Should You Use Primer Before BB Cream? The Experts Weigh In

The not so age-old question, answered.

When it comes to skincare-makeup hybrids, it’s hard to know how seriously to take the skincare part. Is your skin really soaking up the complexion-benefiting ingredients? Or is it really just makeup, only slightly less makeup-y? Never has the question been more pressing than with BB cream. You wear it, essentially, as face makeup to camouflage imperfections. Does that mean you should treat like foundation and wear it with face primer? We thought it best to turn to the experts on this one, so we polled some of the industry’s best makeup artists. It turns out the answer is not black and white. Keep scrolling to read what they had to say.
The Artist: Ricky Wilson, a makeup artist whose celebrity clients include Nina Dobrev, Emmy Rossum, and Joy Bryant.

The Answer: Yes, if you like your old-school rules. “I always prepare the skin before applying anything with a tint to it,” Wilson says. “Lots of people confuse BB creams with a tinted moisturizer, and although BB cream has skin-improving benefits, I have found that they go on heavier than I like without adding something lightweight first. “I'm so old school when it comes to the skin and stick to the rule of: always prep before you paint.”

The Artist: Julianne Kaye, a celebrity makeup artist who has worked with Kate Hudson, Kelly Osbourne, Nicole Richie, and more.

The Answer: Yes, if you’re looking for shine protection. Kaye says if you need the oil control, use both. She also added one caveat because some BBs come with primer built in. “[Use it] unless you go for a BB crème that has primer in it—not all BB crèmes are created equal,” Kaye says.


The Artist: Kendra Richards, a makeup artist who works with famous faces like Kerry Washington, Molly Sims, and Anna Paquin.

The Answer: No, it’s probably not needed. "In general, you can skip the primer when wearing a BB cream,” Richards says. “It's an unnecessary, extra step and won't necessarily improve the performance. BB creams are created to be multiple steps in one product. Formulations vary, so you can try it to see if it improves the wear and look of your BB cream, but generally speaking, it probably won't be necessary or helpful.”

The Artist: Jennifer Greenberg, a makeup artist whose work is all over top television shows like Glee, Mad Men, and Sons of Anarchy.

The Answer: No, generally speaking. Greenberg finds that, in general, “Nothing is needed on the face before most BB crèmes.” But she also noted that products differ, so it may be worth trying it out to have that comparison.

The Final Verdict: Maybe. Depending on the product you’re using and your skin’s needs, using a primer first may improve the performance of your BB cream.

Next up: The fascinating rise of BB cream and why we're forever hooked.

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