Even the makeup minimalist has to admit that primers have earned their keep as the first product to get put on her face any given morning. Once brushed off as just another snooze-worthy extra step in your routine (and wasn’t everything, at some point or another?), the not-so-lowly face primer now takes precedence as a must-have. Like, if you’re not applying primer before you do anything else to your face, what are you even doing?
As if providing the perfect base to make your makeup last for hours upon hours wasn’t enough as it is, plenty of primers have also been upgraded to include major skin-care benefits, sun protection, and even the ability to defend your complexion against the aging properties of the light that comes out of your phone screen. (No, really.) Here, 10 multifunctional primers that do so much more than just keep your foundation looking fresher for longer—you’ll never underestimate them again.
There are plenty of things about technology that are terrifying, and this gel primer seeks to address at least one of them by shielding the skin against the effects of artificial light. The formula uses its own advanced technology to deflect the damaging blue-violet and invisible light emitted from electronics as it moisturizes, mattifies, and keeps makeup intact. (And yes, despite its appearance, it goes on skin clear.)
MAKE Moonlight Primer, $55; at MAKE
A single swipe with this does-it-all primer stick balances skin, smooths texture, and diffuses fine lines instantly. Each of the three shades is formulated to correct a range of skin tones, and the luminous, not sparkly, finish brightens the complexion and makes it glow so effectively, you could even skip the foundation.
Vapour Organic Beauty Stratus Luminous Instant Skin Perfector, $48; at Vapour Organic Beauty
Applying makeup to acne-prone skin can feel a bit too much like tempting (pore-clogging, breakout-causing, oil production-provoking) fate, but this lightweight gel incorporates antibacterial tea tree oil and skin-refining Aspen bark to balance and keep your complexion clear as it primes.
bareMinerals Blemish Remedy Mattifying Prep Gel, $24; at bareMinerals
Most primers promise a matte finish, but if you really—no, really—want to keep your skin's shine factor at bay, this one has a powdery finish that will nip the situation in the bud. Plus, it minimizes the appearance of redness and pores and contains vitamin E to keep skin soft and otherwise under control.
Soap & Glory One Heck of a Blot Instant-Perfecting Power Primer, $14; at Ulta
This formula could be a pore-refining primer with major skin-care benefits or a serum that also acts as the perfect base for foundation, depending on how you look it—but either way, it's a multiuse superstar that treats the skin with hydrating, antiaging, wrinkle-fighting ingredients as it preps it for makeup.
Kevyn Aucoin The Primed Skin Developer, $68; at Nordstrom
This primer serum combines brightening plant extracts, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and nourishing vitamin E with prismatic optical illuminators to soften, prime, and leave skin looking and feeling energized—it's basically a multitasker's dream.
The Estée Edit Radiance Activator Treat + Prep + Glow, $55; at Sephora
Sometimes, nothing can top the basics made better—this mattifying, lightly hydrated primer helps to balance oil production and keep foundation looking fresher for longer, but the SPF 50 upgrades it into must-have territory.
Cane + Austin Prime & Protect Mattifying Primer with SPF 50, $56; at Cane + Austin
A balm, a moisturizer, a primer, a pore-refiner—call it what you want, but this weightless formula is perfect for hydrating, perfecting, and, you know, priming all skin types. It leaves no color behind, just a fresh, dewy finish that's ready for whatever comes next.
Estée Lauder Genuine Glow Priming Moisture Balm, $38; at Estée Lauder
If you want a serious glow without the sparkle, each of the three shades in this lineup blur imperfections and impart a soft, subtle, incredibly flattering shine—in a good way!—that makes you look like you came complete with your own lighting crew.
Hourglass Ambient Light Correcting Primer, $44; at Hourglass Cosmetics
This hydrating skin-care-based primer contains nourishing oils and iridescent pearls in a lightweight lotion formula, for a softer, smoother, brighter, more even-toned complexion with makeup or without.
L'Oréal Paris Visible Lift Radiance Booster Brightening Primer, $12.99; at Drugstore.com