5 Very Promising Mattifying Products Put to the Test

Rachel Krause


I like to say that I have combination skin, but in reality it errs more on the oily side. As a teenager, I was extremely displeased with this quality and made sure to blame it on everything from my Eastern European ancestors (apologies to Russia) to not washing it with an abrasive apricot scrub frequently enough. The first “cause” is absurd, the latter legitimately harmful—no oily complexion has ever been made less oily by constant washing, violent scrubbing, and not moisturizing.

Things change, and though my skin has become a bit less inclined to full-on greasiness as I’ve aged (and I am aging, rapidly), I still work in some kind of mattifying product almost every time I’m applying makeup. I don’t mind the shine so much on makeup-free days, but it’s more noticeable when I have foundation and concealer on since it smudges and slides around. Undesirable, to say the least.

If you, too, have explored endless numbers of mattifying options, then you’ll already know what I’m about to tell you: Most of them are useless, and make skin look poreless and beautiful before disappearing approx. two hours later, leaving you high and dry and maybe even oilier than before. In the name of never giving up on finding a product that actually keeps skin matte, I tried five of the most exciting mattifiers (if you get excited about mattifiers, that is) on the market right now, regardless of whether they’re new, new to me, more than $200, or less than $6. Something for everyone, as they say.

estee lauder pore vanishing stick 5 Very Promising Mattifying Products Put to the TestThe Estée Edit by Estée Lauder Pore Vanishing Stick, $28

“Wonderful!,” I thought to myself upon receiving this. “A portable stick. Fantastic.” I feel enthusiastically about almost any product that comes packaged in convenient purse-sized form, perfect for tossing into my bag and subsequently forgetting it ever existed.

I think I may have used this incorrectly; it’s first and foremost meant to be applied on clean skin under makeup as a perfecting primer, but I only used it to “touch up” my foundation throughout the day. It didn’t mattify in the way one usually thinks of mattifying—it didn’t impart a heavy one-dimensional dullness, instead nixing egregious shine without turning skin flat. I like the soft-focus effect it gives me, but it doesn’t seem particularly long-lasting, so I reapply it multiple times throughout the day. That’s probably why it’s purse-sized.

sisley paris pore minimizer 5 Very Promising Mattifying Products Put to the TestSisley Paris Global Perfect Pore Minimizer, $215

Full disclosure: I am, as a person, inclined toward all things expensive, French, and beautifully packaged. That’s the holy trinity right there, and this “beautifying concentrate” fits the bill. Though you can wear it under makeup, it isn’t technically a primer—it’s actually recommended for both morning and night use, so that one can get the full effect of the java tea, lentil, and ratanhia extracts, plus the natural alpha-bisabolol. You know, the usual.

I did as instructed, smoothing the stuff on both before I applied makeup and as the first step after cleansing in my nightly skin-care regimen. I really, really liked the effects when used as a primer in particular—the gel-like texture made my pores look smaller, my skin matte but not unnaturally so; and I just seemed subtly luminous in a way I almost never am. It’s a gorgeous product, but it is more than $200, so you get what you pay for, kind of. I mean, it’s really a lot to pay, but disposable income is disposable income.

rimmel stay matte pressed powder 5 Very Promising Mattifying Products Put to the TestRimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder, $5.69

As far as drugstore brands go, I’ve always had good luck with Rimmel, purveyors of excellent mascaras; surprisingly nice primers; and creamy, well-pigmented, Kate Moss–approved lipsticks. This translucent pressed powder had glowing reviews, so I was looking forward to maybe discovering the perfect budget-friendly pick. This did not happen.

Maybe it has something to do with the fairness of my complexion and the “transparent” nature of the powder, but immediately upon application over makeup, my skin looked chalky, washed out, and dry as hell. I freaked out and patted oil all over my face to make it look more like my face, which means I didn’t actually test it out for all-day wear. I just really, really didn’t want to go around my life that way.

benefit the porefessional matte rescue 5 Very Promising Mattifying Products Put to the TestBenefit The POREfessional: Matte Rescue, $28

I went into this knowing that my skin has revolted against Benefit products in the past—one of its foundations gave me all these little bumps all over my face? I don’t even know—so I would have nobody but myself to blame if things were to end badly.

I wouldn’t say I had a bad experience with this mattifier, which is meant to be worn under a primer, but it was very anticlimactic. My pores looked the same, my makeup didn’t go on any better, and I was still gleaming and not in a good way by 3 p.m. Maybe it would be better for someone who just wants a kind of mild pore-blurring effect and no real super-powered shine absorption.

bareminerals blemish remedy mattifying prep gel 5 Very Promising Mattifying Products Put to the TestbareMinerals Blemish Remedy Mattifying Prep Gel, $24

I don’t know when bareMinerals started making some of the best products around, but it has happened, and I am OK with it. Despite the “gel” the name suggests, for some reason I expected this brand-new primer to go on silky and siliconey like many of its kind. It did not. It is a gel, a proper lightweight gel that dries down quickly to a matte finish.

This was, in fact, my favorite of the five (Sisley’s came in a very close second, based on the price alone!)—makeup went on smoother and blended easier on top of it, and my face stayed looking fresh, if not entirely matte, all day. Plus, it has a handful of good-for-skin ingredients that help to fend off blemishes. I can’t personally attest to its efficacy in this sense, mostly because I haven’t had any, but maybe that’s because the primer has already “remedied” them before they appear? Who knows.