Anyone else out there have oily skin? Let me tell you, dear reader, that I feel your pain. One day we’ll be reaping the benefits (#nowrinkles), but until then, I’m right there in the trenches with you trying to keep my face from looking like I just rubbed Crisco all over it.
I’ve spent a good bit of time trying various makeup and skin care products claiming to help keep facial oil at bay. I had just discovered a life-changing mattifying primer and was pretty pleased with my daily makeup routine when boom, I had to go and discover the clean beauty movement. Don’t worry, friends! I’ve done my research and have successfully found a clean primer that I LOVE! I’m excited to share my journey with you.
Why I Love Primer
How many of you actually use primer? I didn’t for the longest time. I thought it sounded like another stupid, useless product that the beauty industry was doing its best to market as another “must have.” I could care less about how it supposedly makes your makeup go on smoother or how it helps even out fine lines (I suspect I will care much more about that specific feature in the near future).
Then, a couple of years ago, I read about how primer can be really helpful for people with oily skin, as it provides a protective barrier between your skin’s oil and your makeup. They had my attention! My makeup was constantly being broken up by the apparent gallons of oil my skin produces each day. I decided to give primer a try.
It didn’t take me much time to find what I thought was the perfect primer: Estee Lauder’s The Mattifier. To be sure, my face was still a bit oily by the end of the day, but at least it wasn’t oily three hours into the day like previously. The effect was dramatic enough that I was instantly hooked. That is, until I started making the switch to clean beauty products.
Finding a Clean Primer
My favorite tool for determining whether a product is or isn’t toxic is the Think Dirty app. The app gives beauty products a rating from 0-10, with 0 being the cleanest possible product and 10 being the dirtiest, most harmful product. When I searched for my beloved Estee Lauder primer in the app, I discovered that it was not in their database. I looked at other Estee Lauder products that were rated by Think Dirty to get a feel for how the company generally scored. The scores ranged from 5-10. Not good! I felt like it was safe to assume my primer probably contained ingredients that were bad for me.
I was right. After researching some of the individual ingredients in the Estee Lauder primer, I found that several of them (i.e. tocopheryl acetate, phenoxyethanol, and titanium dioxide) were likely carcinogenic, toxic to your skin/immune system/nervous system, and toxic for the environment. Phenoxyethanol is actually banned in Japan! I also found that many other ingredients, including peg-10 dimethicone and and polysorbate 20, are often contaminated with other chemicals like ethylene oxide that are toxic to organ systems and irritating to skin and eyes (source). Yuck!
So, my buzz was totally killed on my Estee Lauder primer, and I realized I needed to find a new one. By this point, I was totally sold on primer as a means for keeping my skin oil at bay, and I knew I needed to find a clean one that didn’t compromise on effectiveness. I decided to try 100% Pure’s Mattifying Primer since it was a brand I had heard a lot about within the clean beauty community.
Sadly, the 100% Pure primer just didn’t work for me. My skin was back to looking incredibly oily within a few hours. This isn’t to say it won’t work for you–there are hundreds of great reviews on the 100% Pure website–but unfortunately it just couldn’t hold up to all of my oil.
I realized that I needed to do better research for my second try. I turned to the Think Dirty app and took a look at all of the primers that fell within the “good” range (score of 0-3). Then, I looked up reviews for each of those primers using Google. I didn’t want to take another random stab in the dark. After reading reviews, I decided to try a primer that is actually made by a conventional beauty company, not one dedicated to clean products. By seemingly random chance, they had chosen clean ingredients for this particular product!
I purchased a bottle of Lancome La Base Pro primer, and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief the first day I wore it and saw that my face looked just like it had with the Estee Lauder primer! Instant clean beauty success story!
The Pros & Cons
The Lancome primer isn’t without its faults, which I will go ahead and disclose before turning to the positives. It contains just two ingredients: cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone crosspolymer. Not the most natural sounding ingredients, because they’re not. These are both man-made silicones. There is some concern that silicones may have negative effects on marine life, as these chemicals don’t break down easily in the environment. Because of this, many countries have requested that the beauty industry do more research about the safety of silicones (source).
Still, my clean beauty sources tend to generally think that this primer is a win. It’s rated a 2 on the Think Dirty scale–the good zone! Dimethicone crosspolymer is rated a squeaky clean 1 by the EWG Skin Deep database. And, the European Union states that cyclopentasiloxane appears to have no harmful effects on the human body (provided it is not used in aerosols), while the International Journal of Toxicology states that dimethicone crosspolymer is also safe for humans and animals. Finally, this product is free of many common irritants, including fragrance, parabens, lanolin, coconut, topical antibiotic, nickel, gluten, soy, and propylene glycol (source).
While the perfectionist in me wants to find absolutely zero bad information about my new favorite primer and would prefer that my makeup was made out of berries and bark and other natural things from the earth, I’m willing to settle for a little bit of potential bad news given that most sources generally agree that these ingredients are safe. I’m so glad to have found a clean primer that works!
I’m curious to hear whether you’ve found any clean primers that you love…let me know in the comments!
And, click here to read about more clean beauty switches I’ve made!
P.S. – I was not compensated for this post in any way. All opinions are my own! This post does contain referral links, which means that if you click on a link and purchase a product, I may receive compensation.
This is great information! My oily t-zone always looks like an oil slick by the end of the day. Thanks for the review.
I’m in the same boat as you! Glad this was helpful for you! 🙂
I don’t currently use primer for the same reason, I thought it was just another unnecessary product but as I get older I can see the benefit. I’m slowly making the move to clean makeup so I’m glad you shared this info about primer!
Hooray for switching to clean makeup! Excited for you! 🙂
I never used primer because my face is oily enough as it is. I love the idea of mattifying primer. I’ve tried it before but know that I used it wrong as it came off pretty easily. I do swear by eye shadow primer, however!
Some mattifying primers are definitely better than others! Eye shadow primer isn’t something I’ve tried yet…I’ve never really had any issues with my eye shadow, so it’s not something I’ve ever sought out. I’m kind of scared to try it because I’ll probably become hooked…haha! 🙂
I don’t use primer unless a skilled pro puts it on..lol..but it does look good and smooth under your foundation.
Ooh I’ll have to see if this works for me. My t-zone is oil slick when I wear makeup, so this might be a great help
I love this! I’m so glad you found something that works great AND has ingredients that check out – it looks gorgeous on you! <3
Thanks, Traci!! 🙂
This was great information! As I’ve already switched my hair and skincare to clean products that I love, I’ve been recently looking into clean makeup! I’ve been unsuccessful in finding an all-natural based primer that worked for oily skin (I feel your pain). I was banking on one of Tula’s primers, but too many reviewers with oily skin said to steer clear. So I will definitely be giving this a try!! Thank you for sharing!
I hope it works for you!!