This is what comes up when you search “oily skin” on a stock photo database. Because oil painting your own face is something people apparently need to find.

Last week, a reader commented on my last tutorial post about how to make your red lip last, asking, “Could you do some on applying foundation? Could you do one on make-up for oily skin?” Well, dear NeuroNerd, we absolutely can do that.

Oily skin is a super common problem. Many of the people I’ve worked on have had oily skin, acne, milia, dry complexion and other issues — all are perfectly normal, but can nevertheless be very frustrating, particularly when it comes to applying makeup. With the right products and techniques, though, makeup for oily skin can actually last a much longer time than you might think!

These techniques are also really helpful if you, like me, are the kind of person who sweats a lot. I hate that I do and I find it super embarrassing, but there are much worse issues to have that simply being a sweaty lady whose makeup occasionally slides off her face like an over-easy egg off a sausage. For my fellow serious sweaters, I also have a great stock photo for you.


“Wet button-down contest!”

Step 1: Prep work

When it comes to oily skin, it is extremely important to use the right products before any makeup even touches your face. Use a gentle cleanser and exfoliant — I prefer to never use any with those little beads, as they tend to scratch my skin and leave it drier than it was before. The issue with making your skin too dry is that it will often then overproduce oil and makeup won’t look as smooth or blend as well. Using a simple cleanser or, if need be, an oil-control cleanser. Pat your face dry, then use an oil-control moisturizer like Origins’ Make A Difference Plus Rejuvenating Treatment.

Also, here is a good time to mention that your brushes, sponges and/or hands have to clean in order to work on your face. Any sort of extra dirt or oil can only add to any problems with your skin you may be having.


As you can see, I don’t sleep much.

Step 2: Primer

An oil-free primer is the way to go. I’ve always been a big fan of Smashbox’s Photo Finish, and they now have a Photo Matte Anti-Shine product that’s great for people with oilier skin. If you’ve experienced negative side effects from certain primers, however, you can try an all-natural one. I’ve been using Devita’s Prime Corrective lately all over my face, as it’s been oilier than usual due to the seasons changing (my skin reacts weirdly to stuff like that).

You can apply primer with your fingers (as long as they’re clean!) and just spread it around, circling it into the skin. I would’ve included a photo of this, but I use clear primer so it seemed silly.

Step 3: Foundation or tinted moisturizer

People will often tell those with oily skin to use primarily powder products because it will “soak up” the oil. This, unfortunately, is not true — in fact, putting too much powder on when your skin is oily can make it look clumpy, fake and unnatural. Basically, it won’t be what you’re looking for.

Instead, use either an oil-free BB cream or oil-control foundation in a light formula. Dr. Jart’s Water Fuse Smart Gel BB cream is great, as well as Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer, which comes in a range of hues and undertones, making it a good pick for somebody who wants to wear tinted moisturizer alone.

Apply the product using flat foundation brush, then blend into skin using the brush and, if necessary, soft makeup sponges. I typically prefer brushes, but I know not everybody likes to use them; if you’re one of those people, you can use clean, new sponges to do this step, as well. Just don’t push hard into the skin, as it’ll probably wind up removing some makeup or making it uneven.


As for priming your lids (since a common concern of people with oily skin is the way eye makeup tends to bunch up), I’ve had great luck with Benefit’s Stay Don’t Stray. However, if you’re on a limited budget or simply don’t feel like getting another product for your eyes, you can use normal facial primer on lids and it’ll work just fine! I just prefer tinted ones since they take care of my very visible eyelid veins. I usually use my fingers for this step when I’m on the go, but you can definitely use a small concealer brush for the same thing.


Step 4: Concealer

I prefer to use a liquid concealer no matter what, as it always gets me great coverage and tends to look more natural than cream formulas. I used MAC Pro Longwear Concealer because it’s one of the products I’ve used that actually conceals my super dark undereye circles. If you’re looking for oil-free ones, though, Sephora’s Perfecting Cover Concealer is great, and Make Up For Ever’s Full Cover Concealer is both oil-free and waterproof. Plus, it comes in a wider variety of shades than most concealers (which gets really, really annoying for people who have very dark or very pale complexions).

I typically use my fingers for blending my own concealer, but on other people, a concealer brush works really well, too.


Step 5: Powder

Using a large brush, sweep on your finishing powder to make your look stay on longer. Then, get a bit more powder on your brush and press it directly into your face on the shiniest, oiliest parts: nose, forehead and chin. I couldn’t do my nose here since I have piercings, but normally, I would’ve. Neutrogena’s Translucent Oil Control Powder works great for me, especially on days when I’m doing physical activities like hiking or running (yes, I wear makeup while exercising, but that is a discussion for a different day).


Note: I know my nose has a weird bump, I am taking care of it! :(

Aaaand voila! You’re donesies.


Step 6: The rest of it

If you plan on wearing other makeup, just try to use water-resistant or waterproof formulas. For example, using waterproof mascara rather than a non-waterproof cream liner will likely make your look stay the same for much longer. Spraying a finishing mist on can also help, such as Urban Decay’s De-Slick Oil Control Setting Spray.

Also, if you’ve had issues with blush lasting in the past, you can use both a sheer cream or gel formula plus a powder to ensure that it’ll keep your glow a lot longer.

Throughout the day: If you find yourself getting oily throughout the day, a great way to keep your face fresh is to brush on a bit of powder every once in a while or use oil blotting sheets (just be sure to blot, not rub!).

Hopefully this was able to help some of you. And definitely let me know if you have any questions or future tutorial requests!