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Some lucky people don’t need a primer. But if you’re dealing with oily skin, dry patches, obscenely humid weather or any other factors that tend to mop the makeup off your face, a primer can help you out. It doesn’t need to feel like shellac. Plenty of primers on the market prep your face without saran-wrapping it, and a few products even double as skincare with superstar ingredients. Read on for a roundup of the top face primers, from a best-selling silk concoction to a real-life beauty filter that doesn’t aggravate acne-prone skin.
Best Overall: Tatcha Silk Canvas Protecting Primer
Hopefully, you’re not sick of seeing this primer everywhere. 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 as a skincare and primer in one, not only creating a smooth canvas for foundation but also keeping makeup out of your pores.
It’s pricey, like all Tatcha products, 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. Green tea, rice, algae and pink and gold pearl work together to create a blurring effect on the skin.
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 do just as well. 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. The primer has a faint scent, but nothing too obtrusive.
Best Drugstore Option: 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, pretty highlighter.
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.
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 No Poreblem 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. No Poreblem Primer holds up between six to eight hours and layers well under different foundations. When the primer’s had enough, makeup fades off naturally, rather than sliding off or breaking up into greasy tectonic plates.
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 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.”
Our writers spent 50 hours researching the most popular face primers on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 25 different primers overall, screened options from 13 different brands and manufacturers, read over 80 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 1 of the primers themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.