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These Are the 8 Best Makeup Primers for Every Skin Type

The right makeup primer is everything. Without it, your makeup has a harder time gliding onto your complexion and ultimately, getting through a long, busy day (or night). But according to Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified dermatologist in New York City, that’s not the only thing primers do. “Primers are good because they are a skin protectant and act as a water repellent by forming a protective barrier on the skin,” she explains. “They spread easily and leave a silky, smooth base for makeup application.”

That said, not all makeup primers have one-skin-type-fits-all formulas, which is why it’s important to use one made specifically with your skin type in mind. “Choose a primer wisely or it can cause issues, especially if you have problem skin such as acne-prone,” Dr. Jaliman warns. “If you don’t choose a primer for your skin type, your makeup will not go on as smooth and you will not get the best lasting results,” she adds. “Makeup stays on longer when the correct primer is used,” she explains.

How to Find the Right Primer for Your Skin Type

One easy trick to remember what primers go best with your skin type is to think of your skin care products. What types of ingredients do you use for your skin type? Are there any specific words that stick out, such as mattifying, hydrating and anti-aging? Many makeup primers include similar ingredients that work with each skin type to deliver desired results.

Typically, if you have dry skin, you use products that provide the complexion with nourishment and hydration. Dr. Jaliman says those with dry skin should “choose a hydrating primer” just like their products. On the opposite side of the spectrum, those who experience excess oil or are prone to breakouts might want to consider something oil-free or mattifying. “This will absorb some of the oil,” explains Dr. Jaliman. On top of that, those with mature skin types can also benefit from using a primer. Not only do some primers provide a nice, youthful-looking glow, according to Dr. Jaliman, they “can temporarily fill in fine lines and wrinkles on the face,” too.

Best Makeup Primers for Every Skin Type

Looking for the best makeup primer for your skin type? We’ve got that covered, ahead.

  1. Oily Skin
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    Oily Skin

    Makeup primers don’t just make for better foundation application, they can help keep oily skin under control, too. “[A] mattifying primer [can] reduce your skin’s oil production,” explains Dr. Jaliman. “These primers also tend to work for large pores and acne,” she adds. In addition to mattifying, look for oil-free primers, as they aren’t as heavy on the complexion and don’t interfere with your skin’s sebum production.

    Try: Smashbox Photo Finish Oil & Shine Control Primer

    This makeup primer utilizes the mattifying abilities of kaolin clay and bamboo powder to keep excess sebum under control. Plus, although it mattifies, it doesn’t try out—which can cause an increase in oil production—instead, it focuses on oil-free hydration with hyaluronic acid, as well as salicylic acid and witch hazel to ward off acne-causing dirt and debris.

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  2. Redness-Prone Skin
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    Redness-Prone Skin

    Redness can be hard to cover up, but with primers specifically formulated to blur the look of imperfections, it’s totally possible—and, bonus points if skin care is involved. When shopping for a primer to mask the appearance of redness, go for something that not only uses ingredients that target uneven skin tones, but also something with a shimmer-like effect to help blend the look of redness.

    Try: TULA Skincare Filter Primer Blurring Moisturizing Primer

    This buildable tint and makeup base from TULA kicks things off with skin care ingredients such as turmeric to calm and smooth skin. The best part? It also includes a radiance-enhancing golden illumination that adds a touch so shimmer to offset and blend out the look of redness.

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  3. Large Pores or Acne-Prone Skin
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    Large Pores or Acne-Prone Skin

    For large pores or acne-prone complexions, Dr. Jaliman recommends trying a mattifying primer. Dr. Jaliman says to “Look for products that are labeled non-comedogenic, which means they won’t clog your pores. Also, primers with salicylic acid are great for people with acne because they actually help to reduce acne while wearing it.”

    Try: Cover FX Mattifying Primer

    Per Dr. Jaliman’s recommendations, this primer from Cover FX not only features 1% salicylic acid, but it also includes ancient African tree bark, which is known for its ability to reduce the look of large pores and help get shine under control. Additionally, its added natural AHA complex can help naturally exfoliate the complexion to prevent breakouts.

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  4. Dull Skin
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    Dull Skin

    Dull and mature skin call for similar formulas as they can both benefit from antioxidants and hydration. When considering a makeup primer for dull skin, look for words like “brightening” as it tends to indicate a formula’s ability to promote radiance.

    Try:  ILIA True Skin Radiant Priming Serum Light It Up

    If you’re dealing with dullness, this primer from ILIA will give you the glow-up you deserve. Enhanced by a blend of beta-glucan and hibiscus extract to protect the skin against free radical damage and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, this formula is one part skin care and one part makeup working to promote a more youthful appearance.

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  5. Normal Skin
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    Normal Skin

    As far as normal skin types are concerned, it doesn’t hurt to keep skin care top of mind when shopping for a primer. Nourishing ingredients that protect against environmental aggressors—such as vitamin C and E—are a great place to start.

    Try: bareMinerals Prime Time® Foundation Primer

    Created with all skin types—including normal—in mind, this long-lasting primer improves the overall texture of the skin, creating a smoothed appearance that sets the complexion up for makeup application. Additionally, the tacky-free texture combined with a satin finish makes it ideal for going makeup-free, too. Best of all, it features vitamins C and E and soothing plant extra for added anti-aging benefits.

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  6. Dry Skin
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    Dry Skin

    As far as dry skin is concerned, much like your facial serums and moisturizers, you’ll want to look for a makeup primer that can provide the complexion with deep nourishment. That way, your skin isn’t just prepped for makeup, it’s soft, soothed and well-hydrated, too.

    Try: jane iredale Smooth Affair® Illuminating Glow Face Primer

    For dry skin, it’s all about hydrating products—and your makeup primer is no different. This one from jane iredale includes a moisturizing formula featuring a blend of hyaluronic acid, coconut oil and shea butter to hydrate, soothe and unveil a glow-worthy base for your day or night look.

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  7. Mature Skin
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    Mature Skin

    Makeup primers for mature skin should be “full of nutrients, antioxidants [and] nourishing,” explains Dr. Jaliman. In addition, a moisturizing primer is key. As we age, our skin tends to lean towards the drier side of the spectrum. If that’s the case for you, switching to a more hydrating formula can help with the overall texture of your skin.

    Try: Dermalogica AGE Smart SkinPerfect  Primer SPF 30

    When it comes to mature skin types, a primer that not only creates a good base for makeup application but also has an added layer of skin care is a must and this formula from Dermalogica fits that criteria. Created to target fine lines and wrinkles, plus protect the skin with SPF 30, this is a go-to for every day wear, with or without foundation.

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  8. Sensitive Skin
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    Sensitive Skin

    If you have sensitive skin, ingredients are key. “Primers with [fewer] ingredients [are] a good thing,” says Dr. Jaliman. In addition, look for words like “fragrance-free, oil-free and paraben-free,” she adds. Sensitive skin can also benefit from hydrating and soothing ingredients like sodium hyaluronate and spring water.

    Try: Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Primer

    This hyaluronic acid-infused formula does more than create the perfect canvas for your makeup—it soothes the complexion with deep hydration, too. Plus, it boasts a blend of botanical extracts and antioxidants to create a more radiant-looking complexion. Its lightweight and moisturizing texture that can be worn solo or with the added layer of foundation.

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Beauty Reporter

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is a writer and editor with work published in NYLON Magazine, StyleCaster.com, Girlboss.com, Marvel.com, and more. She is a graduate of Academy of Art University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Journalism. Originally from Los Angeles, she currently resides in Brooklyn—her home for the last five years. In Jessie’s free time, you can find her creating content for her beauty blog, Hair Skin Kale, testing out DIY beauty recipes, exploring her neighborhood, or binge-watching episodes of Friends. Her background in fashion has taught her that beautiful skin never goes out of style. Follow her on Instagram.