5 Best Face Makeup Primers For Oily Skin


The most important factors I take into consideration when deciding on a suitable face primer for oily skin like mine are:

– Ability to hold foundation and makeup for long hours
– Does not feel greasy
– Does not cause foundation to oxidize

In no particular order, here are the 5 best facial makeup primers for oily skin.

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer

An award-winning foundation primer this is! I don’t own it though because it is way too expensive. Despite all that raving and awards, it rates only a 3.2 on MakeupAlley. I think it’s a product where you either really love or really hate because the lippies are either 5 or 1. Very extreme.

I’ve read of people with oily skin AND people with dry skin both saying that it makes foundation all cakey and flakey, and it can be dry or greasy on different types of skin. Some say it works nothing for them and it’s like putting powder on a mirror. Ha! And then there are those who swear by it and proclaim that this is their HG face primer because it is perfect for covering up lines and large pores.

I’ve gone to Sephora on many occasions to do little experiments of this primer on this myself just to understand why people have love-hate relationships with this product. I personally am not a big fan of the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, despite it being the go-to face primer for many renowned makeup artists.

Get the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Super Size Jumbo!

Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel

I’m totally in love with the Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel. This is MY (and thousands of people who own this) holy grail face primer! It oozes out as a gel, becomes a fine powdery texture upon contact with the skin, and glides on like silk. It’s almost an experience by itself. I did a full review on the Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel and why you’ll love it too!

Get the Monistat Relief Powder-Gel!


Buy Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel

Mary Kay Foundation Primer

After application it dries to a lightweight, matte finish. This does a fairly good job of mattifying the skin, allowing liquid or powder foundation to glide on smoothly. However, my skin still gets a little shiny in the afternoon (crazily hot weather here all year round!) but it doesn’t feel greasy. A little blotting does the trick. The Mary Kay is not readily available in Singapore though, you’ll need to order it through local Mary Kay agents.

Get the Mary Kay Foundation Primer!

Make Up For Ever – HD microperfecting primer

Ooh, the name sounds really sophisticated doesn’t it? With the HD and the micro and the perfecting. MUFE’s HD microperfecting primer probably started the wave for HD in makeup. They have 6 colors for different purposes – minimize redness, brighten dull skin, combat ashiness, etc. This is a good range for people who have the need for complexion correctors because their Green corrector (to minimize redness) is the top seller. I bought Make Up For Ever – HD microperfecting primer in #5, which is for skin brightening. In truth, I didn’t really see any brightening of my skin. I don’t wear ONLY the primer so anything that goes on top of it – foundation, loose powder, blush, would have buried the effects of brightening of this primer anyway. But as a facial primer, it does a good job of making makeup last. And it smells marvelous too!

Get the Make Up For Ever – HD microperfecting primer!

Clinique – Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector

The Instant Perfector is a non-greasy makeup face primer and covers appearance of pores. Technically it doesn’t minimize your pores because after you remove your makeup your pores will still be the same size. It however camouflages the pores temporarily so that your makeup can go on smooth and your face stays mattified.

Get the Clinique – Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector!

So, here are the 5 best face makeup primers for oily skin.

What’s your Holy Grail face primer? Any good face primer to add to this list?

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About Bun Bun

Hello! My name is Juli and Bun Bun is my alter-ego. I blog to share my love for makeup, how to apply it, and what works or what doesn’t work, all from an Asian perspective.

My first makeup product was a shimmery light blue lipstick which I proudly wore all over my eyelids and lips. It cost $2.50, felt like $250, and made me feel like a million bucks.

  • Lauren

    Loved the post! I’m always looking for a good oil-control primer, so this was really helpful! Haven’t tried any of these, but I think I might now. Thanks again! <3

    • Bun Bun

      Glad to have helped in your quest for a good face primer, Lauren! =)

  • Charleen Covis

    My face is an oily mess but I found two primers that work really well.. the Mattify Ultra Powder and the Clarins Instant Smooth Primer. Sometimes, when I need my makeup to stay on for more than ten hours, I use both. I’ll put the Clarins on first, then the Mattify powder. They do an amazing job of taking care of the oiliness and making my foundation last for 15+ hours. I use the Mattify powder over makeup too and it gets rid of shine for a long time before I need to use it again.

    As for the primers in the article, I’ve tried the Smashbox one and MUFE. They were both a total waste of money because they made my skin look greasier than ever. I guess they might work for dry skin, but certainly not for oily skin!

    • Bun Bun

      MUFE didn’t do much for me either! But I guess people who need color-correcting or have rosacea would find #1 Green quite useful. Most people who say positive things about the MUFE primers use the Green one. So #5 was kinda wasted on me. I think Smashbox is wayyyyy overpriced and more so because it doesn’t work for me, or rather, people with oily skin.

      Have you tried the Monistat primer? It is so much cheaper, better, and does a pretty good job of keeping my oily skin mattified, at least for a good half of the day. You should try it! And did I mention it’s so much cheaper?! =D

  • Jessica

    I bought my first primer about a week ago and it was the MUFE lavender/purple one (to brighten sallow skin tones). It seems to be doing okay– it DOES brighten my skin a bit, and it keeps my skin *slightly* less oily than just using the foundation alone (I don’t seem to have to blot as much as usual). And it definitely keep my MUFE liquid foundation in place– which is no small miracle. So far, I’m happy with it. I may branch out and see what other brands have to offer one day, though.

    • Bun Bun

      It does brighten a bit, and keeps foundation on longer, yea? I like that it smells wonderful!

      Which MUFE liquid foundation are you using? I’m using the MUFE Matte Velvet + Matifying Foundation and I find it really good for my oily skin. I haven’t done a review yet, but I’m loving it at the moment.

      • Jessica

        I actually didn’t realize they had more than one foundation. LOL. I just saw the High Definition liquid foundation on display and grabbed it after a friend’s recommendation. Even though I do like it, now that you’ve mentioned Matte Velvet, I may give that a try once I run out of HD. I have such odd skin– it’s generally oily, but I get dry patches in my T-zone. Agh. I think I just need a better moisturizer!

        • Bun Bun

          Yes I think moisturizer really plays a part in balancing out the overall skin condition. Before I found my current favorite moisturizer – The Body Shop Mattifying Day Cream – I had such a hard time keeping oil from resurfacing every few hours after blotting. Tough times!

  • s_angel


    i’m a newbie in make-up!!

    i have an AVENE mineral cream 50SPF , i was wondering can i use it as my primer? Sorry, for asking stupid question, but i don’t really understand what is the difference between primer and foundation…

    So if i put on a primer, do i still need a foundation and vice versa..


    • Bun Bun

      Hi s_angel! Welcome to the makeup community then! =D

      Some people prefer not to pile so many products on the face for fear of clogging pores and causing breakouts, but if you use the right products for your skin type, then that shouldn’t happen. The Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15 is a good example of a many-in-one product. I use it as a moisturizer, sunscreen and primer, so with that product, I already cut down on three steps.

      So yes, you CAN use a moisturizer as a primer. However, whether or not the moisturizer is good enough to act as a primer really depends on the product itself.

      There are foundations in the market that also function as a moisturizer. A popular tinted moisturizer is the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20. There is also an oil-free tinted moisturizer if you have oilier skin.

      A primer is used to prolong the time foundation stays on the skin, in addition to preparing a smooth canvas for foundation to go on. You won’t need a primer at all if you don’t intend to wear foundation. =)

  • SarahBoxer

    I have a naturally oily face. I am in my upper 20’s but this has been going on since I was 14.

    I have kind of a ball point nose. A regular nose with my tip like a ball. I am also brown in skin tone. Basically blackheads show up quickly and prominently on my nose. I tried strips but he removal took some on and some off. Also, they would come back withhin a few days.

    Three times per week I use the Citrus Clear Face Wash –  it really works. It clears my blackheads, especially my nose for exactly a week. Its cheap and last me months too!

  • Jacinda Brantner

    I am turning 40 and still have acne.. My pores are enlarging and are filling with oil.. I’m wondering if the Monistat will hurt my acne I’m trying to get cleared up? My skin is sensitive also.. Please help!