face moisturizer and cleanser you’re using to keep prep your skin prior to applying any makeup imo.

  3. Thais Gomez says:

    I have heard just good things about the Too Faced Primer. I haven’t used it yet but I am going to buy it. I was never curious about applying primer but once I got one sample from a friend and I was wowed by how it helped my skin to control the oil and shine and also it made my skin so soft. I loved it. Since then, when I apply makeup I always use primer. Would you recommend using a primer even without makeup before applying sunscreen? Thanks for your review on all these primers.

    1. Hi Thais,

      It’s an amazing primer. I really love how it feels on my skin. Primer can be used alone especially if you want smooth even skin. Usually, when I’m wearing makeup I skip wearing primer and just apply sunscreen.

  4. This post is great timing. I’ve started getting into makeup and wondered what the primers were all about. Having oily skin, I found this very useful. I like that some use ingredients that help fix acne not just cover it up, thanks for the tips on what to look out for. The Estee Lauder primer sounds the go, less shine would be good.

    1. Hi CJ,

      Thank you so much for reading my post. I’m glad to be able to give you something to refer to when you go shopping. The Estee Lauder is great. One of my favorites. Including their foundation.

  5. Hi Nia, I love your site. I always get confused with what make up I should wear because there is so much out there. It’s easier to just wear none, but there are times that I wish I knew more about it so I get all fancy. I think you do a great job of explaining the different products. I have oily skin, so I can use this as a guide when i’m shopping. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Jen,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post. There is so much available and therefore it is important that we know what we should and shouldn’t wear depending on our skin type. You can always learn how to wear makeup by watching a few Youtube videos and practicing, that’s usually how most people start out nowadays. Let me know if you use any of the primers I have listed here.

  6. Vicki says:

    I really like the fact that these products are paraben free and also most importantly cruelty-free also.

    You have done some great research and offering some really good information on these products.

    I am looking for a moisturizer/foundation so have bookmarked your site so I can return and go through this post in depth and have a good look in your site

    I think I will try the Becca matte as well as this will suit my skin type- you rock thank you

    Thank you and all the best helping people with their skin and beauty needs 

    1. Nia says:

      Hi Vicki, 

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I’m glad to be able to assist you in this matter. Please let me know how the Becca primer works for you. Should you have any additional questions please let me know. 

  7. Wendy says:

    I have heard that a good primer is important when wearing makeup but I have always just used foundation. My question is, what is a good primer for dry skin? I am 55 by the way. I have heard that Too Faced Hangover is supposed to be a good product. What do you suggest for an older woman like me?

    1. Nia says:

      Hi Wendy, 

      There are many perks to using a primer prior to applying your foundation. It makes your makeup looks smooth and it also makes your makeup last longer. All of the primers that I have included in this post can work on all skin types, however, I’ve noticed that they help my oily skin a lot more than other primers. However, Too Faced is a very good primer in my opinion. I could research products for dry skin and let you know. Thank you for your feedback. 

  8. Michael says:

    Thank you for putting this review together.

    I really  like the way you outlined the review on foundation primer especially for oily skin.I have heard about one of the product listed here which is clinique superprimer, my wife uses it and it looks nice on her whenever she wears the foundation. These product are convincingly prepared with wonderful ingredients. Thanks for sharing

    1. Nia says:

      Hi Michael, 

      Thank you so much for your feedback. Clinique is an amazing brand. I like many of the products that they have to offer. However, I’m glad your wife has found a primer that works well with her skin type. Should she ever have any makeup questions please don’t hesitate to ask. 

  9. Ilaisaane Tuakalau says:


    I had really bad experiences with makeup growing up and was never that good at it…I either got the colors wrong or just everything made me look a clown. Due to these bad experiences I steered away from any type and especially the foundations, because they would crack and dry on my face. My skin is also highly sensitive to chemicals.

    However, of late I have seen my teen aged girls using foundation primer before applying their foundation. It left flawless smoothness. Since then I have been exploring the possibilities of wearing some foundation with make up again.

    I visited your page and saw one that looks like it would be suitable for me, which is the bare minerals Prime Time Original Foundation Primer. It is fragrant free and paraben-free. 

    My being much more older now, I was wondering if you actually know of the best foundation primers that can cover wrinkles and still look good at nearly 50 years?

    1. Nia says:


      I’m sorry to hear about your experience growing up and using makeup. However, from the primers that I have listed I would suggest Becca, Clinique, or Estee Lauder. Most of the primers I’ve listed help prep your skin prior to applying your foundation for a smooth long lasting look and the ingredients help cover wrinkles. Let me know if you decide to use any of the ones I’ve mentioned above and your results. Thank you.

  10. This information is very useful. I would recommend this article to my friends to help them with their activities.

    1. Hi Pete,

      Thank you so much!

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