Makeup Tips for Oily Skin: Manage It and Look Beautiful

Oily skin is hard to manage, but it can be done. You can have perfect makeup and look great if you follow these simple makeup tips for oily skin.

Make midday meltdowns a thing of the past! It might be tricky to get makeup to stay on oily skin but it is POSSIBLE! Check out our ultimate owner’s manual and makeup tips for oily skin. We’ve got everything you need to know about keeping your makeup looking flawless all day long.

What is oily skin?

First things first, do you really have oily skin? A lot of us figure out our skin types when we’re young, then assume that it never changes. Just because you had oily skin when you were 13 doesn’t mean that you will have oily skin at 33. Things change! Your skin type can literally change with the weather so it’s important to reassess the situation from time to time.


Before you officially declare your skin oily, do a skin test. According to skincare guru and former beauty editor of The New York Times Magazine Rona Berg, there is one very simple way to figure out your skin type. You’ll just need a few small pieces of rice paper or thin tissue to get started.

Ready? Here’s what you’ll do to test your skin type:
1. Wash your face
2. Pat it dry
3. Wait 20 minutes
4. Put rice paper/ thin tissues at different spots on your face.

Done! If the paper doesn’t stick to your skin at all, you’ve got dry skin. If the papers easily stick to your skin, you have oily skin. When you touch paper to oily skin, it’ll stick then leave an oily mark behind. This is a telltale sign of excess oil.

Since most of us have combination skin, there’s also a good chance that some of the papers stuck while others didn’t. This is important info! Oily skin needs to be treated differently so if just your t-zone is oily, you’ll want to treat it differently.


What causes oily skin?

There are several different things that cause oily skin. Some of them are fixable while others aren’t. Genetics are often a major factor. If you know that’s the case for you, don’t make yourself crazy trying to fix it. Changing your cleanser weekly to see if you can make your skin less oily is just a waste of time. Focus more on managing it than treating. Think oil blotting papers rather than a new armload of products.

A lot of women make their skin oily by overdoing the products. Washing your face more than once a day or exfoliating more than twice a week is a surefire way to put your oil production levels into hyper drive. Remember, less is more. If you need to refresh, use a facial mist or just splash some water on your face.

You can also make your skin oily by using the wrong products. If you have normal or combination skin but always use products designed for oily skin, you will strip away all of your skin’s natural oils and cause an overproduction of oil. It might sound odd but it’s true. When you dry out your skin with chemicals, it fights back by producing more oil to protect itself.

You can also create this over-drying effect by using the wrong tools. Being too rough with your wash cloth or using a rotating cleansing brush on sensitive skin will quickly freak your skin out.


Hormones can also make your skin go crazy. Whether it’s the natural hormonal changes that come with pregnancy or the artificial adjustments made by birth control, your skin is a slave to what’s going on inside of your body. The good news about this change is that it’s temporary. Pregnancy ends eventually and your skin will get used to the new hormones produced with birth control.

The one thing that your body won’t get used to is stress. When you’re in panic mode, your body produces more androgen hormones, which leaves you with a little too much glow. But don’t stress about that…

The one final oil trigger is the weather. It’ll probably come as no surprise that high humidity levels cause oil production spikes, but winter can actually cause issues too! Just like over-cleansing can cause your skin to produce too much oil, dry air can also cause parched skin to overwork itself.

The sun also causes major issues. Forget about the myth that tanning is good for acne. While a little sun can dry out blemishes, a lot of sun will create long-term damage to your sebaceous glands. This damage will leak right through to the surface of your skin in the form of oil.

Fall in love with matte


If you have never tried a mattifying lotion, get ready to meet your new best friend. Mattifying lotions can make all the difference. They should be the first step of your beauty routine. The lotion will absorb the excess oil in your skin while helping you keep a matte finish for hours. It’ll also help to gloss over large pores so it’s a winner across the board.

If you’re struggling to get breakouts under control, look for an anti-acne mattifying primer. For those of us with oily skin, this is the ultimate multi-tasking miracle potion.

Like all primers, an anti-acne mattifying primer will help to hide fine lines and large pores, and make your makeup last longer. The addition of anti-acne ingredients will also help to make your skin look better in the long run so there’s no real down side.

Learn how to use water

It probably seems like putting water on your skin would hydrate it, but that’s not exactly true. You know those mineral water facial sprays that have become uber popular over the past few years? It turns out that most of us haven’t been reading the directions. If you want to hydrate your skin, you should spray on the water then dab it off with a tissue.


What does that have to do with you? Well, if you mist your face with water, then LEAVE the water there to dry, it will actually help to make your skin less oily. There are also great mists out there that are designed for oily skin. Ditch the powder and make those your must-have handbag weight during sticky summer days.

Adding a little water to your morning routine will also go a long way. Because oily skin and large pores typically come hand in hand, it’s important to make sure that your makeup isn’t settling into your pores.

The easiest way to do this is by ending your makeup routine with a damp makeup sponge or beauty blender. Simply move it over your face slowly and gently to make sure that all of your makeup is glossing over the surface of your pores rather than looking caked on.

Repeat after me: BLOT and POWDER


“Blot and powder” should be your midday makeup mantra. Getting crazy with powder is the biggest mistake most women make when they are trying to deal with oily skin.

If you put powder on, without blotting your skin first, you are creating a messy soup of oil and powder. Is that really what you want to have all over your face on a hot day? It’s the perfect recipe for breakouts and exactly what you don’t want.

To keep oil under control, use blotting powders whenever you notice that you are glowing a little too much. Sometimes you can get away with just using blotting papers on their own. If you’re makeup has slid around a little during the oil spill, add some powder over the top. Again, don’t go overboard with the powder. Powder should be used for creating a matte look, not fight oil.

Take it from pro makeup artist Virginia Linzee: “To take away shine and to mask shine are two different things. I like to take away shine first and then mask it, so that you use less product (and there is less oil to mix with it). Blot first with blotting papers to absorb excess oil. Then mask the shine with a blotting powder. Use a puff to press it onto the spots where you get the most oil, such as the T-zone. Oily cheekbones are fine. They glow beautifully,” Linzee says.

If you do get carried away with the powder, get some water. Grab that damp makeup sponge or beauty blender again to remove the excess and create a smooth finish. If you are on the go, spray some mineral water spritz or just get a hand towel damp and dab it over your face.

Prep your peepers


Even women with normal skin can have issues with greasy eyelids. If you want your shadow to stick around for a while, you need to do some prep before you apply it. Again, primer is key! A lot of women substitute primer with concealer but it’s just not as effective.

Primer actually absorbs oil whereas concealer just gives you an even color base. It might be a little more expensive, but primer will actually cut down on the amount of eye shadow that you need.

Learn to read labels

oil free

When you are trying to deal with skin issues, you really do need to know what you are putting on your face. Don’t just grab the first thing that you see on the shelf. Regardless of the price or the ad, not all products live up to the hype.

There are some amazing cheap products and some useless expensive ones. There are also brands that make great cleansers and awful moisturizers so we’ve got to be strategic in our picks.

Of course, it’s important to check reviews online before you throw your money at anything. It’s even more important to know what sort of products you are looking for. Your first step should be to look for products that are labeled “oil-free” or “noncomedogenic”. When it comes to cleansers and toners, look for products with glycolic acid or salicylic acid.

Generally speaking, anything labeled “long wear” is a good bet for oily skin. Look for long-wearing foundation and lipstick, then pick up mascara and eyeliner that is waterproof or water-resistant.

A word on moisturizing


Your skin still needs a little moisture sometimes even if it is oily! It’s good to use some amount of moisturizer even if you are fighting oil. The big issue is timing. It is important to make sure that you are always using the right products at the right time.

Thick anti-aging creams are still important for women with oily skin. No matter how much oil your t-zone is producing, the area around your eyes doesn’t produce much of its own oil, so use eye creams and other wrinkle fighters, but only at night.

Applying a mattifying lotion before your makeup in the morning will generally be enough to prevent dry spots, but you might want to consider a serum if you get dry patches.

Combination skin is tricky and you don’t want to let the rest of your face turn into a desert just because your t-zone is oily. Using a serum will give you a much lighter coverage than traditional lotions, while proving the same hydration.

Learn to fight

Using facial treatment and masks will go a long way in fighting oil. Find a mask that has either kaolin or bentonite clay, and use it once or twice a week. You’ll just need to apply about a quarter sized amount, then leave it on your skin for 15 minutes. Rinse it off with warm water.

Of course, it’s important to stick to the “once or twice a week” schedule. Never do it more than twice a week but don’t go more than a few days without a mask either.


Makeshift blotting

You’ll forget your blotting papers some day and be tempted to add more powder, but DON’T! There are blotting papers all around us, you just need to know where to look. Toilet seat covers are basically the exact same thing as blotting papers and Starbucks napkins are amazing too. If you’re at work, steal a coffee filter or grab some rolling papers from a smoker. You’ll have your glow under control in no time!

Do you have any advice on how to keep makeup on if you have oily skin? Share some tips with other readers in the comments below.

Don’t forget to check out the eyeliner Infographic we’ve made for you: How to Apply Eyeliner for Every Eye Shape.

About the author

Nicci Mende

I love to travel and learn style tips from other women around the globe. I like learning how to use natural oils and cosmetics made from local organic ingredients, like kohl and henna.


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  • Great article, however I would not have added the part about toilet seat covers. They are proven to be the filthiest item in a bathroom for bacteria per square inch.

  • Oily skin can give tough time to everyone. Acne, blackheads, and whiteheads maybe are the reason of oily skin. Oily skin spoils the face beauty and you also lose the attraction from others. But in this article, you explain very simply easy tips that how to get rid of it. Thanks for sharing this information with us.