Should You Use Makeup Primer?

woman applying primer on her face

To prime or not to prime - that is the question. If you're a lovely lady who wants to save her makeup from melting off her face, then primers were made for you. While primers are often overlooked as a step in the beauty regimen, they are an up-and-coming must-try trend and are essential for flawless makeup application.

Understanding Primers

Skin has natural imperfections and more than often faces color challenges. Primer, a formula applied after cleansing and moisturizing yet before foundation, creates an ultra-smooth canvas for long wear. It preps your skin for makeup by filling in every crease and crevice or line and wrinkle on your face to even out the skin.

Primers come in a variety of shades and types, and are labeled by purpose and application location (face, eyelids, or lips). They also come in different formulations including gel, liquid, powder, sprays, and more. They are for all ages, skin tones, and skin types, so you are guaranteed to discover a recipe with your name written all over it.

  • If you're looking for full face coverage, choose from tinted or translucent primers along with your intended preferences.
  • If you like to keep your eye makeup in place and prevent creases, there are eye shadow primers that are transparent and safe for eyes.
  • If you hope to lock down lip color and prevent fading, bleeding, and creasing, there are an abundance of must-have lip primers.

Your first question about primers is most likely whether or not they clog pores. Well, fear not. They actually sit on top of the pores to smooth while further helping to disguise blemishes, encouraging more evenly blended makeup and a happier you.

Especially important for warm, humid days, save your makeup from smearing into a hot mess by choosing to prime.

What Primers Do

Primers feature a lightweight, super-smooth texture and work to absorb excess oil, minimize the appearance of pores, and create a refined skin texture. All great primers act as a holding agent by prepping your skin for long-wearing makeup and adding an additional layer of protection to the skin.


Depending on the brand and primer, benefits can exceed simply smoothing skin.

  • Primers can offer anti-aging, hydrating, color correction, radiance-boosting, and sun protection benefits.
  • Many primers regulate oil production, reduce shine, and actually treat acne, resulting in reduced breakouts and clearer skin.
  • You can choose from mineral-based, water-resistant, or naturally derived primers as well as take a stance on ingredient options, like oil-free, fragrance-free, or paraben-free.
  • Certain primers offer antioxidant and mineral blends to hydrate, nourish, and comfort the skin.

Regardless, you should first and foremost determine your skin type, decide what it is you're looking for in a primer, peek at the ingredients, and select one that suits your wants and needs.

Ingredients and Functions

When selecting a primer, it's important to be aware of common ingredients and their primary jobs.

  • Silica - controls shine
  • Waxes and polymers - helps makeup stay in place
  • Cyclomethicone - reduces silicone grease
  • Dimethicone crosspolymer - protects skin
  • Retinyl palmitate - reduces flaking and restoring suppleness
  • Tocopheryl acetate - conditions skin
  • Propylene glycol - moisturizes
  • Titanium dioxide - protects skin from harmful UVA/UVB damage
  • Zinc oxide - offers full spectrum coverage by absorbing UVA and UVB rays at the skin's surface

Must-Try Primers

Selecting the appropriate primer goes hand in hand with choosing the perfect foundation for your skin type. Because you apply primer before foundation, it's important to read labels and test each product on a small area of skin to make sure it won't cause irritation or an allergic reaction.


A few of the best primer options for your face include:

  • Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: Featured in Marie Claire's 25 Beauty Products That Will Change Your Life, this oil-free primer works wonders. It creates a perfect canvas for foundation application and has a silky, lightweight texture. Enriched with vitamins A and E, grape seed extract, and green tea to soothe the skin, it works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores for a smooth, matte finish.
  • Benefit the POREfessional: This bestselling oil-free primer offers a silky, lightweight texture that lasts all day long. Raved about on Vogue's 10 Best Primers, it makes pores less noticeable while minimizing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. It complements all skin tones and types, and contains a vitamin E derivative to protect skin from free radicals.
  • Clinique Superprimer Face Primer: This color-correcting primer preps the face for makeup application and long-wear. There's a Superprimer for redness, dullness, discoloration, and sallowness, so choose wisely depending on your skin type. If you simply want allover smoothing before foundation, try the Universal Superprimer. It's translucent, so wearing it alone is a definite option, and it preps skin beautifully. Allure raves about its multiple benefits.
  • Cover FX Matifying Primer: This versatile primer prepares the skin for makeup while treating and healing blemishes. It soaks up unwanted surface oil and instantly improves the texture of skin for smooth application. It contains willow bark extract, salicylic acid (naturally), ancient African tree bark extract (to reduce pore size, shine, sebum, and inflamed acne), hyaluronic acid for moisture and more. Great for sensitive skin and recommended by Glamour as great skin-clearing makeup, it's also water-resistant and free of parabens, fragrance, gluten, mineral oils, and talc.


Keep your eye shadow looking great all day with one of these products:

  • Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion: This sheer, lightweight primer features a nude base that glides on the skin. The original formula blends and disappears instantly, leaving behind a smooth, even canvas for long lasting, beautiful makeup. Select among various shades for a hint of color. You can even choose the new anti-aging version to prevent fine lines and wrinkles. Suggested by, this go-to primer will most definitely keep makeup in place for your day adventures.
  • Nars Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base: This colorless, lightweight primer goes on clear, creating a seamless canvas that keeps cream and powder color looking brilliant. Not only will you see no smudging, creasing, or caking, the color intensity of your makeup will be maximized to perfection and will look fresh all day long. Recommended by Beautylish as a must-have, must-try formula, it is also easy to use and works for all skin types and tones.


You'll be amazed at the difference one of these primers will make when it comes to keeping your lip color looking terrific.

  • Too Faced Lip Insurance: The Huffington Post put best brands to the test and this lip primer came out on top. It's light, opaque formula glides on and coats the lips in total nourishment, drying down to a matte finish. It locks down lip moisture, ensuring no fading, smearing, or smudging for a perfectly prepped pout.
  • MAC Prep+Prime Lip Base: This color-free primer smooths and defines lips while maintaining the finish of your lip color: glosses stay glossy and mattes stay matte. Recommended by Beautylish, it's delicately scented with vanilla and wraps the lips in extreme moisture. Not to mention, it lasts all day long and guarantees no smearing, so you can paint your lips on however you please.

How to Apply Primers

Correctly applying a primer is super-important for keeping makeup in place and fresh all day long.

  • Applying Primer
    First things first, thoroughly cleanse your face with your regular, everyday face wash and moisturize. Let the moisturizer sit a few moments until it's fully absorbed.
  • The whole application process is contingent on the type of formula you choose (liquid, spray, powder). Some come in tubes with included wands, some contain a sponge or brush, and some you'll simply just want to dab on lightly with your fingers. At this point, it's essential to read the label instructions and check out the suggested usage associated with the specific product of choice.
  • With face primers, apply onto your forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin, or in other words your T-zone. These are the spots on your face that would be hit first if standing in direct sunlight.
  • Eye shadow primers and lip primers have more obvious points of location, but the same rules apply.
  • Gently blend the primer into your skin as evenly as possible and let dry. You may also blend the primer onto your neck for a more uniform application.
  • Last but not least, apply your concealer, foundation, or face powder as you normally would. It's as simple as that.

Primer Perfection

Maybe you already are in love with primers. Maybe you were vaguely aware of their existence. Regardless, skin-soothing primers were created to help you achieve complexion perfection. They prep your skin for gorgeous makeup application, expertly hold foundation, and add a layer of protection. They feature anti-shine superpowers and will transform your skin tone into a seamless, smooth masterpiece. Whether you're concerned with aging, oil, moisture, or lackluster-looking skin, you are certain to find the perfect primer and reinvent yourself, one layer at a time.

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