Tested on animals:Yes
Make Up For Ever's Step 1 Skin Equalizer Mattifying Primer creates a matte surface to keep an oily complexion shine free and helps blur the appearance of pores. While we love how this primer does what it promises, including extending makeup's wear time, the formula is tripped up by the inclusion of potential irritants. That holds us back from wholeheartedly recommending it, but it's not all doom and gloom—read on to find out why.
Housed in a plastic squeeze tube, Step 1 Skin Equalizer Mattifying Primer has an initially thick texture that softens as it warms up on skin. The formula feels surprisingly lightweight, and thanks to the high amount of oil-absorbing magnesium aluminum silicate, it mattifies shine on contact. We put its oil-absorbing claim to the test on staffers with oily skin and found that it extended the wear of their makeup + held back shine by at least a few hours, if not the entire workday (when paired with a matte finish foundation).
We should point out that this isn't the type of primer that you need to put all over your face—focus on your oily zones and use a light hand. If you don't have oily skin, you'll likely find this uncomfortably matte, and it will exaggerate dryness and flakiness—avoid those areas at all costs.
The faint but noticeable amount of fragrance + cinnamon extract that Step 1 Skin Equalizer Mattifying Primer contains is where this formula falters. Given the respective dissipating scent and low concentration, we aren't overly concerned about the potential to irritate skin, but the formula would have been a safer bet for all skin types (especially sensitive) without these ingredients. Did you know irritation can make oiliness worse? Learn why in the More Info section below.
Without the irritation issue, Step 1 Skin Equalizer Mattifying Primer would have received a pat on the back from us due to its exceptional performance as a mattifying primer for those who struggle with persistently oily skin. As is, however, we're hesitant to give it our full approval, but we do have an alternative product we recommend trying: Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector. It features a similar texture and formula (minus the irritants) and also happens to be more cost effective per ounce!
- Instantly mattifies an oily complexion and helps blur the appearance of pores.
- Shine-free finish lasts several hours, prolong makeup wear.
- Lightweight feel on skin.
- Contains irritants that pose a potential risk of irritation (which can make oiliness worse).
Inflammation in skin is usually related to external factors such as irritation that damages the skin's barrier in numerous ways, whether you can see the reaction or not. When irritation on the surface of skin happens it activates specific chemicals called neuropeptides in the brain (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2007). Those substances are specifically the kind that regulates the hormonal system of the body.
When this happens, it leads to the formation of inflammatory chemicals directly in the oil gland. These inflammatory chemicals trigger an increase in oil production, which can increase the size of the pore, and the likelihood of acne—the more inflammation that occurs, the worse the risk (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002 & Dermatology, 2003).
Bottom line: Inflammation and its resulting irritation, whether internal or external (for this discussion externally it would be due to the use of irritating ingredients, hot water, overusing scrubs, etc.), is practically a guarantee you will see excess production of oil, larger pores and more acne breakouts (Experimental Dermatology, 2009 & Dermato-Endocrinology, 2011).
That's reason enough to avoid products with irritating ingredients, which often come in the form of fragrance including the misnamed "essential" oils.