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10 of the Best Foundations for Oily Skin

FEATURE: LONG READ
Words by Anna Lao-Kaim

Oily skin: first thing’s first, it’s no bad thing. The sebaceous glands help to maintain moisture levels in your skin, protect your skin barrier from environmental damage and slow the signs of premature ageing. It’s when these sebaceous glands go into overdrive, however, that issues such as excess shine and acne can arise, particularly around the t-zone where you naturally produce more sebum (the oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands). So, when it comes to foundation for oily skin, it isn’t that you avoid it, it just means you need to find the best formula to work with your skin. 

While everything from the weather to your hormones to the skincare you use can have an impact on sebum (oil) production, sometimes you just want to apply make-up in the morning and not have to worry about it slipping off, going patchy or aggravating breakouts, which is where this edit comes in. A curated selection of the best foundations for oily skin that considers all matte and oil-free formulas, sticks and liquids as well as those foundations that are tinted moisturisers, full coverage and even the best foundation for oily, acne-prone skin. In need of a shake-up? These are the best foundations for oily skin.  

Best full coverage foundation for oily skin

Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup SPF 10, £37.50

Where better to start than with Estée Lauder, the bestselling high-end foundation in the UK? Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup flies off the shelves thanks to its stamina in the face of oil, water, heat, sweat and time – you'll be hard pressed to find a longer-lasting foundation. The wide range of shades and undertones means that you’re guaranteed to find your perfect match (the experts in our at H beauty and The Beauty Halls can help you to find ‘the one’) and the full coverage finish means that a little goes a long way. Mix it with your moisturiser on days when you’d like lighter coverage.  

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Best medium coverage foundation for oily skin

TOM FORD Traceless Foundation Stick, £66

TOM FORD's award-winning medium coverage foundation is infused with soft-focus microsphere powders for a matte finish that never veers into chalky or cakey territory. A roster of shades catering to a wide variety of skin-tones and a base that goes big on skincare benefits too. Hyaluronic acid provides lightweight hydration to leave oily skin soft (not slick) and vitamins C and E help to defend skin against day-to-day free-radical damage. Added caffeine gives skin a lift too – it helps to reduce puffiness and has a soothing effect. No wonder, then, it makes our list as one of the best foundations for oily skin.  

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Best foundation for acne prone skin 

Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation 30ml, £46

Everything from exfoliating acids to swapping to light-textured moisturisers can help reduce congestion and clogged pores, but when it comes to make-up, a foundation specially formulated for oily skin will help to regulate sebum production throughout the day. Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation certainly ticks that particular box. The formula is non-comedogenic meaning it won’t clog pores and cause breakouts, while the medium coverage finish feels surprisingly lightweight. Hourglass's buildable and blurring spheres even-out the appearance of blemishes that you may want covered.  

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Best light coverage foundation for oily skin

Westman Atelier Vital Skincare Complexion Drops, £62

A skincare meets make-up hybrid formula, this skin tint from Westman Atelier is loaded with skincare actives to help even and hydrate your skin while enhancing skin’s radiance. Formulated with Tsubaki oil (don’t run away from oils if you have oily skin, it can help balance your complexion) to hydrate and retexturize skin, ginseng extract to brighten and ginger root complex to calm and soothe skin. It may be lightweight but it’s water, sweat and humidity-proof formula is top notch, so coverage is long-lasting. The formula glides onto the skin evenly and seamlessly.  

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MAC

Best stick foundation for oily skin

MAC Studio Fix Soft Matte Foundation Stick, £29

Delivering ‘polished skin with personality’ is this solid foundation stick’s moda operandi. We’ll let Terry Barber, MAC’s director of make-up artistry in the UK and Ireland, break it down. “We’re not talking about rawness or the whole ‘no make-up make-up’ mantra. It’s premium skin; enhanced, plumped, smooth and packed with moisture. Matte in the past was associated with dryness and dullness whereas the new matte is about soft focus and blurring with no blanket coverage and light hitting in all the right places.” How to achieve a modern matte finish? Use your fingers to apply foundation to your t-zone, blending it out at the edges of the face so that it melts into skin and looks seamless.    

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Compact

Best powder foundation for oily skin

Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Custom Finish Powder Foundation, £40

Shiseido's quintessential foundation formula for oily skin, a powder helps to absorb oil and even out skin tone. Unlike finely milled setting powders, a pressed powder can create completely customised coverage too – from simply mattifying to creating light or full coverage, you’re in control. This ‘fresh’ take on a traditional powder foundation is especially buildable. Sensory technology helps the powder to adapt to motion, heat and oil secretion, meaning that it stays put for longer and won’t go patchy or transfer onto clothing, making it one of the best foundations for oily skin. Wet the sponge before application to give it even more staying power.     

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Best budget foundation for oily skin

Morphe Filter Effect Soft-Focus Foundation, £18

Morphe has a stellar line-up of complexion products that stay in place all day, and this no-frills Soft-Focus Foundation is no different, with its satin finish and highly pigmented yet blendable colour. Resisting against downpours, high temperatures and sweat, the foundation works with your oily skin rather than against it and without breaking the bank.

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Best foundation with SPF for oily skin

Armani Power Fabric Longwear High Coverage Foundation, £44

While you should never rely on make-up for daily sun protection, it’s an added bonus that will reinforce the SPF that you’re already wearing. Read our guide to the best SPFs for every skin type and then build on your dermatologist-approved prep by applying a sunscreen with a high factor SPF (25 and above). Armani Power Fabric Longwear High Coverage Foundation from Armani hits the SPF 25 baseline while providing long lasting coverage that withstands high temperatures, busy days and pretty much anything you throw its way. It’s richly pigmented, so ideal if you’re acne-prone but don’t like the feel of heavier full coverage foundations – this creates a concealer-like effect without a trace of cakiness, making it ideal for oily skin.

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Best pore-blurring foundation for oily skin

Dior Forever Matte Foundation, £45

Oily skin is especially prone to enlarged pores as excess sebum can cause them to appear wider. A skincare routine that factors in pore-cleansing ingredients like salicylic acid can help to balance sebum levels and break down acne causing bacteria, but if you’re seeking pore-blurring make-up for daily wear, Dior Forever Matte Foundation is hard to beat. The liquid foundation from Dior feels silky on skin and it’s a make-up artist's favourite thanks to its velvety finish and unbeatable performance under hot lights. Seal the deal with a light setting powder to make the ‘forever’ claim really live up to its promise (and don’t forget to thoroughly cleanse your skin at the end of the day to prevent blocked pores).    

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Best tinted moisturiser for oily skin

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Oil Free Natural Skin Perfector, £37

If you’re searching high and low for a sheer coverage foundation for oily skin, Laura Mercier’s cult tinted moisturiser has been reformulated with oily skin in mind, and it’s a beauty in terms of texture, finish and skincare benefits. Add it to your basket for a barely there, satin-matte effect that’s neither too shiny nor dulls your natural glow. Laura Mercier's lightly hydrating formula smooths on easily too, whether applied with fingers or a sponge or brush for a more polished effect. If you love a sheer foundation that showcases freckles and real skin texture while evening out skin tone, this tinted moisturiser deserves a spot in your make-up bag

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Make-up application tips for acne scars and marks

Beauty tip: if past breakouts have left an echo behind on skin, don’t feel the need to go for heavy-handed coverage if you don’t want to. Make-up artist Joyce Connor advises using “sheer foundation and applying several thin layers. This will deliver enough coverage while still showing the skin’s natural glow.”  

However, if you do want a little more coverage, layering is key according to Joyce. “Use a cream concealer under foundation, just over scars or any areas of hyperpigmentation. Use your finger to pat the concealer into the skin, then blend well. Orange or peach toned colour correctors are great for covering pigmentation and uneven skin tone as well as dark circles. Set the corrector with a very fine dusting of powder. Loose powder works best for this and will keep the corrector in place when you apply foundation. Wait for a couple of minutes, then apply your foundation using a flat brush or blending sponge. Liquid foundation generally works best for layering. Work lightly over the corrected areas with your brush or sponge, then apply another fine dusting of loose powder to set the foundation if you need to.”  

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