Ultimate Guide to Applying Makeup for Oily Skin

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Wearing makeup can be a great way to express yourself artistically and aesthetically, but when you’re applying it on oily skin, it can often feel more like a futile chore than a beauty and confidence boost. Oily skin is certainly tricky to tame when it comes to makeup, leaving many to neglect their favorite looks and products out of frustration, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

To successfully apply makeup to oily skin, start with a healthy skincare routine where you cleanse, moisturize, and tone your skin twice daily and exfoliate 3-4 times a week. Once your skin is clean, apply a matte primer, foundation, and powder, then your blush and other makeup. Finish with a setting spray and keep some blotting sheets handy for emergencies.

There’s a lot that goes into creating and maintaining the perfect makeup look on oily skin. Therefore, we’ve provided the complete guide to this application process to know exactly what kind of products you need, when and how to apply them, and what you can do to ensure their longevity.

Start with a Healthy Skincare Routine

This might seem a bit odd since we’re here for makeup, but the best way to ensure you can have flawless makeup that stays for hours on your oily skin is to be preventative with a superb skincare routine.

Without a healthy canvas for all your makeup creations, you’re going to run into the same issues over and over again even if you do everything else we suggest in this guide properly. If you don’t start here, you won’t get far.

Having oily skin is perfectly normal and natural, and you’re probably not going to be able to have oil-free skin in your lifetime. However, having a skincare routine with the proper products can significantly reduce the amount of oil your skin produces. The less oil it emits, the easier it will be to apply makeup and the longer that makeup is likely to last.

There are several tips you can follow for oily skincare routines, but here are the ones we deem most important for those of you who are struggling with your makeup endeavors.

Cleanse Your Skin Every Morning and Night

Before you start applying any makeup to your face, you’re going to want your skin to be as clean as possible. To do this, use a cleanser and exfoliator to help remove excess dirt, oil, or even old makeup you might not have removed the day before.

This process will not only clean your face but will also help control any excess sebum, which is the substance your body’s sebaceous glands create and causes your oily skin.

Exfoliating is important but should be done with care. Although it is great for removing dirt and toxins in your skin, exfoliating will dry out your skin and promote sebum production, so you’ll want to do it sparingly. Most dermatologists recommend you exfoliate 3 or 4 times a week. Cleansing is a different story, though.

If you’re uncertain of where to start for your face cleansers, here are some of our top recommendations:

Make sure that when you use these products, you do so every morning and every night. It might seem obvious to do it in the morning before you apply your makeup, but some people make the mistake of thinking their skin is still clean when they wake up since they washed it last night. Sadly, this isn’t true.

Most adults get about seven to nine hours of sleep (at least, we hope that’s what you’re getting), and in that time, your skin is shedding a vast number of skin cells. The average person sheds about 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells in a minute, so imagine how much you’re losing overnight.

Not only that, but your pores are also producing oils while you sleep, and bacteria could also be potentially present if you were sweating. So, by the time you wake up, your skin might be cleaner than it would’ve been if you hadn’t cleaned it at all last night, but it’s still far from pure.

Therefore, it is essential to your makeup’s success and your skin’s health that you cleanse it twice a day.

Apply a Toner After Cleansing

Although toners might not seem essential since you’ve already cleansed and exfoliated your skin, but everyone should have a quality toner in their routine regardless of skin type.

Toners can help further reduce the amount of sebum produced by your skin by helping it maintain a more balanced pH. Additionally, they’ll eliminate any other impurities in your skin and tighten up the pores on your face so they appear smaller.

You’ll want to make sure your skin is clean before you apply your toner, and use a toner that has:

You’ll also want toner with BHAs and AHAs for deep penetration to easily remove toxins and dirt within your pores. In addition to these elements, try to find a toner that uses natural ingredients to limit any skin irritation and inflammation. Some of the best ingredients are ginseng, rose, or chamomile supplemented with aloe for hydration.

Some of the best toners for oily skin include:

The best time to apply toner is in the morning after you’ve used your cleanser and exfoliator.

Don’t Be Afraid to Moisturize

A common misconception among people who have oily skin is that they shouldn’t need to moisturize their face.

Although we understand your hesitation to put too much product on your oily skin, it is actually going to help reduce the production of sebum even further if you use the right moisturizer.

Just because your skin is oily doesn’t mean it is fully hydrated, especially after you’ve cleansed and exfoliated it.

Plus, dry skin will often overcompensate for its lack of moisture by creating excess sebum, resulting in even oilier skin. So doing all of this fabulous cleansing, exfoliating, and toning could be pointless if you don’t rehydrate your skin with a moisturizer.

If you add a gel-based lotion or lightweight moisturizer to your daily skincare routine, you’ll not only notice that your skin feels healthier and less oily, but it will also prevent it from feeling slick or greasy like other generic moisturizers.

Some of the best lightweight or gel moisturizers for oily skin are:

How often you use moisturizers in your skincare routine kind of depends on you as an individual. Many specialists will recommend you do it at least twice, once in the morning and once at night, just like your cleanser.

However, some dermatologists claim that moisturizing too frequently can actually clog your pores. In the case of oily skin, we suggest the former method of twice a day since your skin is actually oily because it lacks proper moisture. Keeping it hydrated with products will minimize the production of oils and help with makeup application throughout the day.

Pair Your Products

Although it is beneficial to incorporate all of these products into your daily skincare routine for maximum makeup results, it can be a lot for your oily skin to handle. Or any skin type for that matter.

Using these products can certainly help your skin’s health and reduce the amount of sebum it produces. However, using all of them and then adding multiple makeup products on top could have unfortunate effects on your skin by clogging its pores.

Therefore, we highly suggest you pair your products when possible. If you can find a quality cleanser and exfoliator in one product or even a toner and moisturizer, it will reduce the odds of you clogging your pores and shorten your daily skincare routine process.

Pamper Yourself With Masks on Occasion

A daily or even weekly skin routine is going to do wonders for your oily skin and might even eliminate some skin issues you’re battling, like acne. If you want to take things one step further for optimal skin health and makeup application results, we recommend adding a facial mask to the routine every once in a while.

Facial masks can get a bit pricy when they’re made from a quality, natural ingredients, and they certainly shouldn’t be used daily. However, using a facial mask once or twice a week can do wonders for your oily skin if you purchase the right kind.

There are three types of facial masks that are best for oily skin:

  • Clay: typically contains minerals like smectite or bentonite. These will absorb your natural oils, reduce skin shininess, and lower overall sebum levels.
  • Honey: a great choice for individuals with oily skin that also suffer from acne. The antibacterial and antiseptic qualities in raw honey will help reduce acne and oils in your skin and promote a smooth complexion.
  • Oatmeal: if you live and/or work in a location with high air pollution, try a colloidal oatmeal mask. They’re made with cleansing saponins, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that are all gentle but extremely effective on your skin.

Make sure you’ve cleansed your face before applying one of these masks for the best results. Keep them on for about 10-15 minutes, unless the product packaging suggests otherwise, then remove the mask and gently rinse your face.

It’s important to rehydrate your skin with a moisturizer after you’ve rinsed it so your body doesn’t start overcompensating with increased sebum production.

Prime Your Clean Skin

Now that you know how to best care for your oily skin to give it the best chance possible to handle makeup, it’s time to get into the actual process of makeup application.

Before you touch any of those eyeshadows or liners, you need to prime your face. This is crucial for those of you who don’t want to look like a melting candle by midday with your makeup drooping down your freshly oiled skin.

Applying a quality primer to your face will help ensure your makeup stays put all day long once you’ve put it on. We’re all for little touch-ups as the day goes on, but reapplying the whole face takes all the fun out of wearing makeup, so don’t skip this step.

If your skin is usually only oily in certain spots, like your nose and between your eyes, you can apply your primer in a T-formation, rather than covering your entire face. Some people will even suggest you tab it on where necessary and leave it at that.

We agree that you certainly should at least cover your oiliest face spot, but don’t stop there. If you aren’t going to apply primer everywhere, make sure you also cover your eyelids and your lips with primer.

Of course, you shouldn’t use the same primer for all of these areas. One of the common frustrations or joys of makeup is that there is a product for nearly everything, and if you want the best results on your oily skin, you’ll want to invest in one primer for your general face, one for your eyelids, and one for your lips.

When hunting for the best primers for your skin and makeup, we recommend using those labeled as “mattifying” primers. These particular primers will not only help keep your makeup in place, but they’ll also combat any oily shine you might have, and they’ll smooth out your complex.

Matte makeups will be a very common theme in this guide as they’re the best option for people with oily skin. So, a general rule we’ll establish now is that when in doubt, choose matte.

Apply A Matte or Natural Finish Foundation

After your skin is all primed and ready, you can move on to your foundation. There are two key rules you’ll want to follow with foundation application on oily skin:

  1. Never opt for a foundation with a radiant finish
  2. Limit how often you touch your face with your hands (and by limit, we basically mean don’t ever)

The best foundations for oily skin are matte foundations, or, if you truly can’t stand matte, a natural finish foundation. These choices with effectively cover any shine the oils in your face might create. If you choose a luminous or radiant finish foundation, your skin is just going to look oilier and shinier.

In addition to choosing the best foundation, we strongly urge you to limit how much you use your fingers to touch your face.

We know that sometimes smudges, smears, and mistakes occur when you’re applying your favorite lipstick or eyeliner, but the worst thing you can do with your foundation is used your fingertip to dab it on.

It’s extremely counterproductive to use your fingers for any makeup application on oily skin. There is an astonishing amount of natural oils that like to hang around on your fingertips, and you’re only going to transfer those to your face. Considering you have naturally oily skin, we don’t really want to add any more to the situation.

Instead, we recommend applying your foundation with a foundation blender. You can opt for either a sponge or a brush, depending on the type of foundation you’re using.

You can either opt for a light application of a liquid or a powder foundation, but for the purposes of this guide, we’re going to suggest you use liquid and follow-up with finishing or setting powder, so your makeup really stays, and your natural oil doesn’t shine through.

Minimally Powder Your Foundation

Continuing the theme of light application, you’ll want to minimally powder your foundation with a translucent setting powder or a matte, oil-free powder.

Some people suggest that you apply this powder even before you put your foundation on so there’s more for your makeup to stick to. Whichever way you prefer to do it, we just want to drive home the point that you should put very light, minimal amounts of both foundation and powder on your skin.

Considering the amount of product that is already on it and what is still yet to come, you want to be careful not to fill your pores with excess foundation and power. Doing so will cause them to naturally create more oils, and it will be harder for your makeup to stay put and combat the increased oil production throughout the day.

For this reason, we recommend that you be selective with your powder and only apply it to the shiniest places on your face. Ideally, the same place your applied foundation if you opted not to cover your entire face.

Get Some Color on Those Cheeks

After creating a solid base for all of your makeup, it’s time to have some fun, starting with blush. Remember, you don’t want to use your hands or fingers for any makeup applications, so make sure you have brushes and tools for all of your makeup options.

The rules of blush for individuals with oily skin are pretty similar to other products we’ve discussed. You’ll want to opt for another matte product, and you’ll want to apply a vibrant but thin layer onto your cheeks.

The matte will further ensure your flushed cheeks don’t look oil, versus a glittery or shimmering blush that would give them a shiny sheen.

Add the Bells and Whistles to Your Look

Your blush is the last element that should really follow the matte and limited application rules. Once that’s on, it’s a free-for-all, boys and girls. You can finally start applying whatever fabulous makeup look you have envisioned for the day.

Many dermatologists and beauty gurus will still follow the “less is more” code when it comes to applying the actual makeup on oily skin.

You don’t necessarily have to follow this rule, but if you’ve discovered you’re still having a difficult time with your makeup on your oily skin, try sticking to just mascara, minimal eye shadow, and lipstick. You might find you have better success with your look staying in place when you have less makeup applied.

Lock It In With a Setting Spray

By now, your makeup is on point, and you’re ready to take on the world, but before you walk out that door, you need to give your look an enthusiastic spritz of setting spray.

You’ll want to make sure the setting spray is the absolute last thing you do so that all of your makeup has a fine layer of this product before you expose it to the toils of your day.

A high-quality setting spray will significantly reduce the likelihood of your makeup dripping and falling victim to your oily skin. They are perfect for long-wear makeup days, especially if you know you won’t have the time or energy to keep fixing your look.

Just spray this life-saving product in a quick X and T motion to ensure it’s covered every part of your face, and you’re good to go.

Invest in Blotting Sheets To-Go

Applying all of your makeup on oily skin is sadly only half the battle; the other half is maintaining it throughout the day once it’s on.

At this point, you’ve done everything you possibly can to give your makeup its best shot at sticking around on your naturally oily face. However, nature being the cruel mistress she is, there are bound to be moments you notice your makeup is still struggling to stand firm.

Before you resign yourself to scheduling frequent bathroom breaks to maintain and reapply your makeup masterpiece, purchase some blotting sheets to have on you at all times.

These blotting sheets are going to be your best friend when you leave your home and your makeup hoard behind. They are ingeniously designed to eliminate any excess oil your body creates with one simple swipe without taking all of your makeup with it.

However, you have to use them right if you want this to work. Blotting sheets aren’t wipes, so you don’t want to just wipe them all over your face. The best way to use them is lightly dab or press them onto the oiliest sections of your skin, and then slowly roll them off.

You’ll be left with an oily sheet and a flawlessly clean face. If this option isn’t for you, some people will resort to blotting small amounts of powder on their face instead. This can help remove excess oil but be careful. It will also add even more product to your face and further clog your pores.

Hands Off the Money-Maker

We’ve touched on this note here and there in previous tips, mostly pertaining to your makeup applications, but we just can’t stress it enough. Once your makeup is applied and everything is set beautifully, please don’t touch it. Just, please.

The more you touch your makeup, the more you will transfer oils from your hands onto your face and cause further problems.

Even if you aren’t touching your face with your hands, applying more makeup will only clog your pores more and result in a natural increase in oils.

Plus, this new makeup you’ve applied isn’t under the protection of your setting spray, and it’s not sticking to your foundation underneath; it’s just piled onto whatever eyeshadow or lipstick you already had on. This means it’s much less likely to stay put.

For the sake of both your skin and your makeup, we recommend that the moment you get the setting spray in place, it’s officially hands-off from there. You can use the occasional powder or blotting sheets to keep the excess oil at bay, but that’s it. Let your masterpiece live, and then say goodbye once it starts to wither away.

Stay Hydrated

It might seem odd when the guide is about applying makeup on oily skin, but one of the best things you can do for your skin is to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Even if you’ve used the absolute lightest amounts of makeup as possible, your oily skin is still trying to combat all of this product throughout the day as its pores are clogging and drying up.

Unfortunately, once you’ve applied all of your makeup, you can’t really rehydrate it with moisturizer or other hydrating products, but you can keep your skin hydrated naturally by drinking lots of water throughout the day.

This won’t stop your skin completely from creating oil, but it will significantly reduce its urge as it slowly rehydrates from your water intake.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, applying makeup on oily skin that will stay for hours on end is possible. True, it takes some extra care and precautions than many would prefer, but if you want stunning results, you’re going to need to put in the work.

At the very least, try to at least clean your face before applying makeup and purchase products that are specifically for your skin. If the foundation you’re considering says it’s for dry skin, put it back. Stick to those that strictly state they’re made for oily skin and look for keywords like “hydrating,” “oil-absorbing,” or “anti-shine” for the best results.