Here Are the Exact Ingredients to Look for in an Acne-Fighting Primer

Updated 04/30/19

Once you've completed the steps in your morning skincare routine, primers are your first defense against acne, blemishes, and oily skin. Applied before your foundation, powders, and any other makeup, primers are on the frontline, so their formulations are especially pertinent if you have troubled skin. We called upon Ted Lain, MD, board-certified dermatologist, to weigh in on what goes into the best primers for acne. He broke down exactly what to look for on the ingredient list so we could determine the best-performing acne-fighting primers on the market right now.

"Primers are used to help cover blemishes and prepare the skin for moisturizers and makeup," explains Lain. "Since they are the first layer of a beauty regimen, using a primer with acne-fighting and mattifying ingredients is very helpful for those with oily and acne-prone skin." Lain identified the key ingredients to look for in a primer if acne is a concern. "Usually acneiform skin has an oily complexion, therefore capturing the oil and avoiding the midday shine is important," he notes. "Look for dimethicone on the ingredient list, since this helps to mattify the complexion and fights the accumulation of oil." Additional ingredients are probably ones that ring a bell and already exist in your skincare regimen.

"Salicylic acid, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and resorcinol are all approved, over-the-counter ingredients that products contain to help combat acne," lists Lain. "Any one of these should be included in a primer that purports to fight acne."

As Lain observes, it isn't just enough that your primer helps to reduce the number of acne bumps and blemishes—we want products that also alleviate redness and inflammation. While acne-fighting ingredients are important, it is wise to also look for ingredients that help soothe skin and reduce the look of irritation. "Look for soothing ingredients such as aloe, allantoin, and antioxidants (vitamins E, C, and ferulic acid, among others) to make sure that the primer is doing double duty," advises Lain. "Regarding formulation, most acne sufferers will find the best coverage with a liquid or powder rather than a gel or spray," recommends Lain.

"Of course, make sure that the primer is also oil-free, to ensure that it won't clog pores." Here are the best primers for acne with dermatologist-approved ingredients.

Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment 1 oz/ 30 mL
Cover FX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment $38

This primer from Cover FX is formulated to fight acne. Willow bark extract, which naturally contains salicylic acid, gently exfoliates skin to promote clarification and reduce the buildup of sebum. Ancient African tree bark extract combats inflammatory acne, while vitamins C, E, and F soothe inflammation and reduce redness.

Wild Rose Smoothie Brightening Priming Moisturiser 1.01 oz/ 30 mL
Korres Wild Rose Smoothie Brightening Priming Moisturiser $45

Boasting 96.9% natural ingredients, the primer is made up of a potent blend of wild rose oil that boasts nine times more vitamin C than orange juice, hyaluronic acid, and turmeric extract to combat breakouts and blemishes. This multitasking primer also contains white willow bark rich in natural salicylic acid.

Daydream™ Mineral Primer SPF 30 1 oz
Coola Daydream Mineral Primer SPF 30 $42

Provide troubled skin with sun protection and a silky-smooth matte finish with this priming formula brimming with antioxidants from honeysuckle, white lily, and botanical extracts. This weightless primer also boasts broad-spectrum SPF 30 to ensure your makeup look keeps you protected from the sun from the very first step.

The Silk Canvas Face Primer
Tatcha The Silk Canvas Face Primer $52

For full coverage, this brand new makeup-perfecting formula from Tatcha works on the face, eyes, and lips. Japanese superfoods like green tea, rice, and algae work together to restore the youthful look of skin.

Foundation Primer - Oil Free 1.75 oz
Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Oil Free $38

Originally formulated in 1995, Laura Mercier's primer was reinvented to serve oilier, overactive skin. Vitamins A, C, and E work as antioxidants to protect skin from the environment and delay cell damage while cucumber and antioxidant green tea extract soothe and refresh the complexion.

pores no more(R) pore refiner primer 1 oz
Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer $45

Dr. Brandt's quick fix for flawless skin has earned a cult following. The formula includes flaxseed extract that absorbs excess oil and mattifies shine, mineral-rich powders that minimize the appearance of large pores and prevents a barrier to keep makeup from clogging them, and tea tree oil that soothes troubled skin.

Poreless Mattifying Primer 1 oz/ 30 mL
Tarte Cosmetics Poreless Mattifying Primer $32

Antioxidant botanical extracts—from echinacea root, hibiscus flower, and rosemary leaf—help neutralize free radicals in this vegan primer that promises 12 hours of a shine-free matte finish. Vitamin-rich avocado works to soothe skin while açaí, acerola, goji, maracuja, and pomegranate nourish and replenish skin to rejuvenate the complexion.

Blemish Remedy Mattifying Prep Gel 1 oz
BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Mattifying Prep Gel $25

Clear skin instead of covering it up with this lightweight gel infused with aspen bark, tea tree oil, and a peptide complex made from saw palmetto and reishi mushroom that work to clear up your complexion. The primer also contains an oil-absorbing mineral to sustain a matte finish all day long.

Once you've found the primer that best suits your needs, you can apply a smooth canvas for makeup while knowing ingredients are hard at work to better your skin.

Related Stories