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Cosmetics

Best Face Primer

Face primer is a product that can help your skin look not only flawless, but polished and professional. In effect, it creates a canvas on your skin where you can apply your favorite cosmetics such as foundation and blush. Face primer also helps minimize pores and fine lines and some have specialty uses such as correcting color, reducing oil or dryness and being specifically made for problem skin or acne. No matter what kind of face primer you choose, keep in mind that it is an important part of your makeup; just as much as your foundation and moisturizer.

L'Oreal Studio Secrets Secret No.1 Magic Perfecting Base

L'Oreal Studio Secrets Magic Perfecting Base achieves unbelievably perfect, near-flawless results for your skin. It's a silky, almost spongy texture that glides on easily and smooth. The result is a pore-free, luminous, polished skin. It's highly affordable and easy to find at most any drugstore or retailer and it's from the trusted L'Oreal brand. It's also perfect to use under any foundation and provides a smooth, almost air-brushed look that beats many higher priced face primers.

Neutrogena Shine Control Primer

This budget-friendly primer is our pick for controlling excess oil and helping makeup stay put. It’s lightweight and non-greasy, and leaves a matte finish that keeps makeup looking freshly applied all day. It contains rice proteins that keeps the skin shine-free, and it also minimizes the appearance of pores on contact. It also contains moisturizers that won’t clog pores, so skin stays clear and comfortable.

Revlon PhotoReady Perfecting Primer

In terms of primer tasks, this one ticks all the boxes. You get instant improvement in fine lines, the illusion of smaller pores, and skin is left soft and smooth. This primer helps makeup glide on evenly, and extends its staying power for hours. It has a light texture and leaves skin with a matte finish, though you probably won’t like how it looks on its own.

L'Oreal Paris Studio Secrets Professional Color Correcting Anti-Dull Skin Primer

L’Oreal takes primer to another level by incorporating color correction. Sure, these primers all create a smooth canvas for foundation that follows, but each one has a unique tint to address redness or dullness. The green version counteracts redness, the pink version illuminates light skin and the peach version adds radiance to medium/dark skin. Be aware, however, this primer is on the liquid-y side.

CoverGirl & Olay Simply Ageless Serum Primer

Combining the perfecting effect of a primer and anti-aging ingredients to improve skin firmness and elasticity, this product works double duty as a moisturizer and primer in one. It goes on like a lotion and instantly smoothes the skin’s texture, and it has no fragrance for those who are sensitive to scents (and it won’t clog pores, either).

Lorac Cosmetics I'm So Sensitive Soothing Face Primer

Free of oils, silicone, fragrance and parabens, this primer is a dream for anyone with sensitive skin. Lightweight and water-based for extra hydration and long-lasting results, this lotion is also infused with antioxidants, vitamins and plant extracts that work to soothe stressed skin. It absorbs fast and leaves no residue behind and it won’t cause redness, irritation or breakouts.

Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Protective Base SPF 15

This primer offers everything sensitive skin needs… In addition to giving your makeup extra staying power, it instantly minimizes visible redness with a faint green tint as it evens out skin tone and leaves skin feeling silky-smooth. It also contains chemical-free SPF 15 and it’s oil-free to keep breakouts at bay. The creamy texture absorbs fast and leaves no grease behind, and it dries to a natural finish that’s not too matte.

Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

As if the broad spectrum chemical-free SPF 30 and four available tints weren’t enough, this primer goes a step further by incorporating anti-aging ingredients that are gentle on even the most sensitive skin. Designed to help makeup stay put (and treat your skin) for 12 hours, the buildable coverage lets you skip the foundation altogether if you so desire. And it’s so light that it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.

Sephora Collection Silicone Free Foundation Primer

Silicone can aggravate sensitive skin, but this well-priced primer offers all the skin-perfecting and makeup-maximizing benefits without the risk of irritation. It absorbs fast and smoothes the skin on contact, and it has the power to absorb excess oil all day. It’s also oil-free for blemish-prone skin, and users say it works just as well (if not better) than much higher-priced counterparts.

Too Faced Primed & Poreless Skin Smoothing Face Primer

When it comes to this primer, its name says it all. Designed exclusively for sensitive skin, it instantly calms redness, minimizes pores, improves fine lines and absorbs excess oil. It’s free of colors and contains gentle ingredients that work to fight discoloration too. The lightweight texture leaves skin soft to the touch and it helps makeup stay put from morning till night. Note: Some users report that it feels a little “goopy.” Our advice: Apply sparingly and allow it to set before proceeding with foundation.

NARS Pro Prime Multi-Protect Primer SPF 30 PA+++

NARS Pro Prime's primer is so lightweight you won’t even know it’s there. This primer shields skin from possible damage caused by UV exposure with broad spectrum SPF 30, and has added antioxidants to protect against environmental assaults. With a creamy texture that adjusts to hydrate dry spots and absorb oil where needed, it’s safe for all skin types, including sensitive. Plus it also has mineral powders that blur imperfections so you look even better before you actually apply makeup.

Cover FX SPF 30 Protection Primer

Cover FX SPF 30 Protection Primer

In addition to SPF 30, Cover FX's primer makes foundation blending a breeze. It does more than just create a flawless canvas for makeup that follows. It also contains ingredients that minimize redness while moisturizing the skin. It glides on and renders pores and fine lines nearly invisible, for picture-perfect makeup that keeps going as long as you do. Here's a tip: For the most even application, use a foundation brush to blend it in.

Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

As if the broad spectrum chemical-free SPF 30 and four available tints weren’t enough, this primer goes a step further by incorporating anti-aging ingredients that are gentle on even the most sensitive skin. Designed to help makeup stay put (and treat your skin) for 12 hours, the buildable coverage lets you skip the foundation altogether if you so desire. And it’s so light that it feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.

Stila Hydrating Primer Oil-Free SPF 30

Stila Hydrating Primer Oil-Free SPF 30

Offering hydration and skin protection in one tube, this primer doubles as your daily moisturizer as well. Instead of a matte finish it leaves skin dewy, and the fresh look lasts for hours (as does your makeup). Though not technically a BB cream, it contains skincare ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants as well, so it works to improve firmness, and it minimizes fine lines and pores on contact.

Shiseido Refining Makeup Primer SPF 21 1.1 oz

Though not the highest SPF available, this primer provides adequate sun protection (so long as you’re not spending a lot of time outdoors). It does a great job at priming the skin so makeup lasts, and it leaves a natural finish on its own. It instantly fills fine lines so they’re less noticeable, and it visibly diminishes redness and uneven skin tone so your makeup looks even better.

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Make Up

Laura Mercier is a complexion effort, and her foundation primer is the cream of the crop. Created in 1995, this creamy gel dries to an invisible finish that magically helps makeup withstand daily wear and tear. It also contains antioxidants to nourish your skin, and once you see how soft and smooth your skin is before even applying makeup, you’ll never wear foundation without it again. There’s a reason this primer has won countless awards.

Dior Skinflash Primer Radiance Boosting Makeup Primer

When your skin needs a radiance boost, look no further than this primer. We love the built-in brush, the lit-from-within glow it provides and the extra staying power it gives our makeup. Apply where you need extra coverage or all over and watch dullness fade away. The universal shade works on all skin tones, and the optical pigments diffuse light to minimize fine lines and other imperfections.

Cover FX SPF 30 Protection Primer

Cover FX SPF 30 Protection Primer

In addition to SPF 30, Cover FX's primer makes foundation blending a breeze. It does more than just create a flawless canvas for makeup that follows. It also contains ingredients that minimize redness while moisturizing the skin. It glides on and renders pores and fine lines nearly invisible, for picture-perfect makeup that keeps going as long as you do. Here's a tip: For the most even application, use a foundation brush to blend it in.

Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional

For instant skin smoothing, immediately less visible pores and improved fine lines, apply a thin layer of this lightweight priming balm and let it set for a few seconds. A long-standing favorite, it can be used under makeup as a primer, over makeup for touch-ups, or on its own as a mattifying finishing touch. It’s ideal for the oily T-zone area, but it works well on dry skin, too (so long as you apply moisturizer before).

Benefit Cosmetics Dr. Feelgood Foundation

This miraculous balm renders pores invisible, leaves a smooth surface that helps foundation glide on effortlessly, and stops shine in its tracks. It contains vitamins A, C and E to fight fine lines as you wear it, and it can also be applied over makeup with a sponge for mid-day touch-ups (if necessary). Users love the fresh scent, and we love that it comes in a miniature size for when we’re on the go.

Estee Lauder Matte Perfecting Primer

Offering makeup-extension benefits with a formula that’s specially designed to absorb excess oil and minimize shine, this primer also provides the skin with calming green tea and vitamin E. For even more complexion perfection, it also features light-diffusing pigments to minimize pores and fine lines, and the light lotion even helps you use less concealer and foundation.

Benefit Cosmetics Dr. Feelgood Foundation

This miraculous balm renders pores invisible, leaves a smooth surface that helps foundation glide on effortlessly, and stops shine in its tracks. It contains vitamins A, C and E to fight fine lines as you wear it, and it can also be applied over makeup with a sponge for mid-day touch-ups (if necessary). Users love the fresh scent, and we love that it comes in a miniature size for when we’re on the go.

Smashbox Photo Finish Oil Free Primer

Packed with oil absorbers (and 60 percent water), this primer keeps skin matte all day. It also performs its priming duties by minimizing pores and keeping makeup in place. The formula also contains vitamins, antioxidants and peptides to help fight fine lines as well as optical diffusers that help camouflage blemishes and other imperfections. Just remember to only apply a dollop the size of a dime. That’s all you need.

Too Faced Primed & Poreless Skin Smoothing Face Primer

When it comes to this primer, its name says it all. Designed exclusively for sensitive skin, it instantly calms redness, minimizes pores, improves fine lines and absorbs excess oil. It’s free of colors and contains gentle ingredients that work to fight discoloration too. The lightweight texture leaves skin soft to the touch and it helps makeup stay put from morning till night. Note: Some users report that it feels a little “goopy.” Our advice: Apply sparingly and allow it to set before proceeding with foundation.

Neutrogena Shine Control Primer

This budget-friendly primer is our pick for controlling excess oil and helping makeup stay put. It’s lightweight and non-greasy, and leaves a matte finish that keeps makeup looking freshly applied all day. It contains rice proteins that keeps the skin shine-free, and it also minimizes the appearance of pores on contact. It also contains moisturizers that won’t clog pores, so skin stays clear and comfortable.

Murad Skin Perfecting Primer Acne and Shine Control Makeup

Fight acne, even out skin tone, and create the perfect canvas for foundation that follows with this multitasking primer. It leaves skin with a smooth, matte finish upon application, as salicylic acid works to keep pores clear while you wear it. It comes in one shade so there’s no worry about matching your skin color, and this primer also calms redness associated with breakouts. Best of all, users say it keeps shine under control all day.

Colorescience Skin Mattifying Face Primer

With this primer, you can diminish redness and camouflage breakouts before you even apply foundation. In addition to leaving skin smooth and primed for makeup, it also has anti-inflammatory ingredients that soothe stressed skin, and its exfoliating salicylic acid helps keep skin clear. It leaves a matte finish in a flash, controls excess oil for hours, and the universal shade works with a wide range of skin tones.

Cover FX Mattifying Primer with Anti-Acne Treatment

In addition to mattifying skin, minimizing pores and fine lines, helping makeup stay put, and fighting breakouts with 1 percent salicylic acid (most anti-acne primers only have 0.5 percent), this skin-perfecting primer is also water-resistant. The gel formula creates the illusion of flawless skin upon application. Best of all, it can be also used as a spot treatment at bedtime when you’re in a pimple pinch.

Dr. Brandt Pores No More

As its name implies, this primer works wonders on enlarged pores, but it also keeps excess oil in check by actually regulating your skin’s sebum production (which goes a long way for fighting breakouts). It also contains antiseptic tea tree to control bacteria plus light-diffusing spheres to improve imperfections. Skin is left feeling smooth, looking more even and ready for makeup, and it comes in a tinted version that could have you skipping foundation all together.

Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Face Primer

Beyond leaving skin shine-free and makeup intact for hours, this primer also minimizes the appearance of pores and reduces redness associated with breakouts. On the skincare side, it contains willow bark extract (a natural form of exfoliating salicylic acid) and antioxidant pomegranate extract to help rejuvenate skin. Plus because this formula is water-based, it allows skin to breathe (which also keeps skin clear), and the universal tint flatters all skin tones.

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Oil Free

Free of pore-clogging oils and packed with oil-absorbing ingredients, this primer leaves an invisible layer on the skin that helps keep makeup in place while ensuring that color stays true all day — and eliminates the need for touchups throughout the day. This formula also has a high water content to keep skin hydrated, and die-hard fans say keeping it in the refrigerator is great for giving skin a refreshing treat.

Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional

For instant skin smoothing, immediately less visible pores and improved fine lines, apply a thin layer of this lightweight priming balm and let it set for a few seconds. A long-standing favorite, it can be used under makeup as a primer, over makeup for touch-ups, or on its own as a mattifying finishing touch. It’s ideal for the oily T-zone area, but it works well on dry skin, too (so long as you apply moisturizer before).

Lorac aquaPRIME Oil Free Makeup Primer

In addition to being oil-free, this advanced primer is also free of silicone, parabens and fragrance, making it ideal not only for oily and blemish-prone skin, but for sensitive types too. The lightweight, fast-absorbing, water-based formula smooths skin prior to makeup application, and minimizes fine lines as it hydrates areas that need extra moisture. Users report going more than 12 hours without having to touch up their makeup, and who can argue with that?

Stila Hydrating Primer Oil-Free SPF 30

Stila Hydrating Primer Oil-Free SPF 30

Offering hydration and skin protection in one tube, this primer doubles as your daily moisturizer as well. Instead of a matte finish it leaves skin dewy, and the fresh look lasts for hours (as does your makeup). Though not technically a BB cream, it contains skincare ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants as well, so it works to improve firmness, and it minimizes fine lines and pores on contact.

Neutrogena Shine Control Primer

This budget-friendly primer is our pick for controlling excess oil and helping makeup stay put. It’s lightweight and non-greasy, and leaves a matte finish that keeps makeup looking freshly applied all day. It contains rice proteins that keeps the skin shine-free, and it also minimizes the appearance of pores on contact. It also contains moisturizers that won’t clog pores, so skin stays clear and comfortable.

Paige Herman-Axel
With almost 15 years experience as a beauty editor, blogger and writer, products are my life! Name it, I've probably tried it, and it's my pleasure to share my finds and experiences with the world at large. From skincare and makeup to haircare and more, I'm up on the latest launches and all the perennial product favorites, so everyone can reap the beauty benefits!
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