For makeup that lasts all day, try one of these primers
Plus, a makeup artist explains why primer makes a big difference.
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When it comes to makeup wearers, there are two camps of people: face primer devotees and those who skip the product completely. While the necessity of applying primer to the skin pre-foundation has been long debated, beauty aisles remain chock-full of makeup primers that offer a slew of benefits. From color-correcting dark spots to doubling up as an SPF, finding the right makeup primer to suit your needs can make all the difference in your final look. We spoke to makeup artist Manuel Espinoza to learn why you may want to add the step into your makeup routine and what to look for in a primer.
Do you need a makeup primer?
"While primer is not exactly necessary for your makeup routine, it can help your foundation go on more smoothly and help you combat certain skin concerns," says Espinoza. Not only can some help your makeup stay put all day, but they can blur and even out your skin tone, create a smooth and silky base for your makeup to stick to, and prevent any separation or creasing. Also, many primers blur the line between makeup and skincare with formulas that contain skin-nourishing ingredients that hydrate, diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time, and revive a dull complexion.
When it comes to combating dark spots, uneven skin tone, and rosacea, Espinoza is a fan of color-correcting primers. "Color-correcting primers even out the skin tone and neutralize discoloration, creating the perfect base for your foundation," he says. Look for a primer that's in a shade opposite on the color wheel to the skincare concern you're trying to correct. For example, Espinoza says to use a green-hued primer for red, irritated skin; a purple-colored primer to balance out sallow tones; and a pink-toned primer to brighten your skin tone and create a healthier-looking complexion.
When it comes to choosing the right primer formula, Espinoza says it's key to pair primers and foundations with the same base ingredient. For example, use a silicone-based primer with a silicone-based foundation and a water-based primer with a water-based foundation, as mixing "two different bases can lead to separation and unevenness when applying foundation." You'll know a primer is water-based if it lists water on the ingredient list (usually it's the first ingredient). If a primer is silicone-based, it'll have ingredients that end in "-cone" or "-methicone" on the ingredient list.
1. For banishing dark spots: Pür Dark Spot Corrector Primer
Whether your dark spots are a result of sun damage or leftover from a breakout, this dark spot neutralizer from Pür will mask any trace of them. At the same time, it claims to condition the skin, blur enlarged pores, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with a blend of encapsulated retinol, lactic acid, ceramides, and shea butter.
One Amazon reviewer writes: "I've tried several primers over the years, and Pür is without a doubt the best one I've ever used! I have sensitive skin, and this primer does not make my skin red or break out at all! There is no scent, and it's so sheer that it doesn't get in the way of my face make-up color. Also, my make-up looks so smooth over the top it looks like I had it professionally done." Get the Pür 4-in-1 Correcting Primer from Amazon for $33
2. For smoothing fine lines and wrinkles: Strivectin Line BlurFector Instant Wrinkle Blurring Primer
You'll reap the skin-smoothing benefits of this primer whether you use it on its own or underneath makeup as intended. The Strivectin primer contains “optical blurring microspheres,” which it claims fill in and blur everything from fine lines to deep-set wrinkles. Reviewers love that it doesn't cause liquid foundation to settle into fine lines and that it offers a breathable formula that extends the life of your makeup.
One Ulta reviewer gushes: “I have been trying to find a good primer that works with my combination skin and I finally found it! Absolutely worth the money! It blurs small pores and fine lines (that's what I have) and also keeps my foundation on all day at work! I work anywhere from 12 to 14 hours a day and it's still on and intact by the time I get home. In love with this stuff and will definitely buy again!”
3. For reviving dull skin: Make Up For Ever Step 1 Color Correcting Primer in Fresh Brightener
Dull skin is no match for this color-correcting primer from Make Up For Ever, which has over 200 five-star reviews on Sephora. Its pink hue helps cancel out an uneven skin tone and it claims to offer 24-hour color correction with its long-lasting formula. The primer’s main ingredient is ginseng, touted for its ability to brighten and smooth the skin.
One Sephora reviewer writes: “I absolutely love this product. It evens out your skin tone and preps your skin for foundation. I have a lot of discoloration and dullness but this primer really helped that! I was glowing after I put my foundation on!”
4. For canceling out redness: Maybelline FaceStudio Master Prime Blur + Redness Control Primer
If you find that your rosacea is peeking through your foundation come noon, try applying a green color-correcting primer before makeup to thwart redness and keep your complexion products in place. This one from Maybelline claims to blur and smooth imperfections like fine lines while providing a green hue to counteract redness. To use, apply a small amount of formula onto areas of concern and blend in with your fingers to sheer out the green tint.
One Ulta reviewer raves: “I have been using this product for three years now and it's the only primer I use. I have rosacea which causes me to have a pretty red face most of the time, and I'll put this on even when I choose not to wear a full face of makeup if I know I'll be out and hot or exercising because it does it's job so amazingly well.”
5. For tamping down oily skin: Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance
There's no worse feeling spending time perfecting your foundation only to have it slip away a few short hours later. That's why a shine-reducing primer like this one from Glossier is key for makeup lovers with oily or combination skin. It keeps your skin matte and oil-free all while minimizing the look of enlarged pores. To use, apply a pea-sized amount onto your T-zone and spread in an even layer.
One Glossier reviewer writes: "This moisturizer is the moisturizer for combination skin. I love it! It’s moisturizing, but also keeps your skin matte. Most importantly it does not cause breakouts. It’s truly my hands down favorite moisturizer for daytime."
6. For quenching dryness: Lawless Set The Stage Hydrating Primer Serum
Applying foundation to dry skin can lead to less than desirable results (read: pilling and flaking). Cue this pick from Lawless, which contains sea buckthorn oil and rosehip seed oil that supply skin with the hydration it needs to look fresh, healthy, and glowy post-foundation application. Its gel-to-oil formula feels refreshing upon application and its silky-smooth consistency offers a satin finish that balances out any dryness.
One Sephora reviewer writes: “Love this primer! I’ve used it every single day and it’s amazing. It keeps my makeup in place and my skin with just the right amount of dew, even while wearing a mask and dealing with 100-degree days in Texas.”
7. For protecting from the sun: Saie Sunvisor Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 35
Whether you're going bare-faced or full-coverage with a foundation, this 100% mineral sunscreen-primer hybrid from Saie ensures your skin is protected and glowing. It's formulated with licorice extract to ward off sun-related discoloration, aloe vera to calm redness and irritation post-sun exposure, and hyaluronic acid to replenish hydration. Reviewers love the smooth texture, non-greasy finish, and the fact that it doesn't leave behind a white cast.
One Sephora reviewer writes: "Never loved a sunscreen more! I have dry, cystic acne-prone skin, and this sunscreen just does it all! My skin is left dewy, moisturized, and protected. It also works great as a primer. I will forever be using this!"
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.