Five Tips for Melt-Proof Makeup

My face will use any excuse to turn my T-zone into an oil slick, although admittedly it’s much better than it used to be (see notes on dehydration below). The hot weather only makes it worse but as it’s a problem I’ve struggled with for most of my life, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way that definitely help to stop your makeup sliding off your face. Using the right products at every step of the process can make a huge difference to the longevity of your face makeup, and I’ve found that the most effective strategy is to layer them rather than relying solely on one product to do all the hard work. My advice is to use any combination of the following products (I regularly do them all at once):

Mattifying primer

Let’s start at the beginning with primer. While a lot of people tend to dismiss primers as an unnecessary step (and it can be if you’re lucky and have perfect skin!) they can make all the difference if, say, you’re bothered by enlarged pores or tend to get oily during the day. A oil-controlling primer forms a barrier that slows the rate at which sebum makes its way from your skin to the top layer of your makeup. I wouldn’t recommend using them all over your face unless you are very oily everywhere (the skin on my cheeks is completely normal so I don’t need to mattify that area) so just press or stroke a small amount on the “hot spots”. Most mattifying primers tend to contain a high amount of silicone so be careful not to rub it onto the skin as this can make it pill and start to roll off.

P.S. You could also use a matte foundation but I personally find these to be too heavy – I’d rather keep my complexion looking fresh and manage shine where I need to.

Product recommendation: L’Oréal Infalliable Mattifying Primer (R230) or Estée Lauder The Mattifier (R475) there are loads of good ones on the market though, including the likes of Smashbox, Benefit and MAC

Powder primer

This is an age-old makeup trick from the early days of cinema when they didn’t have high-tech primers and setting sprays to keep the actors looking shine-free on set. I tried it for the first time a few months ago when Urban Decay sent us their Velvetizer product to try; an ultra-fine loose powder which triples as a primer, mix-in medium (to give a liquid foundation a more velvety finish) or setting powder. In my opinion it really shines (ahem) as a silky, soft-focus layer between primer and foundation and it really helps to manage unwanted “radiance”. In theory, you could use any loose powder to do this but I haven’t had much luck with any of the others in my stash that I’ve tried – there’s just something about this formula that does exactly what it says it will. It’s worth a try with your existing powder though, just to see.

Product recommendation: Urban Decay The Velvetizer Translucent Mix-In Medium (R565)

Setting powder

The power of a good setting powder cannot be overstated. Ideally translucent, super finely milled and undetectable on the skin, setting powder not only helps to lock your makeup into place (especially in areas prone to creasing, like under the eyes) but can give the skin an ethereal, soft-focus finish which disguises large pores and uneven texture. As with the mattifying primer, I only apply setting powder on my “hot spots” – chin, forehead, nose and undereye area. Using powder all over can be very ageing and look quite heavy, and is also usually unnecessary.

P.S. I use loose setting powder rather than pressed (with the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders being the only exception), which is usually better suited for touch-ups than the initial application of makeup. It does boil down to personal preference though.

Product recommendation: Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder (R120) or MAC Prep+Prime Transparent Finishing Powder (R475)

Setting spray

I’m sure there’s some sensible scientific explanation for why spritzing some liquid onto your face makes your makeup last longer, but I prefer to think of it as a little bit of magic. The good ones are lightweight with a fine mist that disperses evenly over the skin, forming an invisible film that locks down the products underneath. It’s an easy and effortless way to extend the wear of your makeup if you’re pressed for time or don’t have the patience for all these other steps. My advice would be to spray when you’re done with your complexion (and potentially eye makeup) but before you do mascara – the mist can wet the mascara and cause it to smudge, even if you’ve allowed it to dry first. If you want a seriously heavy-duty effect then you can also spray it multiple times in between layers e.g. after primer, after foundation and after powder.

P.S. MAC Fix+ is NOT a setting spray; it’s a finishing spray. It does not improve the longevity of your makeup or help to manage shine – if anything it can make shine worse because it’s designed to hydrate your skin and give it some glow. It’s really useful for knocking back powder if you’ve gone overboard or for perking up the complexion during the day if your skin tends to be on the drier side but don’t mistake it for a setting spray.

Product recommendation: Urban Decay All Nighter (R460) – I’ve tried Urban Decay De-Slick and MAC Fix+ Mattifying Mist I find both quite drying. Would only recommend for very oily skin.

Blotting sheets

All of the aforementioned steps definitely help but in my experience, nothing will stop the shine eventually creeping in if you’re prone to it. That’s where blotting papers come in – rather than caking a whole lot of powder onto your face a few hours after you put on your makeup (which usually just makes everything worse) the trick is to remove the oil that’s built up on the skin with an absorbent sheet (or three, in my case). While they aren’t the solution to oily skin, they are a really quick and convenient way to get rid of shine at the end of a long day if, for example, you’re heading from the office to drinks with friends which is when I find them personally most handy.

P.S. Blotting sheets also double up as an emergency root refresher if you don’t have any dry shampoo handy. True story.

Product recommendation: Nyx Matte Blotting Paper – R99.95

NB: Oil production in the skin is stimulated by dehydration. If there’s a lack of water in your skin, your sebaceous glands go into overdrive in an attempt to lubricate the surface of the skin. If this sounds like you – tight, prickly or even flaky skin that tends to get quite oily, especially in the T-zone – then I highly recommend incorporating a hydrating essence and/or a lightweight hydrating serum into your routine.

Photos: Alisa Ahmann by Liz Collins for Porter Magazine