How to Keep Your Summer Makeup Looking Cool When It’s Hot Hot Hot

Teim via Shutterstock

Q: What’s a good strategy for makeup that allows for sweating throughout the day? I swear by powder, but it can looked caked if I walk outside for more than five minutes in the summer.

A: Whew, do I feel you on the whole Sweaty Betty thing; I’m schvitzin’ hard in front of the AC right now, and summer hasn’t even officially begun! Still, I’m confident I can help you with this conundrum.

O2COOL Fan, $7.99

First, get yourself a portable mini fan to prop up wherever in your house you apply makeup. It seems obvious to me now, but I spent years walking back and forth between my bathroom mirror and the AC in my bedroom window to try and keep my makeup from sliding off in the summer even as I was putting it on. Don’t be like me; save yourself the trouble and just buy the fan.

Skindanavia Oil Control Primer and Finishing Spray Set, $60

Next, let’s talk face primer, which both smooths the appearance of your makeup and gives it something to stick to throughout the day. The primer I use most often is an oil control spray from Skindanavia, which is a terrible name but an excellent product. It’s light and perfect for everyday coverage, and anything that keeps me from having to touch my already-hot face with my grubby little fingers is a win. I bought mine in a set with the company’s finishing spray (originally priced at $60, and with a 20% off coupon Skindanavia often offers, and it came with smaller versions for travel) in January, and I’d estimate that each 8 oz bottle is still about 75% full. Not cheap, but in my estimation, worth it — especially considering the cost per ounce compared to similar products.

No 7 Airbrush Away Primer, $19.99

Alternatively, if you have dry skin (or dry patches around fading pimples like I get, because why only adjust to signs of aging when you could continue battling your high school skin insecurities too), a creamier primer is helpful to have around.

Monistat Chafing Relief Gel, $9.69

Finally, you could get adventurous and try a favorite hack of beauty bloggers: chafing relief gel. When Michelle Phan recommends something and it’s the cheapest option of all, it’s worth investigation. If nothing else, you’ll have some extra gel around to combat chub rub.

Urban Decay Primer Potion, $20

If you wear eye makeup, eyeshadow primer will keep you from getting creasy. I promise it’s not just face primer in different packaging; this formula is too heavy for general coverage, but is perfectly thick and sticky for outlasting a day’s worth of oil buildup and friction on your lids.

Prime & Fine Multitalent Fixing Spray, $7.99

Whether or not you go the Skindanavia route, you’ll also want to grab some setting spray. Think of it as playing pit crew to primer’s original mechanic, keeping everything in good condition throughout the day’s race. Does that make sense? I’m not really a car person.

NYX Blemish Control Blotting Papers, $5.99

Setting spray should be applied immediately after the rest of your makeup, and can be reapplied periodically throughout the day — but if you don’t feel like layering product on continuously, blotting papers will still keep shininess at bay. You may even discover they’re an adequate replacement for your regular powder. Or, if you have access to disposable toilet seat covers, they work just as well. Dab away!

Have a question about fashion or beauty? Send it to [email protected].

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Nora is a writer and shoot producer living in Brooklyn. Send her links to weird clothing and dog videos to nora [at] autostraddle [dot] com.

Nora has written 52 articles for us.


  1. ✔️➕

    on the blotting papers side of things: milk makeup has roll+blot papers with which you can blot your oily face OR roll a joint. what more could one need for summer?

    • So I was so excited about these too, but then a friend of mine who can actually roll (unlike me, a forever bowl baby) was like, “I think all blotting papers are also rolling papers?” Do you have feelings on this?

      • I mean, probably? But I like these because they’re a king size rolling paper and so they are longer and thin instead of a square which is easier for me to roll with it.

        • Wow I was not expecting to read about how one can use blotting paper for larger joints. I take it burns at the same pace as say a zig zag?

          • depends on how well they’re rolled? for comparison, i usually use raws, and if i am rolling a full joint, i’ll roll two papers with Milk’s papers. they catch a little quicker than I’d typically enjoy, but I’m also not a great joint roller, so I think if you’re good at it, one will do.

  2. Makeup friends! I used to really love my Clinique Staymatte pressed powder (using a light dusting as the only thing on my skin besides moisturizer) but nowhere in my city sells clinique. Does anyone have a suggestion for an alternative available at, say, Sephora?

      • Rimmel Stay Matte, the RCMA no color powder if you’re willing to try a loose powder, Too Faced and Kat Von D powder foundations are supposed to be good for oily skin, like the Staymatte is.

    • Soap & Glory’s One Heck of a Blot powder is great for oily skin! Available at a Walgreens/Target/Ulta near you, probably.

  3. Fellow eye shadow loving humans, I cannot speak more highly of the Urban Decay Primer Potion! It single handedly changed my eyeshadow game. When I found myself on leaner times and could no longer afford the $20 price tag, I really found myself missing it.

    So I want to put this out there for anyone who perhaps doesn’t do make up that often, but wants the good quality stuff when they finally get around to it, OR people who are more budget conscious and willing to stretch a product out–

    Urban Decay sells a “travel portion” of the same product at Sephora for half the price (usually between $10-12). I do a full eye make up job probably once a week to ever other week, and have found that the travel portion lives well at that usage pace for roughly 4 – 5 months.

    • Realizing that Sephora sold “travel sizes” of a lot of their fancier brands really helped me as someone who doesn’t do a full face of every product everyday. A lot of the travel sizes live a full shelf life for anyone who is more of a 1-2 week or less fancy make up person.

      I’m spending 1/2-1/3 of what I used, I still get to be a product junkie when I want to, and I am actually using all of what I buy!! (as opposed to my earlier life when I spent full price for everything, and still never got to the end of the mascara tube or lipstick before it started to get gross)

      It’s a simple thing, but it never occurred to me before, so I’m sharing it in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation :)

    • whooaaa super helpful! i wear makeup so much less than i *think* i will when i buy it so travel sizes are perfect :D

  4. I love the urban decay primer potion! Their setting spray (all nighter i think it’s called?) is also really good, I recommend buying the travel size at sephora for half the price. Even the small bottle will last a looooong time.

    I’d also recommend the Smashbox Pore Minimizing Oil Free Photo Finish Primer (it’s the purple one) to anyone else who has oily/combination skin. It’s one of the few primers I’ve found that doesn’t feel like it clogs my pores, but is still thick enough that it really evens out the texture of my skin when I put it on. Get the travel size here as well, $16 instead of $40. The Laura Mercier transparent setting powder is also really good for doing some extra setting in those key places where your makeup breaks up the most like under eye, forehead, etc.

    • I used to use Urban Decay setting spray too, but it turns out it’s Skindanavia with a brand name price!

  5. Urban Decay Primer Potion is love. Also Wet n Wild’s eyeshadow primer is amazing if you have really oily eyelids.

    Also Urban Decay’s All-Nighter Setting Spray is the bomb dot com, and is also A-Camp tested and A-Camp approved. Heaven is a place on Earth where your makeup doesn’t budge.

  6. Something that might help too is keeping your makeup in the fridge. I’ve been doing it for years after reading about it somewhere ages ago. Has always helped my makeup survive in the Australian summer.

  7. I put a coat of tubing/polymer mascara on over my normal mascara and it stops it smudging or shifting on sweaty days. On its own it doesn’t look great but totally seals in normal mascaras and only comes off with a soak in warm water. Genuinely life changing stuff. I use the gold no.7 one but have used all sorts of other cheap(ish) tubing mascaras since I found out about it and all work as well.

  8. I’d like to say that when I read this I immediately went over and ordered the Skindanavia spray set and got them today and it’s already my new favorite primer and setting spray ? also the bottles are way bigger than i imagined and i can tell they’re gonna last a good long while which is much better than having to buy a new tiny tube of primer every other week

  9. My makeup use is kinda like how I eat my food – with the seasons. I’ve decided summer just isn’t good for hot butternut squash soup… And that’s how my face feels in the heat if I am insane enough to try makeup into the summer season.
    So, it may not be ideal, but for summer I’m going bare skin. Eye make up of course, but otherwise – hello world!

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  12. If anyone is planning on getting a loooot of sun or living somewhere where is unavoidable (like myself, in AZ) I would recommend Supergoop’s makeup setting spray! It’s slightly mattifying, long lasting, AND has an SPF of 50 which is great for skin protection if your’re not sure about the SPF of your other products and/or wanna refresh throughout the day. It’s like $28 for the full bottle and $12 for a travel size and it smells AMAZING.

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