What type of makeup is good for your skin?

girl at makeup counter
With so many makeup options out there, how do you pick the one that's right for your skin?
Sky View/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Makeup has sure come a long way. Once upon a time, women used urine to lighten freckle, leeches to make their complexions paler and other dangerous materials like arsenic and lead, all in the name of beauty. Nowadays, products are scientifically formulated, environmentally friendly, and government regulated, important factors when product claim all these benefits. In a multibillion-dollar game and the age of information overload, the trick is finding what works for you.

Before you get overwhelmed by Estée Lauder, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Maybelline, Revlon or CoverGirl, you want to understand your skin; after all, before an artist starts a masterpiece, it's best to know the surface.


Women have various skin types, affected by factors like genetics, ethnicity, age and hormones. In general, there are four categories:

  • Dry skin occurs when skin lacks natural oils, making it appear rough and dull. Dry skin is affected by weather, hygiene (frequent washing), dehydration and diet; it can also be hereditary.
  • Oily skin results from glands producing too much oil. This is often hereditary but exacerbated by hormones (hello puberty, PMS and pregnancy), weather and stress. It can give your skin a shiny appearance
  • Combination skin has a mixture of dry parts combined with oily sections, typically in the T-zone or chin, nose and forehead. Weather, hormones and genetics are usually factors.
  • Normal skin, to quote Goldilocks and The Three Bears, is "just right." Not too oily, not too dry, this skin type has the right combination and balance.

The type of skin you have will play a big role in the type of makeup you should use. If you have normal skin, you can use whatever works for you. Use matte for a finished look or luminous for the dewy, night-out-on-the-town look. Consider varying products with the seasons – mineral in the warm months when your skin has more oil, and liquid in the winter for extra hydration. You'll still want to choose products that are oil-free and hydrating, so read your labels.

For a look at the other skin types, let's go to the next page.


Selecting the Right Makeup for Dry, Oily or Combination Skin

Focus first on the right foundation since it's the basis for your makeup. Selecting the best product is directly tied to skin type, so let's discuss what works for the different categories.

For dry skin:


  • Choose liquid foundations with labels highlighting "luminous wear" or "hydrating." These usually typically contain light-reflecting elements that make your skin shine.
  • Avoid mineral powders, matte finishes or cream to powder foundations. These often accentuate problem areas like dry spots and flaky patches. Apply foundation primer first to help makeup go on smoothly. Makeup brushes help spread your foundation evenly so it won't cake up in dry areas.
  • If you prefer to finish with a powder, just powder your nose which is typically the oilier section.
  • Finish your look with a sweep of cream eye shadow, a moisturizing lip gloss or satin lipstick and a touch of cream blush.

For oily skin:

  • Women with oily skin sometimes struggle with blemishes so how do you get the coverage of a liquid without the shine? Matte foundations were made for you! Look for products that say "oil-free" or boast mattifying effects. Use foundation with a pressed or loose powder which you can also buy in mattifying or oil-free formulas.
  • Mineral powder makeup is excellent for oily skin because it actually blots excess oil, giving you a less shiny look. One complaint about mineral makeup is it doesn't cover and conceal well, so if you have acne, spot-treat with concealer.
  • Setting sprays help your makeup last longer, a common challenge for oily complexions. Blotting tissues and shine-free or oil-control powder are also good.
  • Avoid any products with shimmery or glittery ingredients; on oily skin, these just add shine.
  • Waterproof eye liner and a mineral, loose powder eye shadow, paired with a powder blush help prevent makeup runs.

For combination skin:

  • Look for cream to powder or liquid to powder options. These products go on like a liquid but have a matte finish. You typically don't need to use additional powder afterwards which helps dry areas.
  • Mineral or powder foundations can also work. Use a brush to lightly dust over your dry spots, but work it well into the oily spots to control shine.
  • Look for oil-free products and brands that say combination skin on the bottle; your skin should get its oil from a good moisturizer, not your makeup.
  • For a combination complexion, you have cream and powder options for eyes and cheeks depending on where you're oily or dry. A good sales associate can recommend the right product mix.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Berkeley, Reno." Mineral Cosmetics for Oily Skin." Dailyglow.com. (Aug. 29, 2012). http://www.dailyglow.com/mineral-cosmetics-for-oily-skin.html
  • Cosenza, Laura. "The Best Makeup for Dry Skin." February 21, 2012. (Sept. 11, 2012). http://www.makeup.com/article/the-best-makeup-for-dry-skin/
  • Marie Claire. "10 Best Foundations for Oily Skin." A9gustu 29, 2012). http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/beauty/best/13867/10/foundations-for-oily-skin.html#index=1
  • The National Skincare Institute. "Skin Types." (Sept. 3, 2012). http://www.skincarenet.org/skin-types.html
  • Real Simple. "The Best Foundation." (Sept. 3, 2012). http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/makeup/face/best-foundation-10000001664394/page3.html
  • Shapouri, Beth. "What's your Skin Type? Do You Even Know?" Glamour. Aug. 20, 2009. (Sept. 1, 2012). http://www.glamour.com/beauty/blogs/girls-in-the-beauty-department/2009/08/whats-your-skin-type-do-you-ev.html
  • Skin-care news.com "Makeup for Dry Skin: The Do's and Don'ts." April 5, 2010, (Aug. 28, 2012). http://www.skincare-news.com/a-7181-Makeup_For_Dry_Skin_The_Dos_and_Donts.aspx
  • Total Beauty.com. "The best foundations for dry skin." (Aug. 28, 2012). http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/article/dry-skin-foundation-page1
  • Total Beauty.com. "How to avoid makeup meltdown." (Sept. 11, 2012). http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/flash/c_makeup_meltdown
  • WebMD. "History of Makeup." June 12, 2012. (Sept. 4, 2012). http://www.webmd.com/healthy-beauty/guide/history-makeup
  • Wu, Jessica. "Top 10 Causes of Dry Skin" Everyday Health. Sept. 20, 2010. (Aug. 30, 2012). http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-report/dry-skin-relief/dr-wu-causes-of-dry-skin.aspx