You wouldn’t paint a room without a fresh coat of primer or create a fresh mani without putting down a base coat—and you can think of applying primer (and then your makeup) in the same way. A good primer locks your foundation in place, smoothes out pores, and essentially creates a hydrated, fresh canvas for you to apply the rest of your makeup on.
From warm days to workouts to whatever else life throws at you, primers are what will help keep your other products in place from sun up to sun down. So whether you swear by prepping your skin with primer or you haven’t yet added this beauty essential to your routine, we’ve got everything you need to know about makeup primers below—and we’ve even included a few of our faves for you to try.
Primers are often made with waxes and silicone-based polymers, which help strengthen the bond between your skin and makeup. Like most makeup products, there are different primers for different skin types; some help to fill in fine lines and wrinkles, while others brighten or color-correct. If you’ve got a specific skin concern, chances are, there’s a perfect primer formula out there for you.
Nowadays, there are plenty of makeup formulas that also come with built-in priming powers, so remember to check the label of your new faves if you’re looking to create long-lasting looks.
The first step of any makeup or skincare process is to wash your face to remove any excess dirt, oil, or impurities lingering on your skin’s surface. Then squeeze out a dime-sized amount of primer onto your fingertips or a flat foundation brush (or dot primer onto your forehead, cheeks, and the tip of your nose and chin). Blend the primer evenly and outward in a circular motion, adding more as desired to target specific areas.
You’ve got plenty of primers to choose from, including color-correcting primers, illuminating primers, primer waters, hydrating primers, and matte primers. The ones that are most often used are hydrating and matte primers. A hydrating primer can make all the difference in preventing your foundation from flaking off in the middle of the day versus looking like you just stepped off of a glowing sunset sail. A matte primer can help tame oiliness and keep your makeup from sliding off your face. If redness is an issue for you, on the other hand, a color-correcting primer can help even out the tone of your skin so your foundation looks consistent—leaving no dark, shadowy patches in sight.
Get ready to show off your glow-up. This slightly tinted primer blurs fine lines and pores, smoothes out uneven texture, and keeps your favorite foundation and concealer locked in place—all while imparting an illuminating, lit-from-within glow to your complexion. Infused with black tea, this primer protects your skin from environmental pollutants and helps keep you looking awake all day.
No matter what eyeshadow formula you use, eyeshadow primer will make that pigment pop and keep it from creasing and fading. Need a tip for where to start with eye primers? Reach for this formula from ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS that creates a water-resistant, smooth base for any hue you want to dust over your eye.
Color-correcting primers blend contrasting pigments to even out your skin tone just before you apply foundation. But to achieve the best results, you’ll need to use the right color. For uneven pigmentation, go for orange. To neutralize redness (especially redness from rosacea), go for green. Got unwanted yellow undertones? Reach for purple. And if you can spot bluish-purple blood vessels beneath the surface of your skin, yellow primers will be your go-to.
Primer can often help give skin a more matte finish, but there are a range of ultra-moisturizing formulas on the market that even dry skin types will love. A hydrating primer like the ILLAMASQUA Hydra Veil Primer is a good place to start: This formula contains a variety of moisturizing ingredients and nutrients like algae extract, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins A and E to max out the skincare benefits while it preps your skin for makeup.
Oily skin types will benefit from a mattifying primer like this primer from ELIZABETH MOTT. This particular formula is a favorite of ours because of its brightness-enhancing pearl powder, which provides a subtle glow without an overly dewy finish. Pro tip: Whenever you’re looking for oil control and pore minimization, keep an eye out for ingredients like rose, niacinamide, and glycolic acid.
Is your complexion dry in some places and oily in others? There are face primer formulas out there for you, like the BENEFIT COSMETICS The POREfessional Face Primer, which is hydrating with a matte finish. Use it all over your complexion or just in the areas where you want to even out the texture of your skin; this cult-fave is one of the best in the beauty biz.
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