There’s no denying the transformative power of a well-formulated face primer. Consider it akin to the base coat of your makeup routine. It’s your unsung ally when it comes to creating a flawless, even canvas, much like how a cream blush bestows that just-back-from-vacation glow.
Primers are a dream come true for those who need a little extra assistance in the skincare department. They lend a touch of magic to dry patches, an uneven skin tone, or visible pores, courtesy of their specific formulations. This includes hydrating, oil-controlling, pore-filling, and color-correcting variants, catering to all skin types and concerns.
Applying a primer is akin to an act of self-care, a prelude to the main makeup event. It can be used directly on your skin or over your moisturizer. Simply dot across your face and blend with your fingertips, or utilize a foundation brush for a more targeted approach. Remember, less is more when it comes to primer application. You need only a thin layer to serve as your canvas, reducing the chance of your makeup sliding off or becoming cakey.
Selecting the perfect primer, however, is no small feat, especially considering the numerous options available. Just like finding the right blush shade, you need to consider your skin type, tone, and individual concerns when choosing a primer. Continue reading to discover some top-rated face primers that are sure to elevate your makeup game.
1. Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Hydrating Makeup Primer
Milk Makeup’s hydrating face primer is a gel formula that smooths skin and grips makeup for up to 12 hours. It’s invisible and comes in a natural, clear color that allows you to layer foundation and other makeup on top for a smooth application.
The key ingredients are niacinamide, aloe water, and blue agave extract—all of which provide additional moisture to your skin. The formula also contains hyaluronic acid and hemp-derived cannabis seed extract to boost hydration.
It’s great for anyone who wants their makeup to last all day without feeling heavy or overly sticky on their face. The primer is also perfect for people with oily and combo skin who need more moisture in their skincare routine.
“I absolutely love the finish with this primer makes such a difference and love how it feels when you put it on refreshed and ready for putting light or heavy makeup,” explained one enthusiast.
2. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer
Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer is a velvety, lightweight cream that nourishes your skin with vitamins A and E to give it a healthy glow.
It also blurs fine lines and pores to make your skin look flawless. And the best part? It’s vegan-friendly!
The texture of this primer is considerably smooth—a little goes a long way! You only need a pea-sized dot per use; any more than that will cause it to ball up and become difficult to blend into your skin.
“This stuff is amazing! It doesn’t look greasy and my skin loves it,” shared one buyer. “It preps my skin for my usual makeup wear without leaving me with dry spots.”
3. Tatcha The Silk Canvas
An editor’s favorite, Tatcha’s priming balm is a must-have for anyone who wants to achieve smooth, even skin that’s primed for makeup
The silky, nourishing formula is infused with silk extracts that instantly diminish the look of pores and leave your skin feeling soft. It creates a protective barrier derived from botanicals to help combat free radicals, while pink and gold pearls help even skin tone and give you a soft focus finish.
The lightweight primer goes on smoothly, absorbs quickly, and leaves behind a satin finish that looks natural—not greasy or shiny.
“If I put this on and nothing else, I am good to go. It evens out my skin tone but doesn’t hide my freckles,” wrote one reviewer.
4. Glow Recipe Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops
Glow Recipe’s Pore-Smooth Blur Drops is a serum and primer hybrid that aims to help reduce pore size, control oil production, and even out skin texture. The product is formulated with encapsulated BHA and strawberry enzymes that work together to help clear pores and improve skin tone.
The formula also contains mattifying tapioca and rice-blurring powders to smooth out any excess shine for up to 8 hours. You can use it both as a treatment or a primer, depending on your needs—it’s formulated to work well before moisturizer or makeup application.
This product is great for those who have oily skin or breakouts, but it’s also useful for anyone who wants smoother-looking skin that lasts longer than just one use of their favorite mattifying primer.
According to reviews, “I use a pea size amount every day and it just blurs my makeup like that! I also have fairly larger pores, which isn’t a problem for the product. It’s also extremely light weight!”
5. Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Illuminating
Much like the name hints, Laura Mercier’s Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer enhances the skin’s natural radiance and creates a flawless base for makeup.
It has skin-loving ingredients that include porcelain flower extract, which is rich in antioxidant properties and will restore your skin’s luminosity. Meanwhile, the micronized pearls help naturally reflect light while the smooth texture makes it easy to apply.
Plus, it’s formulated with skin-loving ingredients and is paraben-free, so it’s safe for all skin types.
6. e.l.f. Cosmetics Power Grip Primer
It’s no secret that e.l.f. Cosmetics is a favorite among beauty bloggers and vloggers—and for good reason! Their products are affordable, they’re cruelty-free and they work wonders on your skin.
The label’s Power Grip Primer is a great option if you’re looking for something lightweight and gives your skin a natural finish. The formula is enriched with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to keep your skin hydrated throughout the day, and it has a translucent finish so it won’t clog pores or make makeup look heavy on your face.
You can apply it before foundation or BB cream to prep your skin for makeup application, or you can use it in tandem with other skincare products for an extra boost of hydration in dry areas (like the corners of my nose).
“This is the first primer I’ve ever used and I’m surprised it worked so well. It’s super sticky, so my makeup sticks very well to it,” revealed one reviewer. “It doesn’t pill or leave me with an uneven base.
7. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Mattifying Primer
Fenty Beauty’s Pro Filt’r Mattifying Face Primer is a must-have for combination to oily skin.
It delivers all-day shine control, improves and extends foundation wear, and melts into all skin tones. The unique blend of blue agave extract and blurring powders helps to improve the appearance of pores and imperfections while delivering a matte finish to all skin types.
Not to mention, it’s a simple application process: apply 1-2 pumps starting at the center of your face, blending outward with your fingertips or a makeup sponge.
“I have combo skin and after I apply it, it makes my face so smooth. I’ve put makeup on without it and the makeup is not as smooth as when I use it,” states one shopper.
8. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base
Bobbi Brown’s Vitamin Enriched Face Base is like a shot of vitamins for your face. It’s rich yet lightweight, and it instantly plumps and preps your skin for makeup application.
This replenishing primer boasts a blend of vitamins B, C, and E, as well as hyaluronic acid, squalane, and shea butter to nourish your skin while you prep it for the day. It’s lightly scented with grapefruit and geranium—a combination that has been proven to boost moods while helping to reduce stress.
The formula creates an instant barrier between your skin and environmental aggressors like pollution or makeup smudges from touch-ups throughout the day. The result? Your makeup stays smooth for hours!
9. Freck Beauty RICH B*TCH Hydrating Gripping Primer
Freck Beauty’s RICH B*TCH has a unique formula that can be worn alone or as a primer for your makeup. This serum melts into the skin and provides hydration and support for the skin’s barrier, which helps to keep your skin healthy.
The prickly pear seed oil in this formula supports the skin barrier, while also providing hydration. Yam root extract supports elasticity in your skin, while Japanese camelia oil improves texture.
This product is great for anyone who wants to keep their skin looking healthy and hydrated. It works to improve the appearance of your skin by hydrating it, nourishing it, and supporting its natural structure.
10. Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Pore Minimizing Primer
This lightweight, translucent primer is an absolute must-have for every makeup bag.
It minimizes the look of pores and fine lines and helps makeup apply evenly and stay put. The formula feels silky-soft on skin, so you can feel good about what you’re putting on your face.
It’s also non-comedogenic—meaning it doesn’t clog pores. This primer contains vitamin E derivative, which helps protect against environmental stressors that can cause damage to your skin.
How to Choose the Perfect Face Primer
When picking out a face primer, one of the key factors to consider is how well it suits your skin type. If you have oily skin, you’ll want to look for oil-free or mattifying primers that can help control excess shine and extend the longevity of your makeup. On the other hand, if you have dry skin, hydrating or illuminating primers can provide a boost of moisture and give your skin a dewy finish. For sensitive or acne-prone skin, it’s worth considering primers that are non-comedogenic and free of common irritants.
Consistency and Feel
The consistency and feel of a primer can make a huge difference to your makeup application experience. Some primers have a silky, silicone-based texture that fills in pores and smooths over texture for a flawless base. Others have a more lightweight, gel-like consistency that absorbs quickly and feels refreshing on the skin. It’s also worth considering whether the primer feels heavy or light, greasy or dry, and how it sits under your foundation.
Beyond just providing a smooth canvas for your makeup, a good primer can also nourish your skin with beneficial ingredients. Look out for primers that contain skin-loving ingredients like antioxidants, vitamins, and SPF for sun protection. However, also be wary of any potential irritants or allergens, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Always read the ingredient list and understand what you’re putting on your skin.
Effectiveness in Makeup Enhancement
Last but not least, a primer should do what it’s supposed to: prep your skin for makeup and enhance its performance. This includes extending the longevity of your makeup, preventing it from creasing or fading, and improving its overall appearance. Some primers also offer color-correcting benefits to even out your skin tone or add radiance. Consider what makeup concerns you most want to address and choose a primer that targets those issues effectively.