The Best Matte Skincare

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I want to get rid of my oily skin. I can stabilize it sometimes, but mostly, at the end of every day it returns to its natural state—shiny. I once just accepted this as my skin. “Hey, at least I won’t wrinkle as fast, right?” I told myself. That thought gave me hope for a while, but then I wanted more. So I went to someone I could trust, because she also has oily skin. Facialist to many perfect-skinned models, and email buddy to me: Jordana Mattioli.

I told her I wanted to find something that doesn’t make my skin feel like plastic, since a lot of ‘mattifying’ products seem to do this. She says: “I rarely find mattifying products I like for this reason. That’s because if a product contains a lot of silicones, you'll get that blurry look. Or, if it’s made with a large amount of alcohols, you'll end up with a plastic, shiny look.” Instead, she tells me, “Traditionally, the most common ingredients that are used in mattifying and/or oil absorbing products are clays, minerals, starches, polymers, charcoals, and silicas—all of which are great. Most of them work by attracting oil and absorbing it, so that the effects are instant. The tricky part is finding a product without the drying kind of alcohols, without a ton of fragrance, and with a finish you like.”

So, what to look for? “Ingredients that have been shown to help reduce oil production in other ways than just absorbing it—alpha and beta hydroxy acids, vitamin A/retinoids, and niacinamide (aka vitamin B3), for example. These should be used consistently, though, and results get better with time.” Similarly, “Niacinamide is one of those miracle ingredients that treats so many issues: signs of aging, pigment, redness, oil production, inflammation… It is a well-studied ingredient that keeps the skin barrier healthy by reducing trans epidermal water loss.” And in another vein, ingredients like “green tea and azelaic acid work a little differently… they reduce the activity of our 5-alpha reductase enzyme. Excessive sebum production is in part caused by a reaction related to our dihydroxy testosterone (DHT), the hormone that controls sebum production. This hormone is produced from testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase...so reducing the activity of the 5-alpha reductase can therefore reduce oil.”

With all of this in my head, I went on a search for products that contain these Jordana-approved ingredients, and have garnered plenty of good reviews on their own. Here they are:

Serums

For starters, and on the inexpensive end, I found two amazing serums: Paula's Choice Niacinamide Booster and The Ordinary’s niacinamide 10% + zinc 1%. These layered well under a lightweight moisturizer—right now I’m in love with SebaMed’s clear face gel.

Emollients

La Roche Posay Effaclar Moisturizer and Bioderma’s Sebium Pore Refiner I would also group together. Both I’d wear with some sort of soothing serum underneath, and possibly just a bit of the Sebamed in areas of my face that tend to be a little less oily, like my cheeks and jawline. These do have some fragrance, but the texture they leave is exactly what I’m aiming for. Sort of like porcelain, but not too tight. Plus they both lasted all day.

Jordana’s Favorite

The un-sung hero, the one I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of, was Dermadoctor’s Picture Poreperfect Pore Minimizer. Jordana pitched it to me as a product that both treats with acids AND is mattifying. It is kind of incredible. It tingles a little in the beginning, but you can feel your whole skin texture change after using if for a few days thanks to the azealic acid. If you have multi-issue frustrating oily skin, get some Sephora samples of this and give it a solid try—you will thank me.

An Actual Cream

It was hard to imagine La Mer making a mattifying product. I’ve always kind of thought that their stuff on my skin would end with me looking like I slathered my face in Vaseline and then emptied an entire face mist bottle on my face. But, here it is. The thing that’s nice about it is that I could wear it alone. Everything feels so set. It’s fragranced, but a bit more subtly than the French pharma options. Definitely worth a try if you are just dying to use your entire refund check on skincare products this year.

—Tom Newton

Next, Tom takes on Oils for the Oily.