Because it's the one buy you need for truly flawless skin
A quick straw poll of the office tells us that you’re probably one of two types of people: either you wouldn’t be caught dead applying your best foundation without first putting on your best primer, or you just wouldn’t bother with it.
Either you’re here because we’ve piqued your intrigue (why do I need to use one?), or you want to find a new primer to play with. So whichever camp you fall into, read on to find a new beauty bag buy.
No doubt you’re already well-versed in its primary use; to ‘prime’ the skin so that it’s the perfect canvas for your make-up, while simultaneously keeping it on your face for as long as possible.
But depending on the formula, a primer can also soak up excess oil, blur the appearance of pores, smooth out bumpy skin and neutralise redness. We’re yet to find a concern that the right primer won’t fix.
It’s not just you, make-up artists are divided as well. Primers don’t tend to be used on the catwalk or on shoots because the foundation doesn’t actually have to be on the skin for that long.
But make-up artists do love a primer for their long-haul make-up wearers, like red carpet celebrities or blushing brides. Blurring primers make skin look smoother and silkier, pores smaller and lines and wrinkles softer – which are all things the cameras love.
Long day ahead at the office? A light layer of primer under your foundation will help it defy the air-conditioning and stay put all day. Or, woke up to a gigantic blemish on your face this morning? Then the right primer will help smooth over the bump and disguise any inflammation (and won’t stop the best spot treatments for working their magic either).
Find your new favourite primer in our round up of the best below.
Best primer for oily skin
While it’s not essential, an obvious step you can take when trying to control your skin’s excess oil levels is to look for oil-free formulas.
Hailed as one of the best primers for oily skin that money can buy, Laura Mercier’s Foundation Primer (Oil Free) is a cult classic in many a beauty lover’s make-up bag, offering maximum priming power, sans oil. The water-based, gel primer blurs the skin’s texture to create a kind of ‘airbrushed’ finish, while also protecting the skin against environmental damage with a vitamin-enriched antioxidant barrier.
Best primer for dry skin
As well as applying the best moisturiser for dry skin, you need a primer that stops your make-up drying on your skin throughout the day. And if there’s one thing the name Smashbox is synonymous with, it’s primer that keeps your skin looking photo ready all day long.
Their Photo Finish Radiance Primer is great for any kind of skin that needs a glow boost, but especially dry types as it’s jam-packed with hyaluronic acid (aka, the essential ingredient when it comes skin hydration). This one leaves your skin looking so healthy that you can even wear it alone for a fresh faced, dewy look.
Best primer for combination skin
For combination skin, the right primer can make your face look dewy and luminous – think glowy, not glittery. If you have combination skin, you’ll struggle with both dry and oily areas, as well as an uneven skin texture that’s sometimes bumpy for no apparent reason.
Described as a ‘deconstructed coconut’ in a bottle, Marc Jacobs Under(Cover) Primer is one of the silkiest primer formulas you’ll ever come across when it comes to evening out skin’s texture. It’s inspired by how much MJ himself loves coconut water, and has contains five forms of the fruit (from cold press to juice) to really reap the benefits for your skin.
The science behind the formula is a bit complicated, but what you need to know is that a ‘polysaccharide complex’ preps the skin to hold make-up in place while simultaneously allowing skin to breathe, meaning it looks and feels its best.
Best primer for acne prone skin
As well as having the best acne treatments at your disposal, you also need a primer that won’t make your skin’s condition any worse. Even better, you want one that actually helps to nip your acne in the bud.
Fortunately, a handful of primers are actually designed to help keep your sebum levels at bay (an excess of which is the start of acne), while regulating your skin’s oil levels. The mattifying properties of this particular primer by Cover FX will stop your skin’s oiliness in its tracks, so wave goodbye to shininess.
But that’s not all; it also helps to actually treat acne, thanks to salicylic acid sourced from willow bark, an ingredient which gently exfoliates the skin and helps de-clog your pores in the process. And for super sore, angry acne, African tree bark helps soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.
Best primer for sensitive skin
If you have sensitive skin, you know the drill: You want a formula that’s silicone-free, fragrance-free, alcohol-free (all the frees) to avoid unwanted irritation wherever possible. Unfortunately, it can take a little trial and error here, as what irritates one person’s skin could be another’s complexion saviour – patch tests are the key before slathering all over your face.
We recommend trying out Too Faced’s Hangover primer. It’s quite a thin solution, so not gloopy, pore-clogging and therefore irritating.
Best primer for pores
Other people might not notice it, but if you have enlarged pores nothing is worse than seeing those giant craters up close. Alright, so we’re exaggerating a little, but the goal is to have the smoothest skin possible when creating a flawless base.
Spoiler: Your pores will never completely ‘close’ – they are not doors. But you can make them shrink a little with a good skincare routine and the right primer.
The clue’s in the name – your best buy here is one of the most famous primers in the world, Benefit’s POREfessional Face Primer, which makes short work of minimising the appearance of enlarged pores with its lightweight and velvety formula.
If you hate the idea of a primer that’s heavy-duty or greasy, a mattifying primer is what your skincare routine needs. These leave your skin velvety smooth with a formula that’s light as air, so you barely feel like you’re wearing any make-up once you’ve applied it.
Laura Geller’s Mattifying Spackle primer resurfaces your skin and helps to regulate oil levels without drying out your skin, meaning optimum moisture without an overly shiny look – it’s really no wonder it’s one of their best sellers.
Chanel’s Le Blanc de Chanel Multi-Use Illuminating Base is an excellent luminous primer, but be warned: it’s not for the faint-hearted. If you’re after super glowy, almost ethereal looking skin then there really is nothing better.
You can even get away with wearing it on its own (if you’re just looking for a healthy sheen) as it’s so light-reflecting. Don’t feel that you can only use it before you apply your base, though – try mixing a little into your foundation if you want a subtle glow, or pat a small amount over your cheekbones and onto your cupid’s bow if you want a more controlled highlight.
The best eyelid primer
Of course, the world of primers doesn’t stop at skin – there are eyeshadow primers, lip primers and even mascara primers, too.
Holding a smokey eye or steely metallic shadow in place is a whole different ball game when it comes to primer – you need a concentrated formula that will stop unwanted smudging and creasing in its tracks. A firm favourite of beauty editors and bloggers everywhere is Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. Once you’ve tried the original formula, there are shades tailored to specific eyeshadow looks.
The best lip primer
If you’ve ever tried to eat or drink without losing half of your lipstick in the process, then you know why lip primers are necessary. So who better to look to than the make-up for MUAs themselves when trying to make your lip colour stay put?
MAC’s Prep + Prime range is one of our favourites for prolonging just about everything on our face, and their lip primer is our go-to. Top it off with a lip sealer and you’ve got a lip look that won’t budge.
So there you have it, the best primer for your skin type, solved.
Rest assured your skin priming needs are well and truly fixed.