All About Face Primers

What is a face primer? Why do I need a face primer?

A face primer is a type of cosmetic product that you would apply after your last skincare step, but before you start your foundation routine.

A face primer will act as a barrier between your skincare and makeup. By creating this layer between your skincare and makeup, the primer will not allow the makeup to penetrate into the skin, preventing the makeup from potentially clogging pores and causing breakouts.

A common question I get from most clients is why do I need to apply a face primer? Do I really need to use it? And, can I just apply my foundation without the primer? My answer will always be YES, you NEED a primer. Primers have become really big in the cosmetic industry within the last few years. The same as when you go to get your nails done, the nail tech uses a base coat to prep for the nail color and a top coat to seal the color. On those days when a base coat isn’t applied, you’ll mainly notice two things. One, the color will chip much faster when you don’t use the base coat. Second, you’ll also notice that (depending on the color) it may stain your actual nail. That’s exactly what happens when you don’t use a primer (that’s suited for your skin type). Not only will a primer prevent makeup from seeping into the skin, but it has a few more benefits as well. It will allow the makeup to adhere better onto the skin. It will prolong the wear of the makeup, causing it not to break apart through out the day. It will also allow the foundation to blend faster and apply much more smoothly.

Now, primers aren’t a one size fits all type of deal. You do need to find a primer that’ll fit your skin type and skin concerns. A person that’s dry won’t typically apply a mattifying primer, as it’ll make them appear even more dry. Same as a person who’s very oily won’t apply an illuminating primer because it will make them appear even more oily.

Luckily, now there are a large variety of primers, from drug store to high end. Most companies now seem to carry some sort of primer or “base”, usually to go along with the foundations within there line. However, because a brand makes their own primer to go with their foundation, doesn’t mean that’s the only one that’ll work with it. Like a coworker of mine told a client, “You can pair Levi jeans with a top from H&M, it will still look good and put together”. It’s a matter of finding what works for you. Makeup is all about trial and error.

I’m going to give my own recommendations for primers. I will break them down according to skin type and/or concern (Keep in mind that because I am currently an artist at Sephora, I am most familiar with products that are sold AT Sephora).

You are extremely lucky lol. You can absolutely try all primers and they will more than likely all suit you. So it’ll just be a matter of preference. Some good well rounded primers are:

Smashbox photo finish primer (original)

Smashbox – photo finish primer water

Kat Von D – Featherweight lock it primer


Tarte – Clean slate 12hr brightening primer


Urban Decay – Brightening complexion


Benefit – stay flawless


Sephora Collection – perfecting ultra smoothing primer

Maybelline – master prime pro + smooth
Nyx – Studio perfect primer in clear

Most people with oily skin need something or prefer something that’s mattifying in order to control the excess production of oil on the skin. I’ve come to learn that not everyone with oily skin likes to look fully matte. For those that don’t like the full on matte look, the next best thing would be to address a different skin concern. For example pores, acne, acne scars, etc. Those with tan to deeper skin, have to be a little cautious when picking out a mattifying primer. Some mattifying primers can leave a cast that will appear ashy on tan to deeper skin tones. So the best thing would be to test it out on a small portion on your hand to determine whether it leaves that white cast. On another note for mattifying primers, would be that if you’re using this type of primer along with a very mattifying foundation can be that it may not apply properly. The layering of two cream matte products can sometimes cause some friction in between them, not allowing it for a smooth application. So if your foundation is already mattifying you might want to try a primer that’ll address a different skin concern instead. This can create some unwanted texture.
These are some of the ones I like for those looking to control oil and mattify the skin:

Make Up For Ever – mattifying


Becca – Poreless priming ever matte perfector


Smashbox – photo finish light (great for all skin tones)


Cover fx – mattifying primer


Hourglass – veil mineral primer


Bare Minerals – mattifying prep gel (good for all skin tones)

Laura Mercier – oil free


Benefit – porefessional license to blot


Mac – prep + prime skin refined zone

Neutrogena – shine control
Nyx – shine killer
L’OREAL – No1 Magic perfecting base
L’OREAL – pro matte
Rimmel – Stay matte primer

Those of us with dry skin need primers with either radiance or hydration, in order to compensate for the loss of moisture. I personally love a balance of both. Some good hydrating primers would be:

Smashbox – hydrating primer


Make Up For Ever – nourishing primer

Hourglass – No 27 serum primer


Laura Mercier – hydrating primer

Maybelline – Instant age rewind primer
E.l.f. -hydrating face primer
Nyx – Honey dew me up serum primer

I would say that this skin type may be the trickiest to find a good primer for. Those with combo skin usually have oily areas and dry areas. When you chose a mattifying primer you might enhance the areas that are dry and vice versa. Unfortunately I have only worked with one that is specifically targeted for combo skin:


Make Up For Ever – hydrating
Although it’s called “hydrating” it’s meant to bring balance to the skin. This helps the areas that you’re dry as well as the areas where you’re oily.

I did some research and found:
E.l.f. – studio mineral infused face primer
The description says “a clear, multipurpose primer that delivers a natural, satin finish. Use it to prevent midday oil, smooth fine lines, and fight flaking face makeup.” Being that it says it controls oil and fights flaking, this sounds like a great product for combo skin.

Those with sensitive skin may not be as hard as combination skin. You do however, have to be cautious and look for products that are hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic, all natural, fragrance free, etc. One of the top allergens in cosmetics are products that are high in fragrance. Beware of “luxury brand” primers as most have fragrance in the majority of the products (with the exception of Burberry Beauty). If you suffer from sensitive skin and have redness look at the next section below. I won’t mention many specific primers but I will mention a few brands that are hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic, or all natural.

Cover Fx – Calming primer (and all of theie primers)

Smashbox – blemish control

Too faced – hangover Rx


Smashbox – light (good for oily/sensitive skin)

Sephora Collection
Burberry (primer)

L’OREAL (primers)

Those with a lot of redness on the skin usually have some type of sensitivity. They also have inflammation in the skin causing it to appear red. In order for your foundation not only to last longer but to appear better and most “skin like” you’ll need to color correct. If you think about color theory and the color wheel, there is something called complementary colors. Complementary colors are that exact opposites in the color wheel. These color combinations are used to neutralize each other in makeup , which corrects the issue at hand. In this case red is opposite to green. In order to neutralize redness in the skin what’s needed is a green primer. You’re probably thinking a green tint will look crazy! I’ll be honest, it may look a little odd at first, but once you apply the foundation over top the green primer the skin looks healthy and balanced. Some amazing green primers are:


Make Up For Ever – (green) redness correcting

Smashbox – (green) Color Correcting Adjust
Stila – color correction primer

No7 – colour calming primer
Nyx – studio perfect primer in green/ anti redness

Those with lack luster skin need some radiance. It can be due to lack of hydration , lack of sleep, stress etc. Using an illuminating primer will make your foundation look like its glowing. Most of us with dry skin love that glowing and dewy look because it doesn’t allow our skin to appear as dry as it is and it looks healthier to dry skin. Not only does the skin look moisturized but most of them help diminish the look of light texture, and fine lines. Whatever the case may be, these radiance enhancing primers can help give you that JLo glow:

Becca – Backlight priming filter

Burberry – fresh glow

Fresh glow bronze


Make Up For Ever – (steps 5-10 for different skin tones)

Nars – pro prime light optimizing primer
Cover Fx – illuminating
Laura Mercier – radiance and

Radiance bronze (for tan to deep skin tones)

Dior – glow maximizer primer

Mac – prep + prime natural radiance

Almay – smart shade cc luminous primer
Revlon – photo ready perfecting primer
L’OREAL – Magic lumi light infusing primer

When I said that those with combo skin may have the hardest time with primers, that just might be true. But I feel that minimizing texture is a little trickier than finding a good primer for combination skin. Luckily there are a ton of primers to minimize the look of pores and smooth out texture. By using using one of these primers it’ll eliminate or minimize the look of texture you may have.

Smashbox – pore minimizing
Smashbox – photo finish primer water (minimizes the look of texture as well)

Make Up For Ever – smoothing

Tarte – clean slate Poreless 12hr perfecting

Too faced – primed and Poreless

Nars – pro prime pore refining primer

Dior – pore minimizing

Urban decay – pore perfecting

Urban Decay – B6 vitamin infused spray

Benefit – the porefessional

Nyx – pore filler
Maybelline – baby skin

Now that you guys have some tips and tricks, don’t hesitate to try some of the suggestions. 😉 I wanted to give a good variety of recommendations to help out everyone no matter the budget. I hope some of you guys learned something new! Please let me know what has worked for you. I’m very interested in seeingwhat you guys typically use.

Till next time,
Love beauty and makeup,

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