Are your cosmetics really Oil Free? Bionic Beauty finds out!

by Bionic Beauty on 10.Nov.2008 · 11 comments

Are your cosmetics really oil-free?

Dear Bionic Beauty,
So many liquid foundations and face lotions claim to be oil free these days. Yet, when I’m shopping and read the ingredients it seems like there *are* oils in there. Is there a way to really tell if I’m getting something that is oil free?
I appreciate your help.
Olive Oil 😉

Well, Olive Oil, you are smart to pick up on the labeling that has become such a fad in the cosmetics industry. See, the real problem is that the labeling on cosmetics (makeup, hair care, skincare, etc) is not regulated. Companies can spin all sorts of misinformation on their labels and containers. You really have to be an educated consumer in order to know what is a good buy and what isn’t.

In regards to the “oil-free” claims specifically… there’s a pretty simple test to check if something you have in your stash is truly oil-free. Place a pea-size dollop of the product on a sheet of plain white copy, typing or writing paper (medium to light weight is perfect). Then wait. Let it sit overnight preferably, but you should start to see a change within a few hours.
If a ring forms around the product, it most definitely contains oil.

Here are some experiments I did with a few of my fave makeup and skincare products. Read on for the SHOCKING results…

First off, you can click the photos for a larger version to see the ickiness in detail. (ha!) They will open in a new tab or a new window in your browser.

Secondly… even products labeled Oil Free (such as Lancome’s Aqua Fusion and C.O. Bigelow’s Oil-Free face lotion contained oil. There was only 1 oil free product in the bunch I tested.

Experiment info: I put a pea-size amount of each product on the same types of paper and let them sit overnight (24 hours and 5 minutes to be exact).

Sonia Kashuk “Radiant Tinted Moisturizer with SPF” and e.l.f.’s Shielding HydroTint with SPF 15.

Which tinted moisturizers are oil free?
Sonia Kashuk’s tinted moisturizer (from Target) had a HUGE amount of oil. I was speechless. Still it’s one of my favorite TM’s. Please remember, oil is not necessarily a bad thing!

Funnily enough, elf’s hydrotint TM was the only product that I tested that was truly oil free… so this is an excellent option for girls looking for an oil-free makeup. It’s only $1 and you can read my review here.

Lancome’s Aqua Fusion face lotion and C.O. Bigelow’s “Extra-light oil-free face lotion with SPF 15”.

Which face lotions are oil free?
Lancome’s Aqua Fusion is labeled as “oil-free” on the bottle, however, when tested a small ring appeared pretty quickly showing that there is, indeed, some oil in the product.
But it paled in comparison to the HUGE amount of oil in C.O. Bigelow’s “Extra-light Oil-free face lotion”. I bought this lotion from Bath & Body Works since it was supposed to help mattify your face (due to the Kaolin Clay it contains), but I consistently broke out after using it. I’m guessing now that it was because it contained too much oil for my face. I switched over to Aqua Fusion (above) but now need to find something with SPF. Any recommendations, ladies?

Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Tinted Moisturizer and JK Jemma Kidd (for Target) “pro finish moisture tint spf 20”.

Which foundations are oil free?
Another of my favorite “go-to” products I tested was the Organic Wear tinted moisturizer. It had a moderate circle of oil on the paper, but my skin seems to respond well to this product, so I’m guessing it is keeping me “balanced” so to speak.

The JK Jemma Kidd (available at Target) pro finish tinted moisturizer had another HUGE circle of oil. I figured this one would come in pretty high. The formula is very thick, but spreads easily and feels oily and slippery on my hands and makeup sponge. Plus is has a very heavy set and even felt heavier on the face than most tinted moisturizers. I really would classify this product as a Foundation, not a tinted moisturizer.

Thevi Cosmetics’ “Liquid Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15″ and NARS “Makeup Primer with SPF“.

Which makeup products are oil free?
Thevi Cosmetics Liquid Mineral Foundation came in second place for the least amount of oil in a makeup product. My review is linked above. I really like this makeup but the color is a bit dark for me in the winter and fall, so it’s shelved for the season. But I can’t WAIT to wear it again. Soft, smooth, and my skin can still breathe. This is one of my favorite “higher-end” makeup products. I rave about it to family & friends constantly.
NARS’ Makeup Primer with SPF 15. Whew… again, another large icky amount of oil. At first I liked this product for it’s scent and primer properties (made my pores appear smaller) under makeup. But it just “felt wrong” so I have been using it as sunblock on my arms and legs when I go out for the day.

So there we go… Bionic’s first science experiment. Will you test any of your cosmetics? If you do, I’d LOVE to hear your results. What others would you like ME to test?


1 fabulessbeauty November 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Great test! I’ve heard about the oil test, but never gone around to trying it. Maybe I’ll test my moisturizers that claim to be oil free.

2 The Cheap Chick November 10, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Trust BB to come up with a foolproof way to check for oil! You are a genius, my friend. Thank you for the heads-up, I will now test everything I own.

And? Remember, mineral powder loose powder makeup has very little oil in it, if you are oil, like me.

3 Robyn @ PurelyCosmetics November 10, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Actually, the cosmetic industry as a whole isn’t regulated, but the labeling itself is. What that boils down to is that you can put whatever the heck you want into cosmetics, but you do have to disclose what’s in there. If you’re really bored and want some cumbersome reading, here’s the link to the FDA cosmetic labeling requirements:

Not all oils in products are bad. If you have oily skin and dry it out too much, you’re only going to trick your body into producing MORE oil. If you see an ingredient such as jojoba oil (which believe it or not, technically isn’t even an oil; it’s a wax), it’s benefical to those with oily skin. It’s immediately absorbed into your skin, but more importantly, it mimics the sebum your skin naturally produces (excess sebum production is what is the most common cause of acne) so that you don’t produce even more.

You may read ingredients and not think that they’re oils when many times they actually are. Vitamin E in cosmetics will be oily. CoQ10 is usually emulsified in oil. Those are just a couple off the top of my head.

Hope this helps. If not, maybe it’s useless drivel you can use at parties 🙂

4 BionicBeauty November 11, 2008 at 9:58 am

Cheap Chick, Yeppers, I’ve actually found a brand of mineral makeup I’m really liking. Normally most of the mineral powders dry my skin out but this one is going so well, I love it!! (Will share a review soon.)

Robyn, You are so amazing for sharing all this wonderful information! I use Jojoba on my skin and it really is seeming to help. My skin seems to like it much better than the packaged “mass-production” lotions.


5 Rachiel Grant November 12, 2008 at 1:57 am

Thanks for this information, I always love your articles.

6 anon December 8, 2008 at 11:27 am

Lancome Aqua Fusion has a version with SPF in it. It’s great.

7 joan gabriel March 4, 2009 at 3:30 am


8 Bionic Beauty March 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

Hi Joan and Welcome to Bionic Beauty!
As for your question on moisturizer/lotion and a lip balm or gloss with no oil or grease- I would guess you mean without petrolatum, glycerin, jojoba oil, etc? What about beeswax- is that acceptable?

I would check with a nurse at your doctor’s office. They typically have the “in” on medical-grade cosmetics or skin care. Items that are designed for people with special conditions. I know I have reviewed some medical grade lotions on Bionic Beauty, but most still have an oil base of some sort (whether it’s Vit E, jojoba- which is a wax as Robyn mentions above).

Find out if you can use waxes that are emulsified. If so, we can look at ingredients with beeswax, jojoba, etc. Those will mirror your bodies natural sebum/oil.

Take care and I hope to see you around Bionic Beauty in the future.

9 Adda Lykkeboe July 18, 2012 at 4:46 am

I have just tested my oilfree products. And they weren´t! After about 1 hour the paper had big rings round the following products:
Origins , Clinique repairwear, Laudee Double wear light, Clinique antiaging. The only one which passed the test was Clinique super natural – and just that one is out of sale.
I should like very much to know what to do …
many greeting,
Adda Lykkeboe

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