Dig in to most makeup tutorials, and the first step you study up on is how to apply foundation. Prepping the perfect complexion, however, can involve another important beginning: primer. “It’s the same concept as using primer before painting a room,” says makeup artist Jake Bailey. “Foundation adheres better to primer. You use less product and get better results from it.” Here are the essentials you need to know on taking the time to prime.

If a seamless finish is your goal, make primer your new beauty must-have, especially if your skin is dry, oily or a combination of the two. “Primers formulated for dry skin have a smooth and velvety texture, which allows foundation to glide over rough areas rather than stick to skin and accentuate flakiness,” Bailey says. Primers created for those with oily skin are formulated to absorb that oil and grab hold of foundation so it doesn’t disappear during the day. (Translation: Feel free to remove those blotting papers from your purse.)

There is one cardinal rule to keep in mind. When it comes to primer and foundation, opposites attract. “If you use moisturizing foundation, a moisturizing primer may be overkill,” Bailey says. “The same goes for matte foundation worn with a tacky primer. You have to balance it out.”

Wondering exactly which primer is right for you? Here are some favorites, broken down by skin type:

If you have normal skin, try Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Primer Skin Transformer in Clear 10 or L’Oréal Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base to extend the life of your foundation so that it stays perfectly in place all day long.

If your skin is dry, make sure it doesn’t feel tight and parched underneath your makeup. Try: Giorgio Armani Light Master Primer or Laura Mercier Hydrating Foundation Primer.

If your skin is oily, stop sebum in its tracks. Try: Lancôme La Base Pro Perfecting Makeup Primer Smoothing Effect Oil-Free or YSL Matt Touch Primer.

You can also pick your primer based on your skin tone itself. Those with fair skin benefit from color-corrective makeup bases, which act as a neutralizing layer between your skin and foundation. Try: Smashbox Photo Finish Color Correcting Foundation Primers. To make a selection, think of a color wheel. Green is directly opposite red, so a green primer counteracts redness and blotchiness. Purple is opposite of yellow, so a purple primer perks up sallow skin. Orange is opposite of blue, so an apricot primer helps conceal under-eye circles, dark spots and bluish veins. For darker skin tones, try a bronzing primer. It will brighten you up with a subtle sun-kissed glow.

Is primer a regular part of your makeup routine?

Photo: Getty Images