Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Fighting Makeup Melt


What do you recommend using to keep make-up lasting throughout the day?  I wear Bobbi Brown foundation, spot concealer, and powder, but by the time an 11:00 morning meeting comes around, my blemishes are showing, and it doesn’t look like I have anything on my face.  I also want to keep a somewhat “natural” look.  I have oily skin and am very prone to breakouts.  Thanks for your help!

Thanks, Sarah

Mid-day Makeup Melt is a real problem.  But you actually have two separate issues here.

For keeping blemishes, under-eye circles and imperfections covered, you need to set your spot concealer.  I apply Laura Mercier’s Secret Camouflage with her special brush and then, I lightly tap on translucent powder with your fingertip to set the concealer in place.  This helps my acne stay covered.

As for primer, I like NARS Oil-Free Pro-Prime.  It does a great job of holding makeup in place.  I also use their eye makeup primer.

If you need a drugstore brand, I have friends who swear by Boots No. 7 Primer($10).  And if you’re willing to think outside the box, I keep reading about women who use Monistat Anti-Chafing Gel as a makeup primer, which makes sense since it’s meant to keep skin dry all day.

And lastly, if you really want to freeze your makeup in place, you should look into a makeup setting spray.  A friend who does makeup professionally uses Urban Decay’s De-Slick for oily skin and All Nighter for regular skin.  And while I didn’t like Mally Beauty’s Poreless Face Defender for daytime wear, I wore it to an outdoor event a few weeks ago, and I was shocked how matte and fresh it kept my makeup.



  1. Becca says:

    Sarah, I too wear Bobbi Brown foundation. I was noticing that around 1:30 (after walking back from lunch) that my foundation was disappearing at an alarming rate. I went back to the Bobbi Brown counter and told them about my problem with their product. The girl asked if I was wearing primer – I wasn’t – and explained that in the summer I should use it to keep my face from melting off. I’ve gotten several samples of primers from Sephora and while I don’t yet have a favorite, it’s definitely improved my foundation’s staying power.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  2. BN says:

    I have used Model In A Bottle, makeup setting spray, in every kind of miserable weather condition, including humid DC days, rainy days, on my wedding day, and even at the beach (where my friends dubbed it “hair spray for your face”) and my makeup stays ON. also sold on Amazon.

    A friend of mine with sensitive skin swears by the sensitive skin formula.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  3. ES says:

    You might also want to try applying moisturizer before your foundation. It sounds counter-intuitive for someone with oily skin, but if you’re face isn’t properly moisturized, even oily skin can “drink up” your make up and absorb it into the skin, making it look like your make up has disappeared. I like Neutrogena & Cetaphil moisturizers for acne-prone skin. Primers should also help with this issue.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  4. LadyMacbeth says:

    A Clarisonic brush will help with both problems. I find my makeup sets better and I get less face-melting oiliness issues if I regularly cleanse with mine.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  5. Bernie says:

    I use the Monistat as my primer and let me tell you, it works. I was a bridesmaid in an August wedding in Pennslyvania — hot sun, sweaty people, hours of dancing. But my makeup looked good in pictures even at night’s end. Obviously it starts to go but I find it really does help keep my face (which can get shiny fast) looking decent. I don’t wear foundation in my everyday life but when I do I always use the Monistat gel. Also it’s cheap and I haven’t had any bad reactions to it. It can be kind of hard to find (you want the anti-chafing gel) but i think I got mine at Wal-Mart.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  6. Nora says:

    Ditto to the Clarisonic. I also recently started using pressed powder rather than loose – with a brush all over my face and then using the puff on my t-zone (on top of the already-brushed bits). Then I go over it with Bobbi Brown’s “face blender” brush to take away some of the cakeyness. It works really well for me.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  7. LL27 says:

    I used to use LM concealer but always had it melted off before 11 am (found it really greasy). I’m in love with Stila’s concealer – put it on in the morning and I’m set all day.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  8. D says:

    As a NARS user too, I have to say I’ve had surprising success with Boots. I’ve been testing out different primers and haven’t tried the Boots primer yet, but the Boots matte foundation has been good for me. I think it took my skin some time to adjust, but I’m happy with the staying power, and much happier with the price. I was at the Target on Route 1 in VA a few Saturdays ago, and there was even a Boots rep to apply samples to test out the right color.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  9. Clara says:

    At your recommendation, I bough the NARS primer and noticed no difference at all. I just started using the Urban Decay all nighter spray and have been woefully unimpressed. My makeup last longer, but not the 16 hours it claims, or even 12 hours. Am I doing it wrong?

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  10. LS says:

    For a different perspective – I’m convinced using primer makes my makeup run faster than when I don’t use it. On days I use it, I see feathering on my cheeks by mid-day. When I don’t use it, my makeup does fade but in a much more natural way. No idea why I’m an outlier here, but just a different view for those of you who are considering primer.

    For reference, my current primer is photo finish light. I tried NARS oil-free briefly but it made me so oily my cousin called me out on it during our vacation. Super embarrassing!

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  11. Joules says:

    Interesting… I’ve always wondered if setting sprays actually did anything. It’s cool to know that they really do work. I’ll definitely employ that at my bro’s wedding in July–the heat will, I’m sure, melt my makeup away in no time.

    Style by Joules

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  12. Natural Look says:

    Or perhaps you could address what is making you blemished in the first place and eliminate that. You will save a ton of $$ and time putting all that junk on your face. Just a thought.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
    • Belle says:

      If only it were that simple. Most of us who struggle with acne have tried doctors, diet, creams, pills, shots and special soaps galore and still have acne. It’s just some people’s lot in life, so please don’t belittle those who need cover up. We’d all rather not.

      June 6, 2013/Reply
      • scm says:

        AGREED! I try to go au naturale on weekends, but I think it looks unprofessional to show up at work with acne scars and pimples on my face.

        June 6, 2013/Reply
  13. CH says:

    I love Bobbi Brown concealer under my eyes but could not get good coverage on blemishes. I asked the beauty specialist at Nordstrom what I was doing wrong and she said the BB concealer is a little oilier than some other formulas because it’s really intended for delicate undereye skin, not for spot correcting. She gave me a sample of Benefit boi-ing to try and it was night and day. It’s a pain to have to use two different concealers, but both of them work so well at their respective specialties that for me it’s worth it.

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  14. Lexi says:

    Wayne Goss on Youtube, has some tips about making your makeup stay all day. One of them is to make sure that your moisturizer/primer/foundation are compatible. In other words, use silicon primer if you’re using silicone-based foundation, etc. Check it out, here’s one of his videos on the subject:

    June 6, 2013/Reply
  15. Sarah says:

    Thanks for all your help ladies!!! Heading to Sephora tomorrow!

    June 6, 2013/Reply