You’re already cleansing, toning, moisturising your skin and applying an SPF. There might even be serums and oil in your routine too. With all this going on, do you really need to add another product before you apply foundation?
Primer may seem like a waste of time – and money – but they play an important role in preparing your skin for makeup. When used correctly, they make your skin appear flawless and help your makeup stay on for longer.
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“Primer is a preparatory product that is applied to your skin after cleansing, toning and using an SPF and is used to create an ideal canvas on which you are able to apply your makeup,” Dr Rekha Tailor, skin expert and former GP, told mamabella.
Unlike moisturisers, which are designed to be absorbed by the skin, primers are designed to create a layer on top of your skin. This creates a barrier between your skin and your makeup, meaning less oil or sweat will get through to your makeup and it’ll last longer.
But finding a primer that works with your foundation is key.
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“Some primers come in the form of hyaluronic serums, while others contain SPF, and some are silicone-based,” Tailor continued. The hyaluronic serums are mostly water-based, and these are the ones you should go for if you use a water-based foundation. If your foundation is silicon-based, use a silicon-based primer.
We explained in detail how to tell whether your foundation is water, oil or silicon-based in our article ‘What’s really in your foundation?’ but, to summarise, the best place to look is at the first few ingredients.
Another way of telling what the base is can be looking at what form the primer comes in.
Silicon-based primers are usually smooth gels, oil-based primers have a runnier consistency and water-based primers often come as sprays.
But this rule is not hard and fast, so check the ingredients.
Silicon-based primers provide the smoothest-looking skin, while oil-based primers tend to be hydrating. Water-based primers are great for those with acne-prone or oily skin, as they don’t clog your pores as much.
The number one rule is always match your primer and foundation base. If your foundation is water-based, you need a water-based primer, and the same goes for oil and silicon.
If your foundation looks patchy as soon as you apply it, the first thing you should check is whether you’re using a compatible primer.
A great primer and foundation combination can be the key to achieving a flawless look, at any age “because primer makeup has the unique ability to fill in fine lines and wrinkles.
Using primer as a layer between your skin and foundation provides the base necessary to create the appearance of perfect skin at any age,” explained Tailor.
You can read more about our best primer recommendations in our Best Buys list, but we’ve also handpicked a number of primers below that are oil-based, silicon-based and water-based to make things a little easier.
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£23 | Buy now from Glossier
This is an oil-serum hybrid that will do your skin some good while also getting it ready for makeup. Glossier says it does not interfere with makeup, so it could be used with any kind of foundation, since it contains oil suspended in water. It also helps provide a soft glow.
£30 | Buy now from Smashbox
Smashbox is the champion of primers, and this oil is a great choice if you have dry skin and use an oil-based foundation.
£12 | Buy now from Cult Beauty
Made with coconut water, this primer is designed to soothe and hydrate dry skin.
With SPF 50 and colour correcting properties, this primer does a whole load more than most, meaning you can remove other steps from your skincare routine including a CC cream, BB cream and moisturiser. Use it on its own for light coverage foundation, or underneath a tinted moisturiser. You can read more about why we love this cream so much in our best foundation makeup list.
£29 | Buy now from Benefit
Benefit’s silicon-based primer is marketed at reducing the look of pores. It is oil-free so will work perfectly if your foundation is silicon-based. Read more about why we love Benefit makeup in our Brand Spotlight.
£5.50 | Buy now from Cult Beauty
£28 | Buy now from Smashbox
A classic primer. This will create a smooth surface for your makeup to stay looking perfect on all day.Buy now from Smashbox
Abigail is a leading science journalist writing about space, sustainability, technology and culture. She is author of The Art of Urban Astronomy, a must-have guide to the night sky that guides you through the seasons and learn about the brightest stars and constellations, the myths and legends of astronomy and how to identify star clusters and galaxies.