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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
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.
Best Mattifying: Tarte Cosmetics Poreless Mattifying Primer
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.
Best for Large Pores: Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer
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.
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
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.
Best Balm: Tatcha Tatcha The Silk Canvas Face Primer
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.
Best with SPF: Coola Daydream Mineral Primer SPF 30
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.
Best Gel: BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Mattifying Prep Gel
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.