Part skincare and part makeup, primer occupies a unique space in the beauty world — and if you have oily skin, you know just how crucial it can be. The best foundations and prettiest blushes might look gorgeous when they first land on your face, but after a few hours in the oily mix, they can frustratingly disappear into the ether (or smear around, emphasize fine lines, and create abstract art when you blot).
When used correctly, primers create an invisible layer of traction for the rest of your makeup to hold onto, keeping it in place despite currents of sweat and sebum putting up a fight. But choosing the best primer for oily skin isn't easy, and the wrong one can leave you feeling like you just wasted money on a bottle of clear, do-nothing goo.
To avoid that unhappy fate, we've combed through all the primers on the market to come up with the 10 best for satisfying oily skin, whether they're tamping down shine, coasting over pores, filling in for sunscreen or keeping your makeup intact after eight hours with a mask on. Ranging from Tatcha's passion-inducing putty to a wonder that instantly makes fine lines disappear, once you find the best primer for your oily skin, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
- Best Primer for Blurring Skin: DHC Velvet Skin Coat
- Best Brightening Primer: Touch In Sol No Pore Blem Primer Base
- Best Primer for Fine Lines: Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer
- Best Primer for Velvety Skin: Tatcha The Silk Canvas
- Best Primer to Help Makeup Last: e.l.f Matte Putty Primer
- Best Primer With SPF: Dermalogica Skinperfect Primer SPF 30
- Best Mattifying Primer: Rimmel Stay Matte Mattifying Primer
- Best Primer for Large Pores: Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer
- Best Vegan Primer: Ren Perfect Canvas Clean Primer
- Best Primer for Rosacea and Scarring: Ilia True Skin Radiant Priming Serum
Best Primer for Blurring Skin: DHC Velvet Skin Coat
“If you have oily skin, you will love it.” The quote sums up how shoppers feel about DHC’s “must-have” primer, which garners accolades for keeping shine away all day. Others dub it the perfect primer, as it absorbs oil under foundation, visibly blurs out wrinkles, pores, and blemishes, and keeps skin looking and feeling like velvet.
Shop now: $21 (Originally $23); amazon.com
Best Brightening Primer: Touch In Sol No Pore Blem Primer Base
K-beauty brand Touch in Sol’s primer has earned almost 5,000 five-star Amazon ratings for its adeptness at besting oil and leaving bright, poreless skin in its wake (to say nothing of its incredible name). Shoppers with oily skin write that they’re thrilled to find the “lifesaver” after years of searching for a primer that keeps oil at bay. It handily does so, and the balancing tint translates to skin that looks bright and well-rested.
Shop now: $12 (Originally $16); amazon.com
Best Primer for Fine Lines: Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer
On top of being cruelty-free, Jane Iredale’s moisturizing formula protects your skin from aging with extracts from algae and green and white tea (shoppers compare it to health food for their face, since it makes their skin look good and feel good). More immediately, they say it keeps oil at a minimum while it camouflages wrinkles incredibly well, even on mature skin that lacks elasticity.
Shop now: $50; amazon.com
Best Primer for Velvety Skin: Tatcha The Silk Canvas
If Helen of Troy was a makeup primer, she’d be Tatcha’s legendary Silk Canvas. Call it the primer that opened a thousand wallets: With more than 162 thousand “loves” on Sephora’s website and 353 five-star reviews from oily-skinned shoppers, the tub of pearly pink primer blurs the lines between skincare and makeup. People compare the finish to a silky, airbrushed veil that makes their foundation look 10 times better, and write that the protective layer even solved their maskne.
Shop now: $52; sephora.com
Best Primer to Help Makeup Last: e.l.f Matte Putty Primer
If you don’t have $52 on hand for primer right now, shoppers say e.l.f.’s budget version is a solid competitor, especially when it comes to keeping makeup on for the long haul. The oil-free putty is infused with kaolin clay and white charcoal to maintain a matte finish, and it pays off. Shoppers call the primer a game-changer for oily skin, that preserves makeup for hours through problematic T-zones and long-term masking.
Shop now: $8; amazon.com
Best Primer With SPF: Dermalogica Skinperfect Primer SPF 30
It’s rare to find a product that wins five stars from a full 88 percent of reviewers, but Dermalogica’s primer gets it done. Shoppers say they’re “amazed” at how it helps their skin, between rapidly concealing imperfections and minimizing acne and pores over time. Even with sunscreen, the formula is ultra-light — and per one 80-year-old shopper, it gives skin a soft glow as it hides wrinkles.
Shop now: $53; amazon.com
Best Mattifying Primer: Rimmel Stay Matte Mattifying Primer
As the name would suggest, this is the drugstore’s best primer for a matte finish, even on skin that tends towards oil slick-status. Of its 11,000+ five-star Amazon ratings, nearly 400 come from people with oily skin — and in the words of one shopper, even primers triple the cost don’t hold a candle to Rimmel’s mattifying charm. It keeps their faces oil-free for over eight hours, braving humid garden centers in the middle of Tennessee with ease.
Buy now: $6 (Originally $7); amazon.com
Best Primer for Large Pores: Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer
This tube of wonder-working goo comes highly recommended from dozens of shoppers with “super oily” skin, lauded for the way it fills in pores and eliminates grease. According to one intrepid shopper who wore it through a corn maze in 90 degree heat, the primer kept their makeup at the end looked fresh and oil-free — a sharp contrast to the normal puddle of oil they say typically accumulates, even in an office climate. Others add that makeup glides on “like a miracle,” and it’s so worth the price, they’ve bought it five times.
Shop now: $45; amazon.com
Best Vegan Primer: Ren Perfect Canvas Clean Primer
If you’re vegan through and through (or not), Ren’s silicone and cruelty-free primer is a crowd-tested favorite for oily skin. Shoppers report transformative results, the lightweight juice morphing their oily T-zones into smooth, blurred, and mattified skin. It absorbs quickly, controls oil like a non-nonsense bouncer, keeps makeup in place, and smells great to boot.
Shop now: $45; renskincare.com
Best for Rosacea and Scarring: Ilia True Skin Radiant Priming Serum
Ilia nails the game when it comes to skincare-makeup hybrids. The brand’s anti-aging serum-meets-foundation-meets sunscreen has earned a permanent spot in our editor’s makeup bags, and the priming serum only adds to its legacy. Shoppers say the formula hugely tones down rosacea and scars thanks to its hibiscus extract, aloe, and beta glucan, which firm skin as they create an invisible shield against aging. And per oily-skinned shoppers, it’s the only primer that keeps their makeup smooth and shine-free all day.
Shop now: $52; iliabeauty.com
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