The Problem with MATTE Foundations

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Who amongst us from one time or another has not wanted a shine-free foundation finish that lasts—especially if you have oily skin? But there can be a thing as being TOO matte. If you love that look, I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong or to persuade you. I’ve long ago stopped trying to tell people that the way they do their makeup or wear their clothes is “wrong,” instead I like to try to take the approach of “here’s what to do if you want this result.” So here’s what to do if you’ve noticed something’s up with your foundation and need some help.

Why do people love matte?


(no, these all aren’t matte, but I needed a picture here and whomp, there it is…lol)

The last time I recall matte foundations being such a big thing was back in the 90s when I was too young to wear makeup myself. But matte skin heavily played into the huge minimalist trend that was big in the 90s—it was a strong veer away from the 80s, the decade of doing the absolute MOST.

If I had to take a guess why matte foundations are big now, I’d have to point to Instagram and people wanting to look great in their selfies and wanting that “filtered” perfected look offline as well. A matte finish is often the choice for makeup artists having their work photographed because of the way light reflects on non-shine surfaces. Matte finishes also tend to come in fuller coverage giving skin a flawless look which is likely to garner more social media likes and praise. And look, once you post bomb selfies, I can see it being hard going back to being blah and basic. (But it eventually won’t be—if your followers can’t handle you at your “Girl’s Tyme,” they certainly don’t deserve you at your Beyoncé)

Matte seems so popular that I’ve noticed quite a number of the foundation ranges that come in 40 or more shades have a matte finish. The last few major foundation launches I’ve seen have been for matte foundations.

Who really needs it?


(lol—nothing to do with this topic, but I needed a photo, searched through my archives, saw this, and was like #minuswell)

Typically oilier skin types are thought of as the best candidate for matte foundations, but with new technology, brands are able to make foundations that aren’t as matte to suite an oily skin. But with it being “the look” right now, you’re also seeing people with drier skin types prepping and priming the daylights out of their skin in order to make a matte foundation work.

There are also varying degrees of matte and the way brands describe their matte offerings: natural matte, soft matte, matte velvet, ultra matte, demi matte, radiant matte, etc.

So what’s the problem?

I mean, if you like your makeup look, I am definitely not here to stop you. Shoot, maybe you don’t like my makeup and that’s fine…lol. I’m just here to impart some gems and you can do with it what you will.

The best makeup looks (and fashion looks) are balanced. This means if you’re doing a mostly matte look, add some element of gloss, shimmer, or shine somewhere in the look. This is also true if you’re doing a dewy look—add something matte in there. As too many dewy/luminous elements can look “greasy”, too many matte elements can wind up looking dry—and sometimes when you look dry, it ages you—and there’s nothing wrong with naturally aging, but why are you rushing through life, pumpkin?

I also have a feeling that some people tend to do the most to combat an issue—in this case, oily skin. Oily skin is not some evil being that needs to go down in a ball of fire—you want to BALANCE the oil, not obliterate it. If you’re going to say, Coachella and you want to make sure your makeup lasts from sun-up to sun-down, sure, layer up and prime the mess out of that makeup (see “How to Stay BEAT in the Heat” for more info). But everyday makeup doesn’t need to include a mattifying moisturizer, a mattifying primer, a demi matte foundation, a matte setting powder, and a matte setting spray—you’re doing TEW MUCH, boo. If you feel like your skin is VERY oily, make sure you’re not doing any of these things. And it’s also a very, very good idea to check out my oily skin post archives.

All that mattifying on a regular basis can actually wind up being counterproductive for your skin. Yep, even oily skin can get dehydrated and when that happens your skin goes into panic mode and produces more oil to compensate. And you know what EVEN MORE oil on your face can lead to? Breakouts. And you know what breakouts can lead to? Dark spots. And you know how those can be a pain to fade (but read about how I got rid of the worst hyperpigmentation I’ve ever had here).

So to wrap this up, no, matte foundation isn’t bad, shoot I still wear matte foundation. But try to be more balanced with it, sis. Dassit.

Also, I feel like I can safely predict that soon the trend is going to swing the other way and be back to dewy skin and model makeup (runway, not IG model…lol). It’s just the way things go—again, the 80s and early 90s were doing the most in a way that forced the minimalism trend. There’s only one year left in the 2010s (WHERE did this decade go?!?!) and doing the most was definitely prevalent in this age—I can see the 2020s being a bit more toned down. Or a lot more toned down. Also, am I the only one who feels like when 2020 hits, we’re all going to be like “THIS IS 2020,” you know like how they intro the TV show 20/20? Okay, let me logg off this thang…lol.

Have questions about oily skin or matte foundation? Leave ’em in the comments below and stay tuned for my reply!

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Allure.com, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.

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