How to Choose (and Apply!) the Best Makeup Primer for You

September 10, 2021
By: Tembe Denton-Hurst | by L'Oréal
How to Pick the Best Makeup Primer for You and Apply it Like a Pro

Face Primer is the beginning of any great makeup look, whether you’re rocking a full beat or just a few dabs of concealer. And while a great skincare regimen can work wonders for making sure your makeup wears flawlessly throughout the day, primer is the real key to getting your makeup to perform the way it should. If you’re not familiar with makeup primers, let us give you a, um, primer. 

Keep reading for everything you ever wanted to know about makeup primers, including which one is right for you and how to apply them for maximum benefits.

What Primer Does

Primers are sort of like insurance for your makeup. Although they often wear many hats — smoothing, concealing, protecting and prepping — their main roles are to keep your makeup on longer and give your skin a smooth, flawless finish. Any fading, bleeding or blotchy behavior that can occur throughout the day can usually be prevented with the use of a little bit of primer under your foundation. Better yet, many primers now are also infused with SPF, so they help keep your skin protected from UV rays while lending radiance.


For application, try a priming brush like the NYX Professional Makeup High Glass Face Primer Brush that can help you evenly distribute the product all over the face. 

In addition to a face primer, eye primer is a must in any makeup routine. Think about it: What’s worse than creating a perfect masterpiece on your eyes, only to have it crease, fade or smudge just an hour or so later? Nothing. Eye primer is quick and easy to swipe on and makes a world of difference in the pigment and longevity of your shadow. Our pick for an eye primer that creates a crease-free base that dries invisibly is the Urban Decay Original Eyeshadow Primer Potion.

nyx professional makeup high glass face primer brush

Types of Face Primers

Blurring Primers

Blurring primers — like the YSL Beauty Touche Éclat Silver Blur Primer — often use light-reflecting technology to create a soft-focus effect that airbrushes out flaws, making them easier to cover. We also love the Maybelline New York Face Studio Master Prime Blur + Smooth, a drugstore beauty buy that holds up all day and at less than $8, won’t break the bank.
ysl blurring primer, maybelline master prime blur

Color Correcting Primers

These rainbow shades erase problems by using the concept of the color wheel — where shades on the opposite side of the wheel cancel each other out — to craftily conceal your complexion issues. We recommend the NYX Professional Makeup Color Correcting Liquid Primer — the green shade is our favorite for reducing the appearance of red tones.
apply primer

Anti-Aging Primers

Anti-aging primers have both protective and reparative qualities. Many feature SPF to protect against UV damage and other skin-healthy ingredients — like the IT Cosmetics No.50 Serum Anti Aging Collagen Veil Primer— that work to improve skin texture and tone.

Illuminating Primers

One surefire way to make your foundation look like skin and not makeup? Primers with illuminating properties like the NYX Professional Makeup High Glass Face Primer. Apply them on bare skin, all over the face or on the high points of it (nose, brow bone, cheekbone, Cupid’s bow) to add life and dimension to your complexion. If you’re having a good face day and don’t want to wear foundation, you can still use a highlighting primer to liven up your skin. If you’re willing to splurge a little we recommend the Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Hydrating Primer, a holy grail face primer that works particularly well for dry skin.
nyx professional makeup high glass primer, giorgio armani illuminating primer

Pore-Minimizing Primers

If you’re sick of your pores dominating your face, try a pore-minimizing formula. These oily skin-savers blur pores to make them less noticeable. A bonus? They also mattify, so you can get rid of shine and greasiness in one swipe. We love the Dermablend Pore Saver Matte Makeup Primer for its lightweight feel and smooth finish and the NYX Professional Makeup Pore Filler Targeted Stick for on-the-go skin blurring.
dermablend pore saver matte primer

Mattifying Primers

For truly oily babes, we recommend a primer that’s downright mattifying, like the Urban Decay All Nighter Face Primer. It’s long-wearing and gives skin that blurred, filtered effect. We also swear by the IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Oil-Free Primer for an ultra-lightweight formula that oily beauty lovers rave about.

it cosmetics your skin but better primer, urban decay all nighter primer

Hydrating Primers

Dry, dehydrated skin can make wearing foundation a challenge — it settles into rough patches and gives your complexion a flaky appearance. If that sounds like you, try the YSL Beauty Nu Glow in Balm Primer which hydrates skin with shea butter and vegetable glycerin. Plus, it's infused with light-reflecting pearls and potent illuminating rosat extract for instant radiance.
apply primer

How to Apply Face Primer

Once you’ve found your ideal primer, you need to master the fine art of application. The first rule of primer? Always apply moisturizer before priming, as it makes your primer application even. Wait a few minutes after your application before priming and start in the center of the face and work your way out. Giorgio Armani celebrity makeup artist Tim Quinn recommends applying primer with your fingertips or a sponge and avoiding the eye area. Once your primer is on, allow a few minutes for it to set before applying foundation.
  • STEP 1:

    Start with a cleansed and moisturized face. Apply sunscreen of your choosing, and then you’re ready for primer.

  • STEP 2:

    Squeeze out the primer on the back of your hand, mix it with your finger to warm up the product and then dab it all over your face.

  • STEP 3:

    Gently rub the primer in. Make sure to get every area and crevice of your face — from your cheeks, to around your nose, temples, forehead line and chin.

  • STEP 4:

    Once the primer absorbs, you’re ready to apply your foundation.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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