Foundation is tricky—and by tricky, we mean somewhat overwhelming. Though we’re constantly trying new, complexion-enhancing formulas on our T-zones and cheekbones, we still routinely find ourselves in the middle of a makeup aisle, scratching our heads, throwing up our hands, and slowly backing away toward the door.
After all, there are numerous factors that beg careful consideration. From shade to price to formulation, what works for some won’t necessarily work for others—especially if you have oily skin. For this skin type, you need a formula that won’t act like a Slip ‘n Slide after a few hours of wear, or cause breakouts. To lend a helping hand, we consulted celebrity makeup artist Tobi Henney and narrowed down the selection to the very best drugstore foundation formulas for those prone to oily skin and blemishes.
Keep reading for the best drugstore foundations for oily skin.
Best Overall: Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup
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Equipped with special microclear technology, this popular drugstore formula is great for tackling shine, bumps, and redness in a non-irritating manner. The coverage is lightweight, breathable, and ingredients like salicylic acid help improve—and prevent—blemishes for oily, acne-prone skin. Plus, it’s designed to never clog pores.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 14 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Acne: Almay Clear Complexion Makeup with Salicylic Acid
Courtesy of Target
Heavy, cake-prone foundations don’t do skin any favors for those prone to bumps and inflammation. So, by incorporating an acne-fighting formula designed especially for oily skin types, you can beat breakouts before they happen in the first place. This drugstore foundation from Almay contains salicylic acid to treat current breakouts and prevent future ones while concealing blemishes, controlling shine, and minimizing pores. More importantly, the lightweight formula does so while letting your skin breathe.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 8 | Finish: Soft Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Excess Shine: Catrice Cosmetics HD Liquid Coverage Foundation
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If you have oily skin, then you’re well aware of the struggle it is to stay shine-free throughout the day. That’s why we’re big fans of this foundation from Catrice. It completely conceals imperfections and creates a smooth, ultra-matte finish that lasts up to 24 hours. Plus it’s lightweight and oil-free, making it a great option for acne-prone types too. Blotting sheets, who?
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 26 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Long-Wear: L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation
Courtesy of Walmart
There’s a reason this drugstore foundation makes each and every “best of” list when it comes to formulas designed for oily skin. “It has a great formulation that helps to avoid oil buildup throughout the day,” says Henney. Even a light-handed application yields a flattering, demi-matte finish that promises to withstand the test of time—as in a full 24 hours.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 22 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Lightweight: Rimmel London Stay Matte Liquid Mousse Foundation
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If heavy, full-coverage foundations aren’t your thing, Rimmel’s pretty, mousse-like matte formula is a dream come true. It blends immaculately, diminishes the appearance of pores, and is formulated sans oil for a flawless, shine-free finish. In fact, this cute purple tube has been one of our preferred drugstore foundations for oily skin for years now.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 22 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Shade Range: Nyx Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Full Coverage Foundation
Courtesy of Ulta
Henney counts this foundation from NYX as another one of her drugstore favorites. “This is such an inexpensive foundation that’s great for everyday wear,” she says. “I love that the formula will cover any redness, acne, and pigmentation.” Best of all? It’s available in a whopping 45 shades, meaning 24-hour matte, full-coverage for all.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 45 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dark Skin: Black Opal True Color Mineral Matte Crème Powder Foundation SPF 15
Courtesy of Target
Oily skin is no match for this cream-to-powder foundation. It mattifies the skin to keep shine at bay while nourishing it with non-greasy ingredients like aloe and vitamins C and E. The result is a smooth, velvety finish that never looks or feels dry. Created specifically for those with melanin-rich skin, it’s available in a number of shades that flatter medium to deep skin tones—plus, it uses special shade ID technology with multi-colored chromatic pigments that adjust to your unique skin tone to get your perfect match. Did we mention it also contains SPF?
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 12 | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.3 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Medium Skin: Juvia’s Place I Am Magic Foundation
Another brand known for always offering an inclusive shade range, this Juvia’s Place foundation has an extensive number of options for medium, olive, and tan skin tones. As the name suggests, the formula is truly magic. It evens out the complexion while refining skin texture and erasing blemishes, leaving behind a soft matte finish that feels natural. Even better? It stays put all day long.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 35 | Finish: Soft Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Light Skin: Makeup Revolution Conceal & Define Full Coverage Foundation
We love how effortlessly this lightweight, buildable foundation from Catrice diffuses blemishes and redness without feeling too heavy or cakey. It boasts a pretty impressive shade range, including tons of options for even the fairest of skin tones—the range even includes a pure white lightening shade so you can create your perfect custom color. It’s oil-free yet super creamy, so you can trust it’s comfortable but won’t slide off before the end of the day. Plus, it features a built-in jumbo doe foot applicator for mess-free (and less wasteful) application.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 42 | Finish: Demi-Matte | Size: 0.8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Full Coverage: CoverGirl TruBlend Matte Made Liquid Foundation
Courtesy of Ulta
When it comes to full-coverage foundations, the last thing you want is to feel like you’re wearing a mask—especially a dry, cakey mask. That’s why we’re major fans of this Covergirl foundation. It creates a flexible, comfortable layer over the skin that conceals imperfections and keeps oil under control for up to 12 hours. The result? Soft, smooth, and absolutely flawless skin.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 36 | Finish: Soft Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Medium Coverage: Revlon ColorStay Makeup For Combination/Oily Skin SPF 15
A favorite of senior editor Lindsey Metrus, this foundation stays in place even on the hottest, sweatiest days. And even though it’s a bit thicker on contact, when applied with a Beautyblender, it buffs seamlessly into the skin and can be built upon for fuller coverage. “It’s super blendable,” says Henney. “I also love that it has SPF—it’s the perfect foundation for oily skin as we enter summer.”
Coverage: Medium to Full | Shade Range: 16 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Light Coverage: Undone Beauty Matte Tint Foundation
Courtesy of Target
Many light coverage foundations tend to lean towards the dewier side, which typically isn’t a great match for oily types. However, that’s not the case for this tinted foundation from Undone Beauty. It provides just enough coverage to conceal imperfections while leaving behind a natural matte finish that’s soft and smooth. Bonus? It’s formulated with tea tree oil to keep oil and blemishes at bay throughout the day.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 8 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1.13 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Stick: Maybelline New York Fit Me Shine-Free + Balance Stick Foundation
Courtesy of Target
The long-lost (yet equally effective) cousin to its liquid-foundation counterpart, Maybelline’s beloved Fit Me foundation also comes in an easy-to-transport stick formulation we can’t stop tossing into our purse. Yes, it strategically discourages shine, but the medium coverage is also great for blending away redness in a soothing manner that never disrupts our skin’s homeostasis.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 12 | Finish: Natural Matte | Size: .32 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
If you have oily skin, a foundation that tackles excess shine and won’t clog your pores will be your best friend. That’s why we love Neutrogena’s SkinClearing Liquid Makeup, an oil-free, non-comedogenic (aka non-clogging) foundation that features a special microclear technology with salicylic acid to address shine, blemishes, and redness. Plus, it leaves behind a gorgeous natural finish that’s not too dewy or too matte. Next up, L’Oréal’s Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation is a fan-favorite for good reason. It leaves behind a flawless matte (read: not flat) finish and prevents oil from building up throughout the day, resisting sweat, heat, and humidity for up to 24 hours. And finally, Undone Beauty’s Matte Tint Foundation is great for achieving an effortless no-makeup makeup look sans greasiness. It offers a hint of coverage with a non-dewy matte finish. Plus, it’s formulated with tea tree oil to keep oil and blemishes at bay.
What to Look for in a Foundation for Oily Skin
An Oil-Free Formula
If you have oily skin, products that contain oil aren’t necessarily the enemy—in fact, there are plenty of facial oils suitable for oily and acne-prone skin types. However, when it comes to foundation, Henney says it’s best to leave it behind. Oil-free formulas tend to be lighter in weight and will prevent your skin from looking shiny and greasy as the day goes on. Many foundations do contain oil, so be sure to look for products that specifically indicate they’re free of it.
A Non-Comedogenic Formula
Another keyword Henney recommends oily types look out for is “non-comedogenic.” Non-comedogenic formulas won’t clog your pores, which helps to prevent breakouts and enlarged pores, keeping your complexion nice and clear. Remember, non-comedogenic and oil-free aren’t necessarily interchangeable terms, so look for products that specify they’re both.
A Matte Finish
Unfortunately, the ever-popular dewy look isn’t suitable for those with oily skin, especially if you’re prone to looking shinier throughout the day. That’s why Henney recommends opting for formulas with matte finishes. “Those with oily skin never want to add more shine to their skin—matte options work much better,” she says. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to opt for the flattest matte out there, demi-matte and natural matte finishes are also good options.
Are water-based foundations good for oily skin?
It depends. If your skin is sensitive and acne-prone, a water-based foundation can provide coverage without clogging pores and leading to further breakouts, since it lacks oils and other potential pore cloggers. But water-based foundations are sometimes less long-wearing than other formulations and tend to be less matte, so if you want a matte foundation that locks into place, they may not be the best pick.
Are liquid or powder foundations better for oily skin?
It really depends on your foundation preferences. Powder foundations tend to be matte and can help sop up excess oil, but many people prefer liquid because it’s less likely to look cakey and is easy to build coverage.
What are the best clean drugstore foundations for oily skin?
While it can be a challenge to find a truly “clean” foundation that meets Byrdie’s Clean Pledge, particularly at the drugstore, several products on this list are free of parabens and preservatives like BHT, including Juvia’s Place I Am Magic Foundation and Undone Beauty Matte Tint Foundation.
MEET THE EXPERT
Tobi Henney is a bi-coastal makeup artist known for creating flawless, glowing skin. Her celebrity clientele includes the likes of Megan Fox and Ashley Graham and her work can be seen across the ad campaigns of major brands and in the editorials of the top fashion magazines. She originally hails from Sydney, where she was previously the L’Oréal Paris Makeup Director for Australia.