Makeup primers have been referred to as the “undergarments” of the beauty product world, but I disagree. After all, you can skip undergarments beneath your clothing from time to time if you so desire—but you should never, ever skip primer.
Primer isn’t just another superfluous step to tack onto your makeup routine. It is the foundation upon which the rest of your face is laid, and if you know anything about building or architecture (I do not), then you’ll know that a strong foundation is crucial. Choosing the wrong primer can have disastrous consequences, like really greasy skin or under-eye concealer that’s disappeared by noon. See? Literal disaster.
So trust: The act of picking the right primer for your skin type deserves time and effort. Or you could just consult this comprehensive guide to the very best options for your needs—totally up to you!
If your T-zone (or every zone) approaches oil-spill status by midday...
Oily skin really benefits from water-repelling ingredients that draw moisture away from the skin, and a little bit of silicone to keep things smooth and even-textured. Look for mineral bases, which leave a silky matte finish without looking powdery or dry—magnesium aluminum silicate and aluminum oxides are great for this purpose.
Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, $52
If your pores are huge...
Skin with large, visible pores warrants the same treatment as oily skin, but you'll want to look for "blurring" ingredients, too. Dimethicone-based formulas are the most popular, because the lightweight silicones glide over pores for a smoother makeup application.
Too Faced Primed & Poreless, $30
If your makeup likes to make itself comfortable in your fine lines...
Bummer: even the most youthful skin can face this struggle, because we've all got lines somewhere, even if they're barely visible. If your makeup is making you look old in ways you never thought possible, prime with a formula packed with silicones to impart a filling effect on those fine lines.
Dermalogica Hydrablur Primer, $46
If you could really stand to lighten up...
Sad, dull skin desperately needs a good brightening primer (and, let's be real, you probably also need to reassess your skin care routine); it can mean the difference between looking lackluster or looking/faking radiant beneath your makeup. Look for "optical brighteners" with (very) slight shimmer for natural-looking luminosity, and formulas that have a bit of fruit acids and antioxidants to encourage a cumulative improvement.
NARS Light Optimizing Primer, $35
If your skin breaks out in hives if you look at it wrong...
As anyone with finicky skin already knows, finding super gentle ingredients is key to keeping your complexion happy—and all too many primers contain potential irritants. Look for proven soothers like hyaluronic acid, aloe, and even a touch of oil, and avoid heavy silicones as much as possible.
Glossier Priming Moisturizer, $25
If your face is thirstier than a D-list celebrity on Instagram...
Hey, it happens. Fortunately, many primers are sensitive to the Saharan skin plight and will help immensely to prevent your makeup from emphasizing dry, flaky areas. You're going to want some silicone here, along with glycerin and moisture-rich plant oils and extracts.
Mally Perfect Prep Poreless Primer, $35