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Summer is really the worst. I hate sweat and chafing, and I find wearing sunscreen barely more bearable than wearing hats. Of course, I to like wear makeup too – but my oily skin makes glamor in the warmer months an effort and a half. The only solution? An anti-sweat makeup routine.
Given enough time, the sebum will melt the makeup on its own, and throwing sweat into the mix will only make its job easier. Keeping makeup from melting on your face in the summer is a real Sisyphean task, and after many years of trial and error, I finally figured out what actually works. Some of these tips come down to ingredients, and some are all technical, but I think everyone – especially my fellow fat freaks – will find at least one of these suggestions extremely helpful.
Read on to find out how to sweat-proof your makeup this summer.
Filmmakers are your friends
Choosing cosmetics with high proportions of film-forming agents is especially important in the summer. Film formers are a specific subcategory of polymers; their extended chain-like molecular structures promote the formation of flexible films on hair, skin and nails. Any ingredient that contains the words “polymer” or “vinyl” is a film former (here is an extensive list of dimethicone copolymers), such as these:
Nylon-12, dimethicone copolymers, and various siloxanes create soft, flexible films, making them a key ingredient in liquid, spreadable cosmetics like foundation and concealer. Acrylate and acrylamide polymers are a little tougher and make up the bulk of bulletproof formulations like eyeshadow primers and setting sprays. Speaking of what…
Start — and finish — with a setting spray
If you only have room in your routine for one hot-weather makeup trick, make it this one. A good setting spray will change your life, especially if you use it before and after makeup. Spraying your face after sunscreen creates an even surface for makeup application; the final spritz seals everything in place, like a nice sandwich.
There is a difference between fixing sprays — which are everywhere these days — and fixing sprays. Setting sprays (MAC Fix Plus is the archetype) are water-based and full of humectants like glycerin; they melt layers of powder together, generally smell great, and make your skin look awfully nice. Unlike setting sprays, however, they don’t contain strong film formers, so setting sprays don’t do shit for longevity. People with oily skin should skip the expensive setting sprays sold at Sephora and head straight for the theater makeup brands, whose setting sprays are both powerful and reasonably priced.
I’ve been using Mehron Barrier Spray ($24.99) for years, but anything with specially denatured (SD) alcohol and an acrylate/acrylamide polymer flavor will do.
Some people really get upset about alcohol in cosmetics, but the dose makes the poison. Setting sprays are applied sparingly to large areas and the alcohol evaporates almost instantly. A few sprays won’t damage your skin and oily complexions need the improved solubility of film-forming agents provided by alcohol-based formulas.
Minimize your base
The only surefire way to keep your foundation from melting in the heat is to not wear it, but that’s not always an option. I struggled with some pretty gnarly inflammatory acne for almost a decade, and there were long stretches where I really didn’t feel comfortable going out in public with my bare face on.
Applying thick, pigment-dense formulations in a targeted way is the best way to cover up anything you don’t like about your skin — and the less you use, the better, especially when it’s hot outside. I use a strong concealer like MAC Pro Longwear ($47), Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer ($60.72) or Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer ($42).
Drugstore brands make fabulous under-eye concealers, but their thick camouflage-style concealers tend to fall short when it comes to formula, shade range, or both.
When it comes to technique, Lisa Eldridge has great tutorials on basic makeup for acne, rosacea, and vitiligo, and Emily Noel’s in-depth melasma coverage video is excellent.
Use the right tools
When it comes to oil control, the formula of your powder matters a lot less than the tool you use to apply it. The brushes, even very dense, do not deposit enough powder to set the makeup well on oily skin. Old-school velvet puffs and Beauty Blender sponges, on the other hand, leave behind a continuous layer of powder wherever they land. Pair with Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder ($10.50) or Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Powder ($56) for a long-lasting matte finish.
Beware of Waterproof Eye Makeup
Waterproof formulas dissolve in oil, not water; they will survive a nasty cry, but greasy eyelids devour them alive. A good eye shadow primer – which is just a concentrated film-forming paste – extends wear time, but other than that, people with very oily skin should avoid waterproof eye makeup altogether.
I really hate waterproof mascara, which I only buy if I’m attending a wedding that will definitely make me cry. On a daily basis, I wear “regular” formulas like Cover Girl LashBlast ($9.50)—which inexplicably survived hours and hours of summer football—and Benefit Roller Lash ($24). Tube mascara is popular among people who live in super humid climates, but I haven’t found one that I like more than my backup formulas. Everyone wants different things in a mascara, so experiment until you find your favorite.
Eyeliner and eyeshadow get dirty quick on oily skin; part of the reason I wear so little eye makeup is that my eyelids wear it off within hours. Product layering helps somewhat: My go-to order of ops is NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Primer ($27), followed by a smudged gel pencil topped with powder eyeshadow.
I can squeeze about six hours out of this combination before it creases noticeably, but it’s a bit of a pain, so I save the eye makeup for special, interior, occasions – if I’m going to be outside in hot weather, I put on sunglasses and call it a day.
Bring blotting papers
Cosmetic companies that claim to control oil all day are telling lies. If your skin is oily, a certain amount of shine is going to occur. That’s okay — God gave us blotting papers for that very reason. Keep a supply of rice paper, porous polypropylene sheets, or good old toilet seat covers in your purse, wallet, or pocket for mid-day shine control.
It’s unrealistic to expect a face full of makeup to emerge unscathed from a ninety-degree day; entropy drives us all crazy in the end. With the right techniques, though, you can at least expect your makeup to survive all those outdoor weddings and graduations to come — don’t forget your sunscreen.
If you’ve been on TikTok lately, you’ve probably also seen the absolute game-changer that is the Revlon Volcanic Stone Facial Roller ($7.47) – a miracle gadget that literally wipes away all traces of oil or sweat from your skin. face.
The #oilyskin gang entered the chat ???? #Revlon Oil absorbing volcanic stone roll. @Christine Abraham #oilypores #oilytok #oilcontrol #oilyskincare
♬ original sound – revlon
All you have to do is roll the stone over your problem areas (mine is definitely my T-zone), and voila, you’re good to go. Note: It can be used over makeup without damaging your base, as well as on your bare skin before applying foundation.
The best part? Unlike blotting paper, it is also fully washable and reusable. Win-win.
So, now that you’ve unlocked the key to sweat-wicking makeup, go ahead and be glam this summer.