7 Acne-Fighting Primers With Derm-Approved Ingredients

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primer

@clinique / Design by Tiana Crispino

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.

"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 of these should be included in a primer that purports to fight acne."

So without further ado, here are the best primers for acne with dermatologist-approved ingredients.

Best Overall: CoverFX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment

4.6
Cover FX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Easy to take off

  • Lightweight

  • Doesn't cake up

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Who else recommends it? Rank & Style also picked the CoverFX Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment.

What do buyers say? 83% of 800+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

This primer from Cover FX is formulated to fight acne. Willow bark extract, which naturally contains salicylic acid, gently exfoliates the skin to promote clarity 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.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Natural Fruit AHA Complex, Acne Tree Bark, Bisabolol | Skin Type: Normal, Combination, Oily, Acne-Prone | Dosage: Once a day before makeup application | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Mattifying: Tarte Cosmetics Poreless Mattifying Primer

5
Tarte Cosmetics Poreless Mattifying Primer

 Sephora

What We Like
  • Applies well over makeup

  • Not greasy

  • Little goes a long way

  • Full of natural ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Could be smoother

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.

Key Ingredients: Avocado, T5 Super Fruit Complex™, Echinacea Root, Hibiscus Flower, and Rosemary Leaf Extracts, Safflower Seed | Skin Type: All | Dosage: Once a day before makeup application | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Large Pores: Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer

4.8
dr. brandt skincare pores no more pore refiner primer

Ulta

What We Like
  • Reduces appearance of pores

  • Makes skin tone look more even

  • Feels smooth on the skin

  • Looks natural

What We Don't Like
  • Smells like a nail salon during application

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.

Key Ingredients: Water, Lavender Oil, Tea Tree Oil | Skin Type: Normal, Combination, Oily | Dosage: Once a day in the AM or before makeup application | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"The primer feels incredibly smooth and a bit cooling when applied to the skin and doesn’t feel heavy or cakey." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Best for Oily Skin: Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Oil Free

laura mercier foundation primer oil free

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting and instant mattifying

  • Absorbs excess oil

  • Attracts moisture to hydrate skin

What We Don't Like
  • Needs work on blending with foundation

  • Pricey

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.

Key Ingredients: Microalgae, Blurring Powders, Gylcerin | Skin Type: Normal, Combination, Oily | Dosage: Once a day in the AM after skincare or before makeup application | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Balm: Tatcha Tatcha The Silk Canvas Face Primer

Tatcha The Silk Canvas Face Primer

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Gives a natural look

  • Smooths makeup

  • Restores youthfulness by diminishing pores and wrinkles

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

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.

Key Ingredients: Silk, Hadasei-3 | Skin Type: Normal, Combination, Dry, Sensitive, Oily | Dosage: Once a day in AM after skincare before makeup application | Size: 0.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best With SPF: Coola Daydream Mineral Primer SPF 30

Coola Daydream Mineral Primer SPF 30

 Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Infused SPF 30 sunscreen protects from UV rays

  • Lightweight

  • Rich in antioxidants

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Might be too shimmery for some

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.

Key Ingredients: Water, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide | Skin Type: Normal, Combination, Oily, Acne-Prone | Dosage: Liberally before sun exposure, after outdoor water and sweat activities, and every 2 hours during | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Gel: BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Mattifying Prep Gel

BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Mattifying Prep Gel

 Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Applies smoothly

  • Provides full acne-fighting coverage

  • Doesn't dry the skin

  • Oil-absorbing minerals sustain matte finish

What We Don't Like
  • Might not work on sensitive skin

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 works 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.

Key Ingredients: Naturally Derived Minerals, Chamomile | Skin Type: Normal, Combination, Oily, Acne-Prone | Dosage: Once a day before makeup application | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

FAQ
  • Which primer is best for acne-prone skin?

    The best primers for acne-prone skin are specifically formulated for this skin type. Look for primers containing acne-fighting ingredients, such as salicylic acid, and are labeled as oil-free. Our top choice is the CoverFX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment.

  • Is primer bad for acne-prone skin?

    Primer can be bad for those with acne-prone skin if it contains silicones. If you choose primers without silicones, they can be a beneficial product for those with acne since they can help cover and blur imperfections. Look for primers formulated especially for acne-prone skin.

  • What primer does not cause acne?

    There are several primers that likely won’t cause acne and can even help prevent it, such as the CoverFX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment. Look for primers explicitly labeled for acne-prone skin, without silicones or oils.

  • Is it OK to use primer every day?

    It is likely OK to use a primer every day so long as you choose a brand that does not cause breakouts for you. Primer can act as a barrier between your skin and your makeup, which otherwise can get into your pores and lead to breakouts. Be sure to wash and tone your face after each day of wearing primer and other face products.

How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Achieve primping perfection with these 10 best primers for acne-prone skin. Rank & Style. https://www.rankandstyle.com/top-10-list/best-primers-acne-prone-skin

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