Published: September 26, 2020

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Primers, also known as bases or makeup primers have revolutionized the world of makeup. Thanks to the wonders of a good primer, we can give our skin a porcelain and perfected look in just a few minutes with this easy-to-apply cosmetic product. What’s more, they also drastically improve the results of our makeup application.

For these reasons and many others, as we elaborate further throughout this guide, primers have become a basic product in the makeup routine of most women. The problem is that, quite often, women do not know how to properly use a primer or how to choose the one that best suits them. With this complete guide, your indecision and lack of knowledge about which primer to use will no longer be a problem. We hope you enjoy this guide!

Key Facts

  • A primer is a product designed to prepare the skin before applying other makeup products. Among many other benefits, a primer reduces the visibility of pores and wrinkles, softens the skin and hides many skin imperfections.
  • The use of a primer is also essential to achieve longer lasting makeup, as it helps the makeup to adhere better. There are primers to suit all tastes, needs and skin types. It is possible to find primers in the form of gel, liquid, mousse or cream.
  • The use of primers is very common among professional makeup artists, in order to apply makeup with a more perfect finish. To choose your primer, look at factors such as your skin type and tone, your needs and the composition of the product.

Our recommendation: The Best Primers on the U.S. Market

Primers are becoming a must when it comes to makeup. Almost all makeup brands have joined this revolution and are now creating primers for all skin types and needs. In the primer market, there are so many options to choose from that it can often be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve prepared a selection of the top 5 primers on the U.S. market for you.

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Primer, Clear, 0.67 fl. oz

Bye-bye pores! You are one second away from smooth, poreless skin. Give your face the perfect face makeup base with Maybelline New York’s iconic Baby Skin Face Primer. The instant skin smoother will erase the look of pores in seconds leaving the skin with a soft matte finish.

Our makeup artists conspired with our research labs to create a lightweight and breathable formula that lets makeup glide on and blend beautifully for professional results. The Baby Skin blur cream can be worn alone or under a foundation for a mistake-proof poreless smooth skin.  At about $4.50, this is a product for any beauty budget, from the trusted brand Maybelline.

NYX Studio Perfect Primer, Clear, 1.0 oz

Prepare your canvas with this silky primer. The studio perfect primer formula is easily absorbed, creates a smooth surface for foundation, and ensures the longevity of your makeup. Available in 3 shades: clear (to cover fine lines and large pores); lavender (to brighten and illuminate yellow undertones); and green (to eliminate redness).

From newer name NYX, this popular branded primer is value priced at around $6 and its silky formula creates a smooth surface for makeup application.

Photo Finish Foundation Primer by Smashbox for Women – 1 oz Primer

Proabbly the most popular primer and one of the pioneers in primer development is Smashbox Photo Finish.  At around $27 for a one-ounce tube, this product is a little more costly, but is the first name in primers. Smooth a layer over clean, moisturized skin. Let it set for 15 seconds. Wear alone or under makeup. Can also be used over makeup for touchups.

Instantly reduces imperfections, minimizes pores and controls oil and shine without drying the skin. The silky formula is suitable for oily or combination skin types and leaves a soft, matte finished complexion.

bareMinerals Prime Time BB SPF 30 Primer Cream, 1 Fluid Ounce

This is a multitasking, complexion perfecting primer. it immediately diminishes the appearance of imperfections and helps to correct uneven skin tone. Glides on smoothly and can be worn alone or as a foundation primer that wont dry out skin.

This primer is compatible with most latex and oil-based topcoats to provide a fast drying and low odor primer/sealer with excellent adherence. At just 14.99 this formula by cosmetics giant bareMinerals is a great value from a name you can trust.

Glo Skin Beauty Tinted Primer SPF 30

This silky, oil free, tinted primer with pure mineral sun protection glides on to instantly even skin tone, mask imperfections and provide all day coverage. Priming is key in smoothing fine lines and perfecting your complexion. Use to combat smudging, creasing, or disappearing foundation throughout the day.  This product is on the higher end at about $30 for one ounce.

Wear alone for sheer radiance or prep foundation for a flawless complexion. Doubles as a foundation or can be mixed with a thicket foundation to sheer out coverage or create a customized color. Cruelty free, paraben free, talc free.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Primers

It is true that women love to wear makeup that looks flawless. However it is not enough just to buy the best products on the market. The key is to know how to use them. To help you understand how to properly apply primer, we answer to the most frequently asked questions about primers in the section below.

Makeup artist applying liquid tonal foundation on the face of the woman in make up room

Primers are usually differentiated by one main ingredient: water, oil or silicone.
(Source: Andor Bujdoso: 96007617/ 123rf.com)

What is primer and what are the advantages of using one?

Primer is a makeup product designed to prepare the skin before applying makeup. There are many types of primers and they are adapted to each skin type. These products are very easy to use and provide great benefits, both for the skin and for the results of your makeup application.

These products have become the new revolution in makeup for a reason. The main advantages of the daily use of a primer include; improved preparation of the skin for makeup, minimzing of skin imperfections, increased lasting effect of makeup and the overall improvement of makeup results.

What types of primers are available on the market today?

The increasing use of primers as an essential element in peoples’ makeup routine has resulted with virtually all well known brands releasing many new and specialized primer products. You’ll find many types of primers on the market–gels, sprays and powders and it may be difficult to know which one best suits you. To help you out, we break down the main types of primers below:

  • Mattifying: ideal for oily skins. These primer products conceal the sebum production of the skin to keep it fresh and shine-free.
  • Long-lasting: perfect if you need your makeup to last longer and keep it from appearing faded after a few hours.
  • Color Correcting: with this type of primer you will be able to say goodbye to yellow, bluish-purple or red tones that appear on the skin by creating an even skin tone. By using complementary colors, these products work wonders to even out your skin.
  • Illuminators: the best option if you have dry or dull skin. These primers can be used on their own, without applying a makeup, and brighten up your complexion.
  • Pore Minimizers: primers that fill in the visible pores in your skin so that, when applying makeup, it is applied smoothly and uniformly, camoflaguing large pores.
  • Moisturizing: essential care for those with dry skin as they smooth and prepare the skin, as well as improve the hydration of the skin, which aids in the appearance of your makeup.

There are many primers to choose from. Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose just one. You can use several of these products and even mix them together to create the perfect combination for you. Don’t panic if this is a lot of information, it’s just a matter of trying until you find the product that is right for you. When you find that magic product, you’ll love the results it gives you.

How do I choose a primer that’s right for my skin?

As with almost all cosmetic products, to find the perfect primer, the most important factor to take into account is your skin type. It is necessary to ascertain if you have naturally dry, oily, delicate or mature skin, in order to choose a primer that, in addition to preparing the skin for makeup application, takes good care of your skin.

Your skin type is not the only factor to consider when choosing a primer. It is also important to pay attention to any other specific needs that you may have. For example, this could include any pre-existing or permanent skin imperfections that you may be looking to hid such as scars, pores or wrinkles. The fundamental aspect is to know what you are looking to improve or change with the use of a primer. The following table will help you with this:

Skin type Ideal primer
Dry skin Primer with moisturizing properties
Mixed or oily skin Mattifying primer
Sensitive skin Primer with sun protection
Mature skin Pre-smoothing base with anti-aging effects
Skin with marked scars or pores Primer liquid

What is the best way to apply a primer?

Applying a primer is simple and straightforward. To achieve perfect results, it is essential that you follow the following steps carefully. Skin cleanliness is the first thing to consider and achieve. For a primer to adhere well to the skin, it is very important that the skin is clean. Start by cleaning your face or performing a facial cleanse. You may also wish to apply serum, special targeting products and a moisturizing cream or lotion as the end point of the cleansing routine.

Once the skin is ready and the skin is clean and moisturized, the primer can be applied. Normally, a small amount of primer is enough to cover the entire face. Using excessive amounts can be counterproductive and the results will be less than ideal. You can make the primer application process easier for yourself by purchasing a makeup sponge, but using your own hands is also completely acceptable.

Woman shopping in a beauty shop

Remember that one of the most important factors to consider is that the composition of your primer must match that of your makeup base.
(Source: Luca Bertolli: 42252386/ 123rf.com)

Apply the primer as if it were a cream, in a very thin layer, all over the face. It is important that you apply the primer from top to bottom and always in line with your natural skin contours. Spread the primer evenly until you get a uniform look with no bare skin (without primer) remaining. If required, you can add an extra amount of primer in those areas where it is needed, for example, to cover a pimple or an especially dry patch of skin.

That’s it. Easy, isn’t it? If you want you to learn how to get even better results, below is a tutorial in which an expert will explain step by step how to apply a primer. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video tutorial is worth even more. Pay attention!

What are the truths and myths of primers?

In spite of the fact that primers are sweeping the world of makeup, you should not blindly trust everything that is said about them. While it is true that primers bring many benefits, both to the skin and to the makeup results, there are also some myths that we would like to dispel.

Truths Myths
Increases the duration of makeup. It is essential to use a primer to apply makeup.
Mattifies the skin and removes shine. Turns any makeup into waterproof makeup.
There are different types for each skin tone. All primers have anti-aging properties.
Acts like a second skin. Using a primer prevents the skin from breathing.

It is important to note the truths and myths of these products in order to know what results to expect and not be disappointed. In addition, you must not forget that the results of a primer are usually different on each skin type. Every individual skin type is unique and you must keep this in mind when choosing and applying a primer.

Is it advisable to a use primer every day?

Many people think it’s best not to use a primer every day, to avoid overloading the skin and not allowing it breathe naturally. However, primers are designed to be used every day, without causing any problems for the skin. The most important thing is that you use the right primer.

Besides choosing a primer that suits the needs of your skin, another key factor when using this product every day is cleaning your face correctly before and after each use. You should give the same level of attention to your facial cleansing routine as your makeup application routine. By performing a thorough facial cleanse every night, abd again in the morning followed by treatments and moisturizing, your skin will regenerate naturally to be ready for each day and will look great with the addition of primer and makeup.

The Ten Commandments of a Primer

There are times when you find so much information about a product you don’t know what is useful and what is irrelevant. To avoid this confusion, we have prepared for you a list of the ten most important points about primers. Pay attention as you don’t want to miss a single one!

  1. Review your skin to find out its type and what its main needs are.
  2. When you know your skin type, choose a suitable primer by following the recommendations in the product’s description.
  3. Remember that you can choose more than one primer to create an ideal combination.
  4. A primer prepares your skin so that the makeup you apply over it always looks perfect.
  5. Other functions of the primer are to mattify, even the tone of your skin and fill in the most visible pores or fine lines.
  6. A primer should be applied to the face from top to bottom on the skin.
  7. It is important to always apply a primer in the direction of the natural contours of the skin.
  8. Use a primer to lengthen the duration of your makeup.
  9. Primers can also be used as a skin treatment.
  10. Once you try a primer, you’ll fall in love and you won’t be able to stop!

Any tricks for using a primer?

We have already mentioned this a number of times throughout this guide but, without a doubt, the best trick for using a primer is mixing different primers together. This is a trick that professional make-up artists use. When mixing primers, or combining them together, you will be creating a uniform mass that will offer you with the benefits of each different type of primer.

Finally, a trick that may seem very trivial, but is very useful, is to always let the skin dry after washing and moisturizing before applying a primer. For best results, it is essential to let the skin absorb a moisturizer before applying a primer. If you do not let the skin properly dry, the primer will not adhere well to the skin.  Go have a large glass of water while you wait–your skin will thank you.

Erin LukasInStyle Magazine
“There’s one for every skin type and concern, and they come in an array of formulations including traditional liquids, balms, mists, and even a face mask”.

Shopping Criteria

If you have made it this far then it looks like you’ve already decided to include a primer in your makeup routine. Now another problem arises: which one do I buy? Below, you will find a description of the 5 main criteria that you should pay attention to when buying your new primer. All of them are important so read carefully.

Skin Type

We won’t get tired of repeating this one. Knowing your skin type is fundamental for the correct use of any cosmetic product, even more so for a primer. This product is applied directly on the skin so the delicacy of the skin on the face must be taken into account. This is why you should always choose a product that’s right for your skin type.

Taking into account your skin type will not only benefit you as you will be taking better care of your skin. The fact that you choose the right primer for your skin type and its needs will also ensure that you obtain the best results possible.

Basic make-up products, close-up

The higher the quality of the primer, the less likely it is to cause allergic reactions.
(Source: belchonock: 34765385/ 123rf.com)

Specific Needs

The issue of what your skin needs is an obvious aspect to consider. If you do not know what your skin needs, it will be very difficult achieve the desired results. Earlier in this guide we mentioned many different types of primers, six to be exact. Take a good look at this section and what each one offers to choose a primer that best suits your needs.

Remember that there is no problem with using more than one primer, actually it is recommended. The most important thing is that you identify your skin’s needs and acquire a primer capable of attending each one of them. For example, if you have shiny skin on your nose but dry skin on your forehead, you may want to use different formula primers in these areas.  There are also specific needs that are relevant to the individual, such as the reduction or prevention of the appearance of wrinkles, covering scars or reducing the appearance of pores. Use the primer (or primers) that resolves these issues for you.

Composition

A primer is a product that you apply directly on your skin, so the ingredients that it contains are very important. You must pay attention to the composition of each primer that you plan on using because it is highly recommended that it is the same as that of your foundation. By choosing a primer that is of similar composition as your foundation, you will ensure that both products work well together.

Primers are usually differentiated by a main ingredient: water, oil or silicone. Oil and silicone can be more harsh to the skin and are not recommended for sensitive or oily skin. Water-based primers are ideal and recommended for all skin types.

Remember that the most important aspect is that the composition of your primer must match that of your makeup base or foundation. If the composition of both do not match, the result may be that you see small wrinkles when applying makeup, or the two products may actually separate and pill on your face, which is certainly less than desirable.

Skin tone

The main goal of using a primer is for it to act like a second layer of skin, so the tone you choose is fundamental. Nowadays, with the expansive range of primers that exist, it will not be difficult to find one that perfectly suits the tone of your skin. If you choose the right shade of primer, the overall makeup result will be much more natural.

Most makeup bases or foundations have different shades that are defined by numbers. If this is the first time you’re buying a primer, a good trick to choose the right shade of primer is to look at the shade of your base. It is quite possible that there is the same primer tone available as the one you have for your foundation. Many primers come in a clear color, which takes the guesswork out of the process. If you are not sure which color to choose, go with clear and let your foundation do the concealing and evening of tones.

Quality

Last but not least is the quality of the product. Quality is a fundamental factor when choosing the cosmetic products that you apply to your skin, especially on the face. The better the quality of the primer, the less likely that it will cause allergic reactions or damage your skin.

To guide you regarding the quality of a product, often the best course of action is to review the opinions of specialists in the field. In addition to this, it is always preferable to choose primers from well-known brands which you have used before.

Summary

Primers are a cosmetic product designed to prepare the skin before the application of makeup. Thanks to the innovative product, you can easily mattify your skin, even out the tones, reduce the visibility of pores or fine lines and create a second skin upon which your makeup adheres well, to make it last longer.

Primers are revolutionizing the world of makeup with their multiple benefits and spectacular results. They are very easy to apply and look amazing when the right product is selected. Follow the advice of a specialist and, once you try them, you will want to continue using them forever. It is more than likely that a primer will become an essential part of your makeup bag.

If you liked our primer guide, please share it on social media and leave us a comment.

(Source of featured image: Belchonock: 10273771/ 123rf.com)

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