If you’re at a loss when it comes to choosing the best primer, we’ve got you covered. Maybe you forget about using primer, or it’s a step in your makeup routine you’ve never really bothered with before. When you’re a budget, particularly, it can be tempting to skip primer, thinking it’s not a necessity.
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Yet, in the same way toner can make a huge difference to not only what your skin looks like, but how well your other products work, primer does the same for makeup.
Using the best primer can be the difference between flawless skin and cakey, uneven makeup so we’ve handpicked our favourites and will be adding to this list as we test more.
Why we love it: This is an absolute dream product. No, seriously. This tube of magic sorts any skin woes we’ve had and we love it so much, this is the third of our Best Buy articles that feature IT Cosmetics CC Cream.
As this is a CC (colour-correcting) cream, it does more than the average primer; working wonders on your skin tone and texture. It offers full-coverage and can be used in place of your foundation because of its flawless delivery. This goes some way towards justifying its high price.
For day-to-day use, you can use this great primer with a light coating of tinted moisturiser, to give yourself a bit of colour, but otherwise, you’re sorted, coverage-wise. It’s so popular because it’s also really hydrating – this is why it features in our best foundation for dry skin round-up – and anti-ageing. It even carries SPF50 which solves the hassle of making sure your foundation protects your skin from the sun (or even better if you’re flying solo with this CC cream).
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£13 | Buy now from Cult Beauty
Why we love it: Milk’s Hydro Grip is our best primer on a budget because it hydrates the skin more than any primer we’ve used, and is a little more than a tenner. It contains aloe water, cherry blossom, hyaluronic acid and vitamin B. What’s more, you’re not left waiting for it to sink in before you continue your makeup routine. It takes less than a minute to be absorbed into your skin and you’re good to go.
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Our skin certainly went on a trip with this primer, as it nourished it in preparation for holding up a whole day and night’s worth of makeup. Its water base ensures maximum hydration but also inspires a healthy glow to the skin, as our face seemingly fully absorbed all of the plant-derived oils and vitamins, delivering a flawless look to the skin.
Why we love it: Charlotte Tilbury strikes again. In the brand’s iconic, pretty-as-ever packaging, this primer is another that will be your skin’s best friend.
A lighter primer than the CC cream from IT Cosmetics, this Wonder Glow creates a soft, dewy look and helps you achieve smoother-looking skin, creating a blank, fresh canvas on which to apply your makeup. Even though it has a thin consistency, it can still be used as a light, glowy cover-up on its – depending on how confident you’re feeling with your skin – and this makes it ideal for mature skin.
A slightly pricey option (considering IT Cosmetics’ CC cream offers a fuller coverage) but it does really leave you skin looking radiant and is a fantastic everyday product. You can read more about our Charlotte Tilbury skincare and makeup faves in the best moisturiser and best foundation pages.
£28 | Buy now from Smashbox
Why we love it: No roundup of the best primers would be complete without giving a nod to Smashbox, a company considered to have invented the idea of priming your skin before applying makeup.
It offers a staggering 11 different primers to suit different skin types and solve different makeup and skin problems. And our pick of the bunch is the Photo Finish primer is also vegan and cruelty-free.
We’re a huge fan of this primer as it takes ‘blurring flaws’ and ‘smoothing skin’ to a whole new level.
After applying it, our foundation needed far fewer touchups later on in the day and you can get this formula in skin-specific versions, such as ‘shine control’ and ‘reduce redness’ if you need something a little more.
The primer is lightweight, oil-free and not only makes pores appear smaller, and in some cases vanish completely, it has the added benefit of mattifying the skin. This makes it perfect if your skin errs on the oily side.
It’s less costly than most of the best primers on this list but bear in mind, it’s just a primer and won’t be able to act as your foundation.
£23 | Buy now from Glossier
Why we love it: Due to the fact this has a hybrid serum-primer formula, you feel like you’re doing improving your skincare and makeup routine all in one with the brilliant Futuredew primer from Glossier.
Almost like a shortcut for your skin, it nourishes, as well as brightens and smooths thanks to its non-comedogenic oils, fruit extracts and squalane (from sugarcane) which all work to hydrate and moisturise the skin.
Then there’s the glow. It’s immediate – but not shimmery – and it really lasts. This brightened look lasts a long time; the website says up to 12 hours and we can confirm we still had compliments on the dewiness of our skin a solid five hours into our day. We love it as a primer but also could have easily kept it applied without putting makeup on afterwards too.
£7.99 | Buy now from Look Fantastic
Despite its bargain price, Sleek makeup more than holds its own against high-end and designer brands. Not only is its range fantastic, but we would also struggle to tell its primer only costs £7.99 if we were testing it blindly.
Its primers come in two flavours – mattifying and hydrating. The former is the best primer for oily skin, the latter is best for dry skin.
If you have combination skin, at this price you can simply buy both and use the most appropriate. Its consistency is creamy, not as thick as Smashbox’s and it doesn’t leave as much of a velvet finish but it’s not far off which was a pleasant surprise considering the price.
Amira Arasteh is a freelance journalist and content creator. Find her making sense of beauty trends, tips and topics – when she’s not stuffing her face with the best food in London or travelling the globe