When you have really oily skin, applying makeup in a way that avoids extra shine throughout the day can be really tricky. Instagram and TikTok makeup tutorials can be really helpful for unique skin needs and downright fun to watch.
But let’s face it — those videos skip or speed up most of the steps so they leave out a lot of context about how long the process takes. And in a lot of instances they show you the finished product but never give a midday or end of day check in so you can see how their face held up.
So we decided to tap an expert to get the real deal on how those with oily skin can approach making their makeup work for them. Keep reading to see what celebrity makeup artist and L’Oréal Paris expert Sir John shared on how to apply makeup when you have really oily skin and the tips and tricks that will ensure that you end up with a beautiful visage all day — not a face full of slick and shine.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Oil + Don’t Skip Hydration
While hydrating your skin is a tip all on its own, as is the idea that you can use oils on oily skin, Sir John says these two can truly go hand in hand.
“When your skin is oily it’s a blessing, but then you want to combat oil — and it’s okay to use oil when you’re really oily,” he explains. “It’s controversial for some, I know, but it can allow your skin to produce less sebum. A lot of the times when your skin is producing a lot of sebum or oil or your pores are really large it’s because of either internal dehydration — you’re drinking too much or not getting enough water — or you’re not hydrating your [skin]. I’ve seen a lot of people who are oily but not hydrated.”
So the key is to ensure that you’re hydrating your face, and if you can handle it, using oil to do it to try to keep excess sebum production at bay.
2. Opt for a Chemical Exfoliator
Sir John also shares that he has seen oily skin that still looks lackluster — which means that you’re not dewy and glowing, just slick and greasy. That’s not a look anyone is going for. So exfoliating is a must, and he recommends using a chemical exfoliator for oily skin.
“Dead skin has a way of binding itself to the dermis and it gives a lackluster complexion, but your skin will produce more oil to make up for the fact that the pores are clogged, he says. “So exfoliators with [AHAs or BHAs] like lactic acid or glycolic acid at night will be helpful.”
3. Brush On Foundation, Don’t Bounce It
“When you’re going into summer your skin just needs to breathe,” says Sir John. “I love our L’Oréal Paris Infallible Up to 24H Fresh Wear in a Powder, matte finish, but even with powder, brush it on and not sponge it on to avoid it oxidizing and turning to a cream — which I recognize could be nice for some people. Just make sure it goes on sheer because when you go out into the heat it emulsifies [which can make you look more oily].
4. Choose Loose Powder When Possible
Sir John also says to choose a loose powder whenever possible. “I’m a huge advocate for loose powder, especially around the eyes. It allows your skin to ingest oxygen,” he explains.
5. Don’t Set Every Layer
That being said, there is such a thing as too much loose powder. We’ve all seen the influencer videos where the beauty sets every layer of makeup with powder as an oily skin makeup hack. In the end she looks matte and gorgeous without looking cakey, but when you try it at home, you just look like a powdery mess. Sir John says it’s best to skip this method.
“I love to do a cream blush and set it with powder, I love to use a gel liner or pencil and set it with eyeshadow. But when it comes to the complexion I would only want to set it one time,” he says. “But don’t be afraid to reset your complexion throughout the day, for example, swapping out your concealer in the T-zone, reapplying it and resetting it.”
6. Remove Oil Before You Powder
“One thing you have to realize, if you’re oily you need to blot the oil off and then powder,” Sir John explains. “It’s a true life hack I learned from Sam Fine. Take a tissue, split the tissue right in half [a.k.a. peel it down to 1-ply quality], and use it to soak all the oil out of the foundation. So all you’re left with is amazing coverage, but none of the mineral deposits of oil.”
He goes on to explain that once you set that with powder, you can lock your foundation in for the whole day. And if you find that your nose or other parts of your face look oily as the day goes on, you can take a cloth of sponge and remove the oil, then re-powder the area. The general rule here is to “always lift your oil away and then set.”
7. Tools Don’t Matter More Than Application Method
If you’re wondering whether you need to use a specific tool to help your makeup for oily skin stay put throughout the day, Sir John says no. “Fingers aren’t off limits as long as they’re clean,” he says. “But I do love an egg sponge, like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Foundation Blender because at the same time that you’re applying you’re also lifting oil or repositioning anything that’s not supposed to be there. So that’s my favorite tool to use.”
But all in all, your hands or a makeup brush will do if you don’t have a sponge — tools don’t really affect the outcome of your oil production or the finish.
8. You’re Not Tethered to Powder
“The cool thing is that if you look at a foundation wall, you’ll see there are so many technological advances that I feel like we’re in the golden era of personal modification when it comes to finishes, skin care [in makeup] and all that,” Sir John says. So powder isn’t the only option you have just because you have really oily skin. How you prep your skin, how you apply your foundation and how you finish is going to have the largest impact on how your makeup behaves and holds up throughout the day.
9. Indulge in Multi-Coverage If Necessary
If your entire complexion is really oily then you likely need one finish and you’re done. But for people with combination skin that gets really oily in only certain areas of the face, getting your foundation right can be seriously tricky. That’s where, Sir John says, using the multi-coverage method comes in handy.
“Don’t be afraid to multi-foundation or multi-coverage — it’s such an underrated tip that people should really start using — two foundations of different textures,” he explains. “You know muti-masking became a thing because of the fact that we have different concerns in different areas of our faces.”
“So I’m famous for putting a matte foundation in the T-zone and something dewy and luminous everywhere else,” he continues. “Or if someone doesn’t need a lot of coverage I’ll go very sheer everywhere and then I’ll get ‘spackle’ in the T-zone.”
10. Play With Coverage Levels
While your makeup colors should be spot on, Sir John says they don't have to be the same brand or even coverage level, especially during the warmer seasons.
“In the wintertime I think that we’re okay having an even veil of coverage — something that’s comforting, moisturizing and hydrating,” he says. “But in the summer you want [your skin] to breathe. I love the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer up to 24H Full Coverage, so I would use it with a sheer BB cream so you have fuller coverage in the zones and then dial it down everywhere else.
11. Replace Your Foundation With Concealer
“Concealer as foundation is also a trick of every makeup artist,” Sir John concludes. “If I’m going to be running around and I really want to pack small I just take a bunch of the best concealers and some great moisturizers and that’s going to be it.”
Not only does this cut down on your steps and amount of products you’re using, a lightweight concealer that doesn’t clog your pores can help your oily skin stay calm and comfortable throughout the day.
Written by: Shalwah Evans, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn
Discover more tips & tricks
Keep your skin happy
Shop Featured products