We updated this article in July 2022 to add six new products selected by Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab experts and editors to the lineup, in addition to our original top-rated picks.
If you have oily skin, you know there's a difference between radiant, glowing skin and greasy skin. But you may not know that the solution to preventing your makeup from melting off without overdrying your skin is a good face primer.
Primers are applied after your skincare products but before foundation to help your makeup last throughout the day, says makeup artist Vincent Oquendo. The best primers use ingredients like silicones to temporarily fill in — or “spackle over”— large pores, fine lines and wrinkles, leaving a smooth canvas behind. Makeup primers formulated specially for oily skin have the added benefit of mattifying your skin, since they "contain absorbent particulates that soak up oils from skin and have a more powdery feel," explains Birnur Aral, Ph.D. , the Executive Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab.
Over the years, the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab has tested thousands of makeup products, including primers, on consumers with a variety of skin types. Below, we've rounded up the best mattifying primers for oily skin based on GH Beauty Lab testing, editor picks and makeup artist favorites, including drugstore primers.
Our top picks:
1Best Overall Primer for Oily SkinAirbrush Away Original Primer No7 Read More
2Best Value Primer for Oily SkinFace Studio Master Prime Blur + Smooth Primer Maybelline New York Read More
3Best Drugstore Primer for Oily SkinMatte Oil-Control Primer E.L.F. Cosmetics Read More
4Best Primer for Oily, Acne-Prone SkinTraceless Soft Matte Primer Tom Ford Read More
5Best Balm Primer for Oily SkinThe Silk Canvas Protective Primer Tatcha Read More
You can read more about how to shop for your perfect makeup base at the end of this guide. Looking for more ways to get radiant skin? Check out our guide on how to apply primer and the best moisturizers for oily skin.
Yes. "Primers contain ingredients that can absorb sebum, preventing it from breaking up foundation and allowing your makeup to last longer," says Butler. "Primers can also blur the appearance of pores, giving your skin a smoother look."
However, it's important to consider your skincare routine as well to create a healthy, balanced base for the rest of your makeup. "Primers are problem solvers when it comes to skin," says Davis. "Think of primer as the last thing that is applied after skin care and the first product you apply before makeup."
✔️ Mattifying formulas: Look for key words like mattifying, oil-free, or pore-minimizing on product packaging. "Look for primers that claim to mattify and control shine. Primers that claim to blur pores are also desirable because oily skin can cause enlarged pores," says Butler.
✔️ Oily skin-friendly ingredients: Many primers for oily skin contain ingredients like silica, silicones, kaolin clay or modified plant starches. "Silica consists of tiny, sponge-like particles that can absorb the oil produced by skin," says Butler. Kaolin clay and modified plant starches work similarly to silica. "Silicones, which include cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone, work very well in oily skin primers because they create a very light, silky, and non-greasy feeling on skin," she adds. The right formula can really make the difference: "Primers that contain ingredients like witch hazel and salicylic acid are great to keep shine at bay, and overtime, can help to balance out skin and help with breakouts," adds Davis.
GH Beauty Assistant Catharine Malzahn works closely with the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab to help deliver fact-based, science-backed beauty coverage. Over the years, she has interviewed experts, written product reviews and tested hundreds of makeup products including foundations, eyeshadows, mascaras, eyebrow pencils, concealers, bronzers, eyeliners and primers; she has oily skin herself which has led to years of personally testing primers for oily skin. For this article, she worked with Chiara Butler, the Health & Beauty Reviews Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Katie Berohn, a former Good Housekeeping Beauty Assistant who reported on GH Beauty Lab product testing, also contributed to this story.
We also tapped celebrity makeup artists Vincent Oquendo, Lori Taylor Davis and Tobi Henney for their expert commentary and recommendations.