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Here’s How Long You Should Be Waiting Between Moisturizer and Primer

Photo by Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images

Primers are the unsung heroes of a flawless finish and a long-lasting makeup look. While most of us learned in skincare 101 that a great moisturizer is non-negotiable, some still view primer as optional. We’d argue that the correct primer isn’t just nice to have; it’s the difference between a skin-like foundation finish and makeup that just looks aiight. 

Beautiful makeup always starts with great skincare, and the proper application of your moisturizer-primer combination is the base that’s going to set your foundation up for success. Keep scrolling if you’re ready to learn how to prep your skin for a flawless makeup routine like a pro.

About the Experts: 
Ashani Davidson is a beauty and style expert and makeup product developer for ESTÉE LAUDER.
Kimberly Krystal Sharma is an NYC-based traveling pro makeup artist.

How to Apply Moisturizer

Your moisturizer, or face cream, is the last step of your skincare routine. Product developer Ashani Davidson says, "Moisturizers should always be applied after cleansing the skin. I prefer to apply my moisturizer when my skin is still a little damp for maximum absorption, and this is the best method for retaining moisture for softer and smoother skin.” Makeup artist Kimberly Sharma also recommends, “Use a hydrating spray or mist first to awaken your skin before applying your moisturizer.” 

The first step is choosing a moisturizer that makes your skin feel hydrated and balanced. That might mean a lightweight, breathable gel or lotion for oily skin, while drier skin types may want a more intensely hydrating cream. Davidson says, “I look for something that is an emollient so it will keep my skin smooth and soft. I’m looking for ingredients like lipids (triglycerides), squalene, or lanolin. After you’ve found your moisturizer match, apply it on slightly damp skin using a finger-tip-sized amount (you can apply more later, if necessary). Always use clean hands and apply in a gentle upward motion, covering the whole face and then lightly pressing the excess product into your neck. 

If you’re not using a moisturizer with SPF, you’ll want to allow your moisturizer to dry for a moment before applying your sunscreen. One of our favorite sunscreens for layering under makeup is TULA Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen SPF 30 Gel. It plays nice under makeup and won’t clog your pores for a gorgeous finish. You can also choose to set your makeup later with an SPF setting spray like COOLA Organic SPF 30 Makeup Setting Sunscreen Spray or use a foundation with SPF

How to Apply Primer

Even if you didn’t wake up with glass skin, your primers help create a smooth base for your makeup by forming a thin layer for your makeup to hold on to. Primers have a reputation for minimizing pores, filling in lines and wrinkles, and targeting other specific skincare concerns for a base that’s better than skincare alone. 

“There are so many primers that do different things,” explains Sharma. “Finding the right primer for your skin type is key and can make a big difference in how your skin looks.” For dry skin, you’ll want a hydrating primer to plump up your skin and prevent your makeup from settling into dry lines. The ESTÉE LAUDER Futurist Aqua Brilliance Watery Glow Primer keeps your skin hydrated all day. If your skin is oily, you’ll want a primer that will keep oil at bay, like the LAURA MERCIER Pure Canvas Blurring Primer. It keeps you shine-free and blurs pores for a flawless look.

Don’t forget to consider your desired finish when selecting your primer. Davidson shares, “If I’m aiming for a matte look, I will go with a mattifying primer that helps to blur any imperfections and control oil and shine throughout the day while keeping my makeup looking fresh.” Whether you’re looking for a radiant, lit-from-within glow or a slight shimmer, your primer can help enhance the final look of your makeup while extending its wear.

“You want to blend your primer into your skin using circular motions,” Davidson continues, “For oily skin, ensure most of the product is applied to the T-zone and work your way around the face. You want to ensure your primer is fully dry before applying foundation, so wait a few minutes between each step.”

How to Layer Moisturizer and Primer

When it comes to moisturizer and primer, it’s not just what you use that matters; it’s how you use it. Sharma suggests, “Primers should always be applied with clean hands without moisturizer residue; this prevents the two products from mixing.”

Moisturizer is the last step of your skincare routine, while primer is the first step of your makeup routine. Each product needs time to dry thoroughly and set on your skin so that it can give you maximum results without blending into other products. For example, if your moisturizer mixes into your mattifying primer, it could compromise the formula and give you a hydrating effect when it should be absorbing oils instead. Always apply your primer on dry skin after your moisturizer has fully absorbed to prevent the underperformance of your makeup.

How Long to Wait Between Moisturizer and Primer

Our experts recommend waiting one to two minutes between your moisturizer and primer application to ensure each product has dried and set thoroughly. Our suggestion isn’t just about makeup rules. Your product application order is key to preventing foundation pilling. Pilling is when your foundation rolls up into little annoying balls and flakes rather than applying smoothly across the skin—gross. It could also be the result of product incompatibility, so it’s wise to test your moisturizer and primer before potentially wasting a foundation application.

Layering your moisturizer and primer like a pro isn’t rocket science, but when done right, expect makeup that lasts longer and plenty of “Your skin looks SO good!” compliments. Interested in learning more makeup tips? Check out how to apply concealer like a professional makeup artist and discover 12 gorgeous red lip makeup looks

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About the author
Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated June 3, 2024 12:00 AM