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Face primers have had a bit of a hard time over the years, dismissed as yet another useless product. But the truth is that primers offer a wide range of skincare and makeup benefits. Many face primers come with ingredients that hold the power to fill in fine lines and wrinkles, and some even contain light-reflecting pigments that give the appearance of a smoother complexion and a more radiant skin tone. Even more brilliant than that, they act as a barrier between your makeup and your skin, creating an even surface for your makeup products to sit on.
You can also employ the best face primers to banish shine, so if you have oily skin, it might be worth investing in an oil-control primer. Certain makeup primers also target issues like enlarged pores, redness, sallow skin, bumps and blemishes. If that isn't enough to convince you, know that face primers are also the answer to keeping makeup in place all day long.
Read on for a roundup of the best face primers that'll do all of the above and a whole lot more.
Best Overall: Tatcha Silk Canvas Protecting Primer
The Tatcha Silk Canvas Protecting Primer has sold out multiple times at Sephora, as beauty Youtubers and reviewers sing its praises. All the hype aside, this primer is as good as it gets. The Silk Canvas acts like skincare and primer in one, not only creating a smooth canvas for foundation but also keeping makeup out of your pores.
It’s pricey but the 0.7 ounces of product goes a long way (the consensus is a “rice-grain-sized” amount should suffice). The primer comes in a sturdy lavender compact and includes a circular disk/spatula with a marking to help you dispense the right amount.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer
As effective as the Tatcha primer is, the price tag is admittedly steep. If you can’t bring yourself to spend that much, budget primers like the e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer should be on your radar. It’s by no means a dupe, but the cruelty-free primer does hydrate and smooth out skin for flawless coverage. And just like the Tatcha primer, it creates a barrier between skin and foundation to prevent clogged pores as vitamins A, C, and E create a radiant finish. One pump covers the entire face, oily at first but blending out to a weightless satin finish.
Best Drugstore: L’Oreal Paris Makeup Studio Secrets Perfecting Base
While the e.l.f. primer is our budget pick, the L’Oreal Magic Perfecting Base is by far one of the most popular drugstore primers, and for good reason. Packaged in a small pot, the Magic Perfecting Base appears pink in the jar but blends out. The L’Oreal primer works across skin types, mattifying oily skin, minimizing pores, and even smoothing over texture and scarring with a velvety finish. It works well with most foundations and doubles as a natural highlighter.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best drugstore makeup primers.
Best for Dry Skin: Hourglass No. 28 Primer Serum
While the Hourglass Primer Serum comes in two sizes, the travel size is really all you need for daily use. A drop or two of this ultra-hydrating primer goes a long way as long as you warm up the product first. The No. 28 serum comes in a frosted glass pump bottle that endures being tossed around in a makeup bag fairly well.
The “28” in the name refers to the packed ingredient list: 14 essential oils, 10 plant oils, and four vitamins. A lovely mixture of ylang-ylang, lavender, jojoba, evening primrose, sweet almond, and green tea nourish and prep dry skin for foundation.
Take a peek at some of the other best primers for dry skin you can buy.
Best Pore-Minimizing: Touch in Sol No Poreblem Primer
This K beauty pick from Touch in Sol smooths over skin to minimize the look of pores. The cotton-candy pink primer comes in a petite frosted glass pump bottle and disappears as you rub into skin. The finish isn’t exactly matte—it’s more on the velvety side—but still sops up oil, holds up under humidity and sweat, and wears comfortably. When the primer’s had enough, makeup fades off naturally, rather than sliding off or breaking up into greasy tectonic plates.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Son & Park Beauty Filter Cream Glow
Another K beauty pick, this priming moisturizer from Son & Park does it all: It preps, hydrates, and illuminates skin, even the acne-prone kind. Packed with plant extracts like rose, lilly, and jasmine, the Beauty Filter Cream Glow controls oil without suffocating skin or clogging pores. Worn alone, skin looks radiant and healthy. Layer foundation on top for a real-life filter. The Beauty Filter is also super-forgiving, skimming over acne scars and texture. One review called the Beauty Filter “glass skin in a jar.”
Best Mattifying: Bobbi Brown Primer Plus Mattifier
Bobbi Brown’s lightweight primer minimizes pores and hydrates while mattifying oily skin. The hydrating property makes it ideal for matte foundations, which are notoriously tricky to work with. Foundation goes on easily without snagging or emphasizing dry patches and reportedly lasts up to 12 hours with this primer. It creates a cooling sensation when you first apply, thanks to its jelly texture, then promptly dries down. If you like stacking primers, no worries here—the Bobbi Brown Primer Plus Mattifier mixes well with other products.
Best Color-Correcting: Becca First Light Priming Filter
Cool light technology and a lavender pearl complex work together in this primer to brighten the look of dullness and minimize the appearance of imperfections, so all you're left with is a refreshed, hydrated complexion. Prickly pear, hyaluronic acid, and energizing ginger also make a cameo to restore a healthy, even-toned, and flawless skin finish.
Best Paraben-Free: Marc Jacobs Under(cover) Perfecting Coconut Face Primer
If you're a fan of coconuts (and paraben-free skincare products) you should give this complexion-perfecting primer a try stat. It's infused with five—yes, five—different types of coconut extracts to nourish, hydrate, and smooth the skin while extending makeup wear time.
Best for Radiance: Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter
This primer highlighter hybrid enhances the skin's natural radiance like none other. Wear it alone or layer under your foundation and concealer. Then just wait for the complexion compliments to come rolling in.
Best with SPF: Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Protect
Laura Mercier's cult classic foundation primer contains a skin-protecting SPF 30. Not only does it smoothe the skin to prep it for makeup, but it also protects it from the sun's rays and pollution.
Best for Fine Lines: Smashbox Photo Finish Primer
This primer is an absolute classic made with vitamins A and E that reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also keeps makeup in place for longer and is a great choice for combination skin types. Oily areas are left mattified, while dull, dry areas are given a radiance boost.