Makeup application is way too much of a pain to only reap some of the benefits from your products. If by halfway through your workday you notice that your foundation has all but vanished or your pores are more noticeable than a flashing neon sign, you’re likely missing a major player in your makeup routine: primer.
Primer, the often overlooked but unsung hero of beat faces everywhere, isn’t the most exciting product to invest in, we get it. Plus, primers can be super confusing to choose from. Hydrating, blurring, color correcting, mattifying, luminizing — which do you choose? Aren’t all those things desirable? How do you know which primer is the proper foundation for your… well, foundation?
Allow us to give you a few pointers for how to not only understand what a primer is, but how to choose the best one for your complexion and apply it properly. Your perfect face of makeup is really only one product away.
We like to think of primers as both skincare and makeup; a mix of the two that also acts as a barrier between your serums, moisturizers, SPF, and your foundation or concealer. Without that necessary layer between your products, you might experience oxidation of your foundation, oiliness, and obvious lines and creasing.
Primers are often formulated with a mix of silicone polymers — think of them like a velvety soft filler, that lies on top of skincare and blur over pores and fine lines while providing a perfect canvas for foundation and concealer.
Hyaluronic-based primers help seal in moisturizers and serums while binding with your foundation to keep dehydrated skin glowing throughout the day. There are even combination primers that include SPF and antioxidants for added protection from sunlight and pollution. Redness, sallowness, or dull skin? There’s a color-correcting primer for you!
Convincing you to invest in yet another product to add to your routine isn’t easy, but without using a primer, you’re almost guaranteed to be getting less out of your foundation or tinted moisturizer than you paid for.
How to choose your primer
The first step in choosing a proper primer is identifying your most obvious skin issue — and if you have more than one, ranking them by order of importance. In some cases, it might be necessary to layer primer or use more than one on different areas of your face.
If you experience discoloration on your cheeks and chin but you’re also oily in your T-zone, try to find a formula that addresses both issues, or apply two different products in those areas. Using different primers to spot treat the issues on your face will result in the most natural and even look.
Primer wants to be treated like skincare, so don’t apply it using a brush or a sponge — your fingertips will allow the product to be applied with minimal waste. Start with applying a small amount to your treatment areas using your middle and ring fingers, gently patting to blend the product out. Be mindful not to rub or pull on your skin, especially around your eyelids and under eyes.
Best for: Effective Hydration
A high-end primer inspired by and designed for the makeup artists behind the scenes of major fashion shows, this product holds up against high-res flash photography on the runway and the overhead fluorescent bulbs of an office building.
Best for: A Tight Budget
A primer that makes application a total breeze and can double as a setting spray, this is the perfect primer for those who don't have a second to spare when getting ready in the morning.
Best for: Tested + Trusted Results
It wouldn’t be a complete article on primer if we were to never mention the Godfather of them all. Smashbox was the first to take primer from something only professionals knew about to a complete line of products for all skin types, tones, and conditions; but we love the plain ole' Photo Finish the very best.
Best for: Extra Protection
This dry oil SPF-based primer dries down to a natural glow with no greasiness while protecting your skin not only from UVA/UVB rays, but also HEV light — the pesky blue light that causes undue stress on not only our eyes, but our skin as well.
Best for: Low-Maintenance Radiance
If you don’t always feel like applying a full face of foundation but still want a refreshed glow, this dewey formula sets perfectly on its own or with a translucent powder on top.
Best for: Acne Coverage
This oil-free primer not only helps to smooth over bumps and inflammation, but also includes glycerine and plant-based extracts to help soothe your breakout, all while acting like Super Glue for your foundation!
Best for: Lackluster Complexion
There’s a fine line between moisturizer and primer, and this one blurs the lines (pun intended) even further! Perk up parched or tired skin with this coconut water and probiotic-infused creamy primer, and as a bonus, it smells delicious!
Best for: Date Night Glow
Charlotte Tilbury included loads of light-reflecting microspheres along with collagen-supporting peptides and other skin-loving ingredients to create the perfect one-stop-shop for priming the skin. It blurs imperfections while creating a natural glow.
Best for: Enlarged Pores
This cult favorite has maintained its elite status for years thanks to the flawless product formulation. This velvety smooth primer glides over your not-so-subtle pores and wipes them out better than any Instagram filter could even dream of.