There are plenty of beauty products you don’t actually need to add to your daily routine, but primer isn’t one to skip. Primer does what it sounds like: it preps your skin and helps make your concealer, foundation, highlighter, and any other face makeup look better and last longer. It can be extra hydrating, it can add a glowy boost of radiance, or it can help hide pores and blemishes. Since there are hundreds of primers out there, here’s a list to narrow down the best options based on exactly what you’re looking for.
Choosing The Best Primer
There is an overwhelming number of makeup primer options out there, from high-end, expensive products to cheaper ones found at the drugstore. Don’t just choose a random option out there—there are a few things to keep in mind before you purchase a primer.
- Shop for your skin type. When it comes to picking the perfect primer, you need to buy one that will work with your skin type. For example, if your skin is super oily, you probably don’t want to get a radiance-boosting primer—you should opt for something mattifying instead. However, if your skin is very dry, something too mattifying might not work, and you should get a moisturizing primer.
- Think about the look you want to achieve. Primer is a base that is meant to help the rest of your makeup stay put, but many options do more than just that. Do you want a primer that also doubles as a subtle highlight? Do you want one that color corrects? Think about the makeup look you’re going for and choose from there.
- Take budget into consideration. Like any other makeup product out there, you can find expensive primers that cost close to $100, or you can find equally great options that cost less than $20. Think about how much you want to spend before picking one.
Best Overall: Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer
The Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer might be a bit pricey, but it’s a consistent favorite among professional makeup artists and makeup gurus. That’s because it does everything a great primer should do. It glides on easily and becomes completely transparent as you rub it in, giving your skin an overall smoother look. It feels incredibly lightweight and doesn’t allow products to pile up as you apply them over it, and it never makes you feel like you’re caking makeup on.
This one is oil-free (which is one reason it feels so light), but not drying, so it’s ideal for combination skin, but can work for either dry or oily skin as well. It feels like velvet, and you only need a small amount for it to work, so the bottle will last for a long time. It gives skin a nice glow without looking too shiny, and it does keep your foundation in place all day long while helping with oil control, minimizing pores and fine lines, and reducing redness.
Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer. All Day Oil-Free Makeup Primer with SPF 15. Vegan and Cruelty-Free. (1 Ounce).
The Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer is a lightweight, oil-free option that works for any skin type.
Best High-End: Tatcha Silk Canvas Primer
More often than not, you’ll find that Tatcha’s Silk Canvas Primer is sold out at Sephora, and there’s a reason for that: this is a fantastic product that genuinely works. Unlike many other primers, this one comes in the form of a balm, and it’s sort of like skincare mixed with makeup. Made of three different kinds of pressed silk, this primer feels lovely and gives smooth skin, but also protects your skin against pollutants and free radicals. It not only makes skin look good, but it legitimately works to improve your skin’s texture.
The balm form may seem odd, but it feels luxurious and velvety soft without ever feeling too heavy. In fact, the Silk Canvas Primer is excellent for acne-prone skin and sensitive skin, as it’s very non-irritating and doesn’t feel super oily. It helps your makeup stay on all day, but you’ll want to use it even when you’re not following it up with foundation.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser
If you’re not looking to spend a lot on a primer, but you still want a great one, don’t worry—it’s not impossible. Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser is the perfect example of how great an inexpensive primer can be. Made with pore-minimizing in mind, this one goes on as a super smooth moisturizer that leaves your skin looking nearly Photoshop perfect while also controlling oil and shine. It’s definitely mattifying, but it doesn’t feel heavy or like it’s clogging your pores.
This stuff makes your skin look so poreless that you’ll want to wear it without makeup as well sometimes. And you really can’t beat the price point, which comes in at under $5. While it may not be the largest bottle out there, a little goes a long way, and it will last a while—and, again, it’s not expensive to replace when it does run out.
Best For Dry Skin: First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer
When you have dry skin, a mattifying primer may not be the best option. They can sometimes leave your skin feeling drier and can also cause other products to pile up when applied on top. You’re better off with something hydrating, like First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer. This one feels more like a moisturizer than a makeup product, which is surprisingly pleasant.
Made of coconut water and vital proteins, it’s very hydrating and will make your skin look so dewy that you can wear it on its own. It smooths your skin as well, feels super lightweight, dries quickly, and helps protect skin as well. It might be hydrating, but it never feels oily, so you can even feel comfortable using it if you have oily skin.
First Aid Beauty Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer, 1.7 Ounce
First Aid Beauty Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer feels hydrating and smooths skin without feeling heavy or sticky.
Best Color Correcting: Stila One Step Correct
Color correcting is a way to conceal blemishes and skin imperfections, and it works surprisingly well as a primer. This Stila One Step Correct primer is made up of swirls of peach, green, and lavender, and aside from looking nice, they each also have their own job to do. Peach brightens and illuminates, green neutralizes redness and helps hide blemishes, and lavender makes skin look more vibrant. Put together, these make your skin look smooth, glowy, and healthy. Although it seems like mixing these three colors would make your skin look odd, any hue goes away once it’s applied, and it just makes your skin look good.
This primer feels so lightweight you’ll forget that it’s on, and it instantly transforms your skin, even helping to hide dark circles or annoying pimples—you’ll notice a difference right away. One pump is all you need to cover your face. It’s a fantastic base and not only makes your skin look great, but it helps foundation stay and prevents your face from getting oily.
Best For Oily Skin: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer
Oily skin can mean super shiny skin, especially a few hours after you’ve applied foundation. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Primer is intended to combat precisely that issue, as it’s an oil-free option that instantly absorbs shine and evens out your skin tone. It helps makeup stay all day long and prevents those shiny spots from popping up on your t-zone.
This one also doesn’t feel like your typical mattifying primer. It’s lightweight and comfortable, and it melts into your skin easily and quickly. It reduces the appearance of pores and makes skin look like the perfect canvas for makeup. Keep in mind, though, that it was made with oily skin in mind, and too much of it can be a little bit drying, especially if you already have dry skin.
Best For Glowing Skin: Becca Backlight Priming Filter
If you’re looking for a primer that leaves your skin glowing and dewy, there are plenty of options out there—but Becca Backlight Priming Filter is easily the best. A lightweight option, this one looks shimmery and beautiful in the bottle but goes on subtly for the perfect glow that looks incredibly natural and makes you appear lit from within. Some radiance-boosting primers can look a bit too over the top, but this one gives the exact amount of glow you were looking for.
Made with light-diffusing pearls, this primer makes your skin appear more bright and supple, and even hides imperfections so you’ll even be tempted to wear it alone. It just makes your skin look so much more healthy and vibrant without looking like you caked on too much highlighter.
BECCA Cosmetics - Backlight Priming Filter 30mL/1Fl.oz
Becca Backlight Priming Filter brightens your skin, giving it a natural glow without looking too shimmery.
Best For Pore Minimizing: Benefit Porefessional Face Primer
If your main goal is to reduce the appearance of your pores, then you want a primer that is supposed to do precisely that, which is where Benefit Porefessional Face Primer comes in. It definitely gets the job done: after smoothing it over your skin, you’ll notice a visible difference. It’s like a filter in real life, making your skin look smoother and making pores look smaller.
The nicest thing about this one is that unlike many pore-minimizing primers, it feels very lightweight and melts easily into your skin as you rub it in. Some more mattifying primers like this can feel like they sit on top of the skin, while this one feels like basically nothing. It controls shine, it helps your makeup stay put, and it makes you look flawless. A little also goes a long way here.
Benefit Cosmetics the POREfessional Pore Minimizing Face Primer 0.75 Ounce
Benefit Porefessional Face Primer looks like an Instagram filter in real life and instantly smooths skin.
Best Primer Spray: Too Faced 3-in-1 Hangover Replenishing Primer and Setting Spray
Not all primers are made to look and feel like lotion. Too Faced has a spray bottle version of its best-selling Hangover Replenishing Primer, and in our opinion, the spray is even better. This 3-in-1 Hangover Replenishing Primer and Setting Spray couldn’t be easier to use: you spritz it over your face, and in seconds, it transforms your skin.
Infused with coconut water, this feels incredibly hydrating and refreshing as it lands on your skin. It helps smooth out your skin, gives it a naturally dewy look, and feels cooling and nice. It also goes on super quickly for whenever you’re in a rush and helps makeup stay in place. While this doesn’t work quite as well as a primer, you’re going to apply directly onto your skin, and it’s still a terrific option. And, as a bonus, it works as a setting spray when you’re done with your makeup, or just a refreshing facial mist throughout the day to perk up your makeup.
Too Faced Hangover Rx 3 in 1 Replenishing Primer & Setting Spray 4 OZ
Too Faced 3-in-1 Hangover Replenishing Primer and Setting Spray gives your skin a nice glowing look and applies quickly.