For some of us, it’s a perennial problem. For others, it crops up when the weather grows warmer and humidity rises in the air. An attack of the shinies is never cute, and it’s very common among women of color. Here’s a recent Ask Afrobella question about what we in Trinidad call “fry bake syndrome.”
I love your blog and all the info you provide for us bellas out here, and I’m hoping you can help me with a problem of mine. I’m a 24 year old, pretty low-key on the makeup bella, but I’ve got really oily skin! I wash with African Black soap, tone and moisturize with Biore (as they tend to work best out of the products I’ve tried so far) every morning, but by mid morning/early afternoon I’m shinier than a brand new penny!!! It’s frustrating to have to constantly wipe at the oil on my face all day, and for some reason I thought using a powder foundation would somehow matte the oil…but NO! So I stand at a loss and I was wondering if there were any quality (but not too costly…I’m a recent college grad, have pity, lol) products out there that could help keep my skin at bay all day long and any foundation makeup that might be oil-proof, or rather won’t shine on my skin as my skin gets oily. Thanks in advance for your help!
Oh Storme, I bet you’d be hard pressed to find a comment from a reader here who can’t identify with you. Combination skin that’s extra oily (especially in the t-zone) is a blessing that many black women have. Yeah, I said blessing. You know that saying, “black don’t crack?” The phrase refers to the benefits of melanin, which gives us better natural protection from the sun and lower risk of skin cancer. The natural oils and moisture in our skin means we tend to age beautifully, without deep wrinkles or crow’s feet. So you don’t want to blast away the oil and completely dry out your face with harsh products; what you want to do is tame the greasy beasties with skin care and cosmetics, while maintaining your skin’s natural moisture.
It all starts with a cleanser. This How Stuff Works article recommends keeping your skin “squeaky clean.” I respectfully disagree. Squeaky is not how I want my skin to feel. Discovery Health recommends washing your face up to three times a day to remove excess oil, but for someone who’s gotta work or be at school all day, that isn’t exactly feasible. That’s why I still use Cetaphil, but recently, I have been using Neutrogena Rapid Clear Oil-Control Foaming Cleanser. I always wind up going back to Neutrogena cleansers at some point, and I really like this one. It rinses super clean, leaves my face refreshed, smooth and ready for the typical creams and moisturizers I use, and keeps me relatively oil-free for the first half of my day.
I will never forget my interview with Iman, where she recommended her product UnderCover Agent Oil Control Lotion for bellas who just wanna be matte. It really is the business. I know for a fact you can get it at Ulta and JC Penney… but I have NO idea why it isn’t boldly featured on her website. She absolutely raved over this stuff! I got a bottle for like $12 at Ulta a while back, and on Miami’s hottest days, I use it on my T-Zone to make sure I stay as fly as possible. If you’re looking for a cheap drugstore oil free moisturizer, I keep hearing amazing things about Neutrogena Oil-Free Fresh Moisture Ultra-Light Moisturizer. Can’t hurt to try, right?
Now on to your foundation question. I recently interviewed makeup artist James Vincent for my new blog Pretty in the City, and he had some really interesting perspectives on coverage for women of color. Let it be known, James is boldly outspoken against the mineral makeup trend.
“First of all, all makeup is mineral makeup; there isnâ€™t a product on the market that doesnâ€™t use minerals. But this current crop is such a hit with women because itâ€™s very easy. It gives a flawless look because all of these minerals are different shapes and sizes, and they reflect and refract light very differently and gives the skin a perfect look â€“ almost a halo effect. It blurs everything out. And what happens when you put a flash on it, the light from the flash is reflecting off those particles and you get a lighter, gray, or ashy look. You see that with some powder foundations. Titanium dioxide is a color protectant that blocks the sunâ€™s light. So when you take a photo, that burst of light makes your face look lighter and unnatural. So a lot of women are heartbroken when they go out looking flawless to their event, and then, letâ€™s say when they get their wedding pictures back, they look insane. Especially for women of color, itâ€™s become a real misconception because you see these women on TV getting this makeup done and it looks flawless because itâ€™s a moving camera,” he explained to me. Hence, previous photos of me where I look like gray death.
So what does James recommend? “I see Latin and African American women dealing with coverage, and they think they need to create a finished canvas from hairline to jawline. For me, thatâ€™s not what it is. Itâ€™s dealing with the problem areas and focusing on the center of the face where most women have discoloration; then blending the makeup out from there. That will keep you looking younger, fresher, and keep the neck and the face matching so you donâ€™t get that ashy look,” he says.
For that purpose, you can’t beat a good cream to powder foundation for all-day coverage, and I can’t even front — I’ve been using nothing but the Queen Collection Natural Hue foundation recently. It works well, doesn’t come on all cakey, and most importantly, LASTS for most of the day as long as I don’t touch my face a lot. I’ve noticed that if I use them alone, I usually just sweat off powder foundations midway through the afternoon, leaving me looking a hot, shiny mess. So if I have someplace to be after work, I do touch-ups with a little powder foundation, but a good translucent powder can work even better to keep you happily matte all day long.
I recently had the good fortune of watching makeup genius Billy B absolutely transform fellow makeup artist Sharon Gault (OMG, MUCH more on this soon), and he recommended a cream stick foundation for women of color, and he lightly sets the foundation with translucent powder, and keeps layering it throughout the day. On Sharon, he used MAC’s Studio Fix because it has coverage, but isn’t a dry powder. I’m planning on getting some SOON, but in the interim, I use Face Aid by Physician’s Formula, which is definitely available at your local drugstore for a reasonable price.
In case of an evening attack of the greasies, don’t be caught without your powder compact and blotting sheets for emergency touch-ups. I personally love the Boscia green tea blotting linens more than any other brand. Clean and Clear’s left blue streaks on my face, I swear. So not smurfy. Boscia’s really do a fantastic job of absorbing my oiliness, and they’re like $10 at Sephora.
To REALLY combat your oil situation, use a clay mask on the weekend. There are so, so many out there, from Queen Helene to St. Ives. The one I always find myself returning to is Kiehl’s Rare Earth Facial Cleansing Masque, but really, any mask with kaolin clay will do the trick.
I hope that helps, Storme! And I know you bellas have lots of experience in this department, right? Let me know what works for you in the neverending battle of the greasies!