20 best makeup primers for all skin types, per experts
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For any beauty lover, one of the most annoying issues to deal with is spending hundreds of dollars on makeup a year and having it smudge, smear or fade away.
We hear you, especially if you purchase a primer and your makeup isn’t perfectly locked in place. So, we’re here to bring the best makeup primers to your attention.
Not only did we test some ourselves (with high regard for Hourglass and Too Faced) but we consulted beauty experts at Sephora and Ulta Beauty who listed their favorite picks for makeup primers below.
“You should be able to tell if the makeup primer is working for you right when you start applying foundation — it should glide on effortlessly and blend beautifully and evenly,” David Razzano, Sephora Beauty Director, told The Post. “You should also notice that your complexion makeup stays looking fresh and gorgeous throughout the day.”
What does makeup primer do?
Makeup primer can be used for multiple purposes depending on what your needs are, with primer being “helpful for filling in pores and covering rosacea,” Deney Adam, pro team member at Ulta Beauty, told the New York Post. “It’s also a great mattifying product.”
Moreover, makeup primer’s main function is to “prime and prep the skin for the best makeup application — similar to the way we would prime a wall before you paint it so that the paint goes on smooth and evenly,” Razzano adds. “A primer helps to ensure your foundation looks its best and stays in place throughout the day,” he added.
How to use a makeup primer
“The best way to properly use a makeup primer is to apply a thin even layer over your skin. Too much primer can actually work against you since it can add texture or even start to ‘slide,’” Razzano notes. “I personally find using hands to apply is best because you can feel the amount you’re using and control it better.”
What ingredients should I look for in a makeup primer?
Adam highlights the best ingredients to look for, depending on your skin type:
- Dry: Reach for a water-based primer with ingredients like glycerin, benzoic acid and vitamin A.
- Oily: Reach for a water-based primer with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamins B and C and squalane.
- Combination: More than one primer to cater to the needs of each area is recommended. “For example, if you have oily t-zones and the rest of you face is drier, use a mattifying primer on the t-zones, then a hydrating primer anywhere else you feel like you need moisture,” Adam said.
- Acne-prone: Reach for a heavy silicone-based primer to help even out the surface of the skin. But, be sure to speak with your dermatologist about specific ingredients.
- Mature: Reach for a lighweight silicone-based primer to help fill in fine lines, with ingredients like hydroxy acid, bark extract and dimethicone.
- To help reduce pores: Look for ingredients like vitamins A and E to help smooth and blur the appearance of pores.
Ahead, find the best makeup primers, as recommended by our experts:
Razzano describes Milk Makeup’s Hydro Grip Primer as “an invisible lightweight gel primer great for all skin types.” After trying it for ourselves, we can attest it’s just that.
“It locks makeup in place for up to 12 hours, but it also has hyaluronic acid and aloe water to boost hydration for a fresh dewy glow,” Razzano adds. “Other skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide and cannabis seed extract also help to smooth the look of the skin and keep it balanced.”
“This ‘Clean at Sephora’ option comes in a solid balm that has the most exquisite velvet texture,” Razzano said. “Perfect for normal to oily skin types looking to achieve smooth luxurious skin.”
What’s more, this primer uses silk extracts to “minimize the look of pores, control oil, and create a soft-focus effect,” he adds. Also helping to keep your skin protected from pollutants and debris that can clog pores, this primer can, impressively, can also be used on the eyes and lips.
“This primer is great for those who have fair to light skin tones and struggle with redness,” Razzano said. “The primer has a light green tone to it which will neutralize the redness on the skin, allowing you to need less foundation products.”
Not to mention, it has ginseng in it which helps promote healthy radiant skin.
Much like all of Charlotte Tilbury’s products, the brand’s Wonderglow Face Primer will provide a wondrous, soft glow to your skin.
“There are light-reflecting microspheres within that give your skin a radiant youthful look, where the collagen-supporting peptides within also help to boost your skin’s natural collagen production,” Razzano explains. “This primer creates such a beautiful effect on the skin you can even wear it without any foundation on top when you just want beautiful looking skin!”
A budget-friendly primer, Sephora Collection’s Smooth + Blur formula will help smooth the look of fine lines, pores and texture while giving a soft blurred effect to the complexion.
“This primer is great for all skin types and contains Gingko extract and stabilized vitamin E which both help to protect the skin from environmental factors,” Razzano noted.
As one of Adam’s recommendations, Tula’s Filter Blurring & Moisturizing Primer helps smooth the look of an uneven skin tone in tandem with creating a sleek, radiant base for your makeup. Plus, you’ll have a filter-like finish without using one.
For less than $10 right now, you can’t go wrong with Ulta Beauty’s Poreless Face Primer, according to Adam. It contains green tea and grape seed oil to help mitigate the appearance of pores, too.
If you love the look of matte skin to pair with the best full-coverage foundations we rounded up, Ulta Beauty’s Matte Face Primer is your best bet. According to Adam, since it contains salicylic acid, it’ll help balance out the skin tone and blurs imperfections.
Adam recommends Tarte’s Double Duty Base Tape Hydrating Primer, mainly because it gives the skin a more supple appearance, keeps the skin hydrated for 12 hours and is a lightweight texture with a hint of coconut scent.
Kill two birds with one stone by applying Dermalogica’s Age Smart Skin Perfect Primer. It contains SPF 30 so, if you forget to apply facial sunscreen, you’ll still be protected.
Plus, this primer contains hyaluronic acid for hydration (and also recommended by Adam for oily skin, specifically) and zinc oxide (which is great for sensitive skin, too).
Another makeup primer with SPF included, Live Tinted’s Hueguard 3-in-1 Broad Spectrum Mineral SPF 30 Primer is adored by Adam because it’s virtually weightless, fragrance-free and gives a natural glow — all while making your makeup last for hours on end.
12. Ulta Beauty Hydrating Face Primer, $9 (originally $18)
If hydration’s what you crave, Ulta Beauty’s Hydrating Face Primer is what you need. Adam recommends this makeup primer as it’s affordable, contains aloe vera to soothe the skin and helps to retain moisture and makeup throughout the day.
Whether you’re prone to redness or simply want a more balanced skin tone and texture than usual, Ulta Beauty’s Color-Correcting Face Primer is a well-priced option. With a green tint, your redness will be lessened.
Not to mention, this formula is noncomedogenic, so it’ll help mitigate the appearance of pores, too.
As one of our personal favorites, we couldn’t agree with Adam more when he recommended Smashbox’s Photo Finish Correct Anti-Redness Primer. It creates a breathable barrier between your skin and makeup, includes hyaluronic acid to hydrate, contains vitamins and is affective on all skin types — including sensitive complexions.
A top player in the makeup game, Morphe, made no foul moves in crafting its Equalizer Foundation Primer. Adam enjoys the formula for making the skin feel smooth and also containing dimethicone, which he recommends for mature skin, specifically.
If you want a juicy, plump makeup look, it starts with a primer. Specifically, the I Heart Revolution’s Tasty Peach Mattifying Priming Spray.
Adam enjoys the formula, namely for its shine-free finish and subtle tropical scent.
As one of our personal favorites, Benefit Cosmetics’ The POREfessional Lite Primer is a more lightweight option than its original bestselling primer. Adam recommends it for staying put for 12 hours, too.
If you want a primer that’s a moisturizer in disguise, Too Faced’s Hangover Replenishing Face Primer is your cure and built-in BFF. Adam recommends it, much ado to the healthy, revitalized complexion it provides. Plus, it’s one we always resort to.
Nothing quite helps prime your skin (and protect your skin, too) than sunscreen. The Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 is one of Ulta Beauty’s bestsellers and a crowd-favorite. It absorbs quickly, doesn’t leave a white cast and is formulated for all skin types.
As the most affordable option in this edit, Adam recommends this as a no-frills, high-performance makeup primer. We tried it for ourselves and can attest it’s thick enough to blur virtually any imperfection.
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