Best Foundation Primer

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
163 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best foundation primer

Last Updated July 2020

If you’ve ever wondered why your foundation doesn’t create the flawless, nearly airbrushed look you see on models and beauty influencers, the answer is almost certainly that you’re not using foundation primer. While it’s true that you can get by without this beauty booster, if you’re hoping for a finished appearance that turns heads, it may be time to add foundation primer to your beauty routine.

Just as there are hundreds of foundation makeups available all targeted to different needs, preferences, and skin types so too there are many types of foundation primer. Because of this, some overwhelmed shoppers just give up and skip primer altogether. That’s a shame because the right primer can make a huge difference in your complexion.

We created this guide on foundation primer to give you a head’s up on the issue. You can find the perfect primer for your complexion and reap all of its beauty benefits. Just keep reading.

The right foundation primer leaves your skin smooth, healthy looking, and ready for an application of foundation.

Key considerations

Serum, cream, or powder

Primer can take several forms: clear serum in a pump dispenser, light cream in a tube, pressed powder in a compact. As a general rule, you can use any type of primer beneath powder foundation, but it’s best not to use powder primer with gel, liquid, or cream foundation. 

Primer purpose

While many primers offer skincare benefits such as moisturizing or reducing fine lines, the main purpose of any primer is to create a smooth surface that reduces undesirable complexion issues while increasing your foundation’s staying power. With the right primer, your foundation should look even and natural. 

To accomplish these goals, you’ll need to pay attention to the particular features a primer offers. Choose a primer that is designed for your skin type, whether you have an oily, dry, or normal complexion. Take other beauty concerns into account as well, such as large pores and maturing skin.

Skin type

Oily skin: If you have oily skin, look for a foundation primer described with terms like “mattifying,” “shine-reducing,” or “oil-absorbing.” These primers help keep oily shine under control and cut down on the need to reach for blotting sheets or extra powder throughout the day.  

Dry skin: Dry, parched skin calls for a foundation primer that contains moisturizing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin. These primers are often labelled as “replenishing,” “moisturizing,” or “dewy.”

Normal skin: Complexions that are neither too oily nor too dry look great with a primer that leaves a bit of a dewy finish. This creates a youthful, smooth complexion with a naturally healthy appearance. Another good choice for normal or combination skin is a blurring primer. These creamy makeup primers contain dimethicone and other silicones that “blur” the appearance of pores, fine lines, and small imperfections, leaving a flawless canvas for your foundation. These products are sometimes sold as “photo finish” primers, as they are perfect for use before a photo session or any occasion where lots of pictures will be taken, such as a wedding, party, or graduation.

DID YOU KNOW?

There’s a foundation primer for every type of skin, whether your complexion is dry, oily, mature, normal, or combination.

Other skin concerns

You can personalize your primer further by choosing one that addresses other skin concerns you may have.

Mature skin: Aging skin can benefit from primer that contains ingredients to diminish fine lines, such as retinol, collagen, and peptides. Look for a primer that claims to be “anti-aging,” “restorative,” “nourishing,” or “line-reducing.”

Redness: If redness is a concern, color-correcting primer is a solution. These creamy primers have a soft green tint that counters skin redness, but don’t worry the green disappears under your foundation.

Large pores: Many women struggle with large pores that give their complexion a rough appearance and cause their makeup to look uneven. If that’s your concern, a foundation primer with silicone is the answer. The slippery smooth texture of dimethicone and other cosmetic silicones creates a sort of “seal” over large pores to create the illusion of smooth skin.

EXPERT TIP

You can use your fingers, a brush, a sponge, or a beauty blender to apply foundation primer.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Once you’ve chosen the perfect foundation primer, you’ll need a way to apply it. While fingers are a fine choice, if you prefer to keep your hands clean, we think you’ll love the following options.

Blender sponge: Beakey 5-Piece Blender Sponge Set
A blender sponge is an egg-shaped, soft, thick makeup sponge designed to apply most types of cosmetics, including gel, liquid, and cream primer. Use the pointed end to apply primer around your nostrils and eyes, the flattened bottom for your cheeks and forehead, and the curved sides for the bridge of your nose and chin. With the Beakey 5-Piece Blender Sponge Set, you get five colorful blender sponges, so you’ll always have a clean one on hand.

Makeup brush: Lamora Flat-Top Kabuki Brush
Kabuki makeup brushes have dense, fine bristles that can smooth liquid, powder, or cream primer — as well as foundation and blush across your skin to create a smooth, airbrushed, finish. The Lamora Flat-Top Kabuki brush provides a large surface to quickly and completely cover your face in just a few smooth strokes, and the dense bristles won’t absorb or waste your primer. The professional-quality brush holds up well to cleaning without shedding bristles or losing its shape.  

DID YOU KNOW?

Mattifying foundation primers keep oily shine at bay, so you won’t need to reach for blotting sheets as frequently.

Foundation primer prices

A good foundation primer doesn’t have to break your budget.

Under $10: If you’re watching your spending, for less than $10 you’ll find quite a few drugstore-brand foundation primers that get the job done without fancy ingredients or flashy packaging.

Between $10 and $20: You’ll find a wide array of high-end foundation primers in this price range. For the money, you can expect quality ingredients that help improve the condition of your skin while keeping your foundation looking its best.

Above $20: At this price, you’re paying for the brand name as much as the product itself. Attractive packaging, lofty claims, and superior ingredients are common in this range.

Tips

Applying foundation primer isn’t complicated, but the right technique yields the best results.

  • Start with clean hands and a freshly washed face.

  • Apply any desired serum or moisturizer. Allow it dry for a couple of minutes.

  • Now it’s time for your primer. Remember not to go overboard; it only takes a pea-sized dab of most primers to cover your face effectively. Using too much wastes product and can leave your skin tacky rather than smooth.

  • Dab a bit of primer to each cheek as well as your forehead, chin, and nose.

  • Using your fingers, brush, or blender sponge, work the primer across your skin, using small, downward strokes to smooth the primer across your complexion without leaving streaks or blotches.

  • Don’t forget to apply primer around your temples, beneath your eyes, and around your nostrils.

  • Let your primer dry for at least two minutes before continuing with your foundation. Otherwise, you could end up with streaks instead of the flawless finish you’re aiming for.

Although creamy primers are generally pink, white, or cream in color, don’t worry — the color vanishes on your skin without affecting your appearance.

FAQ

Q. Can I use foundation primer without foundation?
A. Absolutely. If you don’t need the coverage provided by foundation, you can use a primer on its own to reduce shine, blur fine lines and pores, and provide a smooth, perfect look to your complexion.

Q. Is it okay to apply foundation primer on my eyelids?
A. While it might be tempting to use your foundation primer as an eyelid primer as well, it’s best to avoid doing so. Use eyeshadow primer instead. Eyeshadow primers are generally thicker and a bit tackier than foundation primers, as they are designed to resist eyeshadow creasing when lids get oily. Foundation primers tend to contain silicone, which is too thin and slick to keep eyeshadow in place for long.

Q. How long can I keep an open bottle of foundation primer before it turns bad?
A. Like all cosmetics, foundation primer has an expiration date. As a general rule, it’s best to toss foundation primer, as well as foundation, that’s been open for more than a year. By that point, bacteria or mold spores may well have taken hold in the product, and you might also see a breakdown in the primer’s consistency. Store your primer in a cool, clean, dry spot to keep it from separating or spoiling sooner than you’d like.

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    Melinda
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    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Michelle
    Michelle
    Writer
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    Steph
    Web Producer

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