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.”

Hi Afrobella!

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 isn’t a product on the market that doesn’t use minerals. But this current crop is such a hit with women because it’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 – 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 sun’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, let’s say when they get their wedding pictures back, they look insane. Especially for women of color, it’s become a real misconception because you see these women on TV getting this makeup done and it looks flawless because it’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, that’s not what it is. It’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 don’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!

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Storme says:
February 29, 2008, 11:57 am
**taking EXTENSIVE notes*** thanks so much Afrobella!!! I'm definitely going to hit the stoes this weekend and try out some of the products you've recommended. and i never thought about oily skin as a blessing, but that 'black don't crack' makes me look at my skin in a new light. thanks for the knowledge! :)
Yan says:
February 29, 2008, 12:14 pm
One thing that I have found that really works for me is Mary Kay's mattfier (about $10 and one small tube last me about 3-4 months). I touch that on to my oilier spots over my moisturiser and have no problems in terms of oil control throughout the day, and I am one of those girls who does not go to work with any additional makeup. This takes me from mornign to evening looking fresh....
Candy says:
February 29, 2008, 1:37 pm
I think me and my Mama are the only Black women with dry skin. Hmmm... I hope I won't crack. Anywhoo... I just wanted to mention that Crush Groove cosmetics is Black Owned and doesn't contain Mica or Titanium Dioxide. FYI!
Toni says:
February 29, 2008, 1:41 pm
Mary Kay also has oil blotting sheets that are perfect!
Toni says:
February 29, 2008, 1:43 pm
Neutrogena products are too harsh for my combinations skin. They either burn it or dry it out!
BKBajan says:
February 29, 2008, 1:44 pm
@Candy - nope - my skin is super dry and I too hope it won't crack. I've tried many products but nothing comes close to vaseline (sometimes mixed with shea butter) for moisturizing - I use it all over. On another post, Afrobella can you recommend a light foundation/powder for women with dry skin. I don't use makeup everyday.
Sumatra77 says:
February 29, 2008, 2:39 pm
Oh goodness, I too have very oily skin. It's much better than it used to be, but it used to be REALLY bad. I used to use MAC's blotting powder and would still need to use blotting sheets. A lot of people have really good sheets. The body shop has some nice ones, but make sure to get the powderless ones. Shiseido, Trish McEnvoy and Estee Lauder have some really nice ones also, but they are a bit expensive(I used them for free when I worked in the cosmetics department at Saks, ha ha). Here are a couple of things I've found that work: -Cleanse twice a day. Moisturize in the morning, but at night, lay off the thick moisturizers. Right now, I just spray on some Vitamin C water. A lady giving me a facial recommended this and it has cut out the oil dramatically. Also, exfoliate every other day. -Eat well. I always thought that was a myth, but since giving up a lot of fried foods, and including a lot of fiber in my diet, the oil has died down quite a bit. -Exercise - the sweat helps remove toxins and cleanses the pores -Steam - also helps open the pores. -The clay masks are also great. YOu can actually see the oil peeking through the mask. I hope this helps!
ednita says:
February 29, 2008, 2:58 pm
question? I love a clay mask too, but i wonder, when is the best time to use it? on freshly cleaned skin? I have combo skin, so when my skin has just been cleansed, it is super dry. Does anybody use a clay mask on mid-day oily and "dirty" skin. Usually I use a clay mask on freshly cleansed skin but I wonder if I'm doing more harm than good...too many chemicals on my skin?
Brandee says:
February 29, 2008, 2:58 pm
I have dry skin too, but if my family's any indication, it won't crack either! I've started using a salycilic acid cleanser (good ol' Clean and Clear Deep Action for now, although I loved the Olay one too) coupled with Cetaphil (CVS knockoff of course) every few days between. This way, the SA cleanser doesn't dry me out too much, giving my face a break, yet I don't have crazy breakouts (yeah, dry skin and pimples, go figure). I feel keeping the skin simple (and @ Sumatra77 you're on point!) helps more than any particular "remedy". I'm now officially hooked on your blog, Afrobella! I've never replied this much to a blog EVER.
Camille says:
February 29, 2008, 3:15 pm
Pleeeeeease don't try MAC Studio has ruined so many peoples skin. I started using it my freshman year of college (I had perfect skin then) and it made my skin completely FREAK OUT. I remember my mom begging me to stop using that thick foundation but it was a nasty cycle...pimples were emerging and that was the only foundation that would cover them. I can remember in the dorm bathrooms, me and a couple of girls washing our acne ridden faces and we all noticed the common denominator of our acne occurrence was the usage of Mac Studio fix...hmmm... I highly suggest everyone leave it alone! Happy to say that once I stopped using Mac Studio fix my face stopped FREAKING OUT, and now 5 years later(yes it took that long to get it back to clear)...I am pimple free with acne scars that are fading (rosewater & sandalwood paste)...but still on the hunt for the perfect foundation (switches between FloriRoberts/Iman, Valana, & soon Queen Natural Hue)...
Sumatra77 says:
February 29, 2008, 3:17 pm
Thanx Brandee! Ednita, I won't recommend using the clay mask on dirty skin. I would suggest putting the mask only on the oily areas. If however, you want the effect of an all over mask, then certainly moisturize well after and use a gentle cleanser before.
Brandee says:
February 29, 2008, 3:39 pm
Okay, maybe I didn't explain it just right sorry! I use SA cleanser for 3 or 4 days, then Cetaphil for a day. b.
Markeysha E. says:
February 29, 2008, 3:58 pm
It has much to do with many food s you eat! So I agree with Sumatra7& it is not a myth. Remember what ever we eat shows up in us in and out side of your body in different ways some good some bad and some irritating like Oily Skin. A product that I have grown to love and cherish since I had really bad oily skin as a teenager. The product I use is St. Ives Apricot Scrub, it has done wonders for me. It really scrubs away the dirt and oil out of my pores, so at least I can get thru the day with out having to swab my face every half hour lol. St. Ives Apricot Scrub! That's what works for me. Once in the morning and when I arrive home after a hard days work... and lots of water or green tea through out my day.
Mona says:
February 29, 2008, 4:50 pm
I've gotta co-sign with Yan on the Mary Kay Oil Mattifier. A little goes a long way, and you can use it with or without foundation/powder on.
Markeysha E. says:
February 29, 2008, 5:35 pm
It has much to do with many food s you eat! So I agree with Sumatra7& it is not a myth. Remember what ever we eat shows up in us in and out side of your body in different ways some good some bad and some irritating like Oily Skin. A product that I have grown to love and cherish since I had really bad oily skin as a teenager. The product I use is St. Ives Apricot Scrub, it has done wonders for me. It really scrubs away the dirt and oil out of my pores, so at least I can get thru the day with out having to swab my face every half hour lol. St. Ives Apricot Scrub! That’s what works for me. Once in the morning and when I arrive home after a hard days work… and lots of water or green tea through out my day.
MarvalusOne says:
February 29, 2008, 10:14 pm
I STAN for my MAC Studio Fix...I've used it for years on my combo/oily skin and have never had any acne/skin problems with it...I guess it just depends on your skin type...I have also started using MAC Matte in those places where I am likely to shine (T-zone) wonders! I have had problems with the facial cleansers that I've used...I am now on to the Cetaphil (recommended by my blog sister Danielle) which I am loving because it provides a perfect canvas for me to apply my makeup and keeps the shine down to a minimum...
Tamara C. says:
February 29, 2008, 11:38 pm
I like MAC's oil control lotion. It's a little pricey ($28) but so worth it. Then there is their matte product, mentioned above. A while back, Johnson&Johnson had a product from their Clean and Clear line that I loved. It was a liquid mattifier. You moistened a cotton pad and wipe over t-zone. There were a couple of times when I used too much but it was still the business.
Tamara C. says:
February 29, 2008, 11:54 pm
To BKBajan: If you suffer from dry skin, a powder foundation is a big NO NO. A light tinted moisturizer with sunscreen would do you justice. I know I'm gonna sound like the un-official spokeswoman for MAC cosmetics, but their Select Tint is great. It gives light coverage to even skintone, moisturizes without the "greasy" feel, and it has SPF 15. NOTE: SPF under 15 is pointless. Women of color need as least an SPF of 15. But the higher, the better. And you don't have to reapply as often.
Lu says:
March 1, 2008, 4:35 am
I have heard that milk of magnesia is the cheapest solution to oily skin although I have yet to try it out because none of the pharmacies here have it :( Everyone says its a great primer and controls oil for the entire day. Has anybody here tried it??
Yvonne says:
March 1, 2008, 6:18 am
Bella, I'm from Birmingham, England and feel that reading your blog helps to connect to other black women across the world. You're doing a fab job and have told my black friends over here about your blog. There very impressed about your work. Shininess is a major problem for me but i have started to embrace it now that I'm thirty-something! What I have found that works for me and has almost no chemicals is Aloe Vera Gel with a tiny amount of shea butter (you could also use cocoa butter or coconut oil). I recommend that you start off using just the aloe vera gel on its own so you can feel it's too dry or not, then add the butter or oil if you need to. The aloe vera gel may be too drying even for oily skin on its own. So what I do is after I shower I use shea butter all over my body to moisturise, and then while I have a slight residue of the butter on my hands I put a pea sized amount of aloe vera gel on the back of a hand and then rub that on to my face. Other wise the pea amount of gel can be mixed with a tiny amount of butter. I hope that this is helpful to my fellow bellas worldwide!!!
Brownshugaz says:
March 1, 2008, 9:41 am
Have you considered the oil cleansing method? I used to have a very oily tzone too. Try using castor, olive, or jojoba oil. Apply the oil to your face , let it sit for a few minutes and then remove the oil with a warm wet/damp washcloth. It leaves my skin feeling clean but not stripped.
Kymberli says:
March 1, 2008, 12:10 pm
You ladies have given out some good information. I have oily skin and acne that won't go away. And I go to a dermatologist who perscribes me things that causes my face to peel off(being dramatic)... its horrible. I use perscriptives fondation and they put some kind of oil control in mine which I like. If anyone could answer this question: Do you know what type of moisturizer to use on acne prone skin that's flaking and peeling? The flaking and peeling is occurring after I put on moisturizer.
Michelle says:
March 1, 2008, 1:14 pm
My skin is dry and seems to be getting drier with each passing year. Thanks to good skin genes -- no cracks and I'm damned near fifty! I've been told that I look 30 - 35. I use Ponds moisturizer which leaves me with a greased pig feel but...I like it (Also eat and sleep right and exercise ~4Xs/week). My face is almost never tight or flaky (haven't been able to completely conquer the damage north eastern winters impose). I've tried all sorts of products that range in price from $4.50 to $100 a jar. Nothing does what Ponds does (some might say "that's a good thing?". In fashion magazines, I occasionally see a facial product that leaves the face looking wet (and shiny). I love that effect! Sorry. Does anyone know what product does this?
dettygirl says:
March 1, 2008, 1:44 pm
I have been battling t-zone shine year round & then when summer hits, oh LAWD!! lol .also check what hair products you're using & wash your pillowcases on the regular. anyways, I have started using proactive products a month ago & my skin hasn't been shiny since. just smooth & moisturized ALL DAY LONG. I can't even believe it. My sister is a Clinique skin care consultant & she gave me some FYI: ALWAYS wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Whatever you have left applying rub it on the back of your hands or neck.This will keep you looking young & prevent further skin damage. ALOT of black women break out using MAC products, b/c they contain oil. Just like Bella said, black skin already contains more oil glands so this can be a dangerous combination. Good luck!
Bee says:
March 1, 2008, 7:22 pm
Hey! I am from Birmingham in England as well.. (hi Yvonne) I reckon oily skin is just about the worst thing about my face because it leads to shine and clogged pores and blackheads. I use facial scrub and clay-based masks but am not sure how much of an impact these have on my skin but I will continue anyway. Boots No.7 Shine Free Make-up Base gives my skin a matte finish and is reasonably priced. My cousin even commented on what a big difference it makes to my overall look. Just make sure you blend it in properly to avoid white streaks. I will be taking note of all the products recommended on this post and on the comments section as the search for the holy grail continues! The body shop tea tree oil blotting sheets are EXPENSIVE but handy. I refuse to spend obscene(in relation to my earnings) amounts of money on MAC products especially when the sales staff don't seem to have a clue about what is best for my skin. I agree with the comments about the food you eat because whenever I binge on fast-food takeaways, doughnuts and ice-cream my skin problems seem to get worse. Thanks for the tips guys.
Paulicia says:
March 2, 2008, 9:48 pm
God bless you for this article, bella!
March 2, 2008, 10:08 pm
Wow. GREAT post!!! I'm kind of addicted to Mac's Studio Fix. :)
Millytilly says:
March 3, 2008, 6:30 pm
Hey afrobella - i love the blog too - I have the same super slick skin issue, but the best thing that's worked for me is Dermalogica products - pricey as anything, but worth it if you're willing to give it a go. They do a dermal clay cleanser which has ensured my face isn't as shiny in the day as it used to be. Dermalogica's oil control lotion is also pretty nice too. I've also ensured I'm keeping tabs on my diet and drinking plenty of water. AND - I do use Mac Studio Fix concealer and compact. Both are fab - however, there's a lighter compact that Mac do which is really sheer and intended to care of that excess shine. I do find my skin gets a bit cakey when using the Studio Fix compact, and it doesn't allow my skin to breathe as much - however, the coverage is great. I think the key is not to be overthetop with it. Apply with a brush, if anything.
Apple Diva says:
March 3, 2008, 9:45 pm
I second the MAC Oil Control Lotion...This stuff is magical!!
Randelle says:
March 4, 2008, 12:25 pm
Despite the warning about mineral makeup giving an ashy look, I find that bare mineral's mineral veil works well to combat the daytime oilies. I drink lots of water, and scrub with 3 dissolved (uncoated) asprin tablets and a little bit of honey every other night. Sometimes I use clay masks, sometimes I scrub with sugar and olive oil, sometimes I put a little baking soda in my daily clenser--- all of this stuff helps keep the oil at bay.
deycallmemiss says:
March 4, 2008, 10:14 pm
I too am extremely oily! I have been battling this for years with a number of different prodcuts. Neutrogena has not been it for me, nor has anything with the word "mattifying" in it. I always get extremely dry for a few seconds then an oil slick starts back up. Right now I am testing out a new approach: using oil to combat oil. Cleansing oil has not been the greatest experience for me, but I am trying an oil serum by Carol's Daughter supposedly for oily skin as a moisturizer. I am also using a castille soap by Dr. Bonner (the baby mild bar), and aloe vera gel (aubrey's, which is actually a liquid) as a toner. The results have been mixed. My serum is not absorbing the way I would like. I may have to combine the aloe vera with a maybe 2 drops of the serum to see how that goes.
Sophisticated boom boom says:
March 5, 2008, 1:42 pm
Hi, has anybody got tips for acne scarring? I also have EXTREMELY oily skin, but by accident, found that applying aloe vera gel to a cleansed face twice a day reduced the oil...I mean, I still get oily patches from time to time, but this is an improvement from before! Now my skin feels all dewy and soft! Now I've got that under control, I'd love to know how to get rid of the dark spots caused by acne. much lovex
Miss s says:
March 9, 2008, 3:50 pm
Sophisticated, I was about to ask bella the same question. Whenever I break out, whether I squeeze the spots or not I get scars. Through my research Ive read that hydroquinone works better (but dont know which one) and also Retin A. I also have terribly oily skin and prone to breaking out. I need flawless skin at somepoint in my life. Afro Bella please help! :-).
h sofia says:
March 13, 2008, 11:46 am
For scars, I use the 99 cent cocoa butter stick. If I use it right after getting the scar, it works fast (a week or two); older scars take longer to fade. I apply the stick only to the areas where I have scars, and I do this at night and sometimes in the morning after rinsing or cleaning my face. I don't have oily skin, though.
trinibabe says:
September 4, 2008, 4:04 pm
Hi All, I too live in Trinidad and here it is as hot as hell these days. My skin is also super oily! But since i have cut down on the sugar and carbs it has helped. Also by drinking 1 tbsp. of olive oil every day. As for skin care what helps me is Revlons colour stay foundation and a loose powder i like to support my ppl. so i use the translucent powder with a brush. also i use Ponds moisterizer in the pink container.that works good for me. But steaming yes! that helps and the clay masks like twice a month. i usually put 4 drops of tea tree oil in the water. Try it out and see what happens. everybody's skin is different.Oh and i love the neutogena Rapid Clear :)
trinibabe says:
September 4, 2008, 4:06 pm
shucks i forgot to add that the Powder is from Sasha. i'm also checking out a mattifier will report how that goes. i tried the milk of magnesia already and it made my face itch.
Jon says:
June 21, 2014, 11:17 am
Just wanted to give you ladies my humble opinion, which is that black women are SEXIER when they are shiny. I absolutely HATE the dry, dull look of a powdered face, especially on a black woman. I love it when a black woman has a dewy, moist glow or even an outright shiny face. I find that much sexier.
pillar says:
April 29, 2016, 3:52 pm
I have suffered with a very oily T zone for years but the other areas of my face are very dry and because I use powder make up this has become a problem for me as I get older because these patches are becoming more noticeable. I have tried numerous moisturisers which claim to be for all skin types but the ONLY one that worked for me was the pH Equilibrium Moisturizer from Made from Earth. It balances out my face and does not irritate my sensitive skin. I bought mine online at the Made from Earth website.


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