Best Primers for Dry Skin

Updated July 2021
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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 all opinions about the products are our own. 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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How we decided

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

30 Models Considered
16 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
110 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 primers for dry skin

If you want to keep your foundation on all day, primer is an essential step in your makeup routine. But most primers are geared toward oily skin, because makeup tends to melt off when the natural oils in the skin break through. If you have dry skin, though, a primer can be just as helpful in keeping your makeup looking fresh all day — you just have to choose one made specifically for dry skin.

Primer for dry skin doesn’t absorb or control oil like most other primers. Instead, it delivers hydration that prevents your foundation from clinging to dry patches. The extra moisture also helps the makeup blend more easily across the skin and can even give dull-looking skin a healthy glow. Like any foundation primer, it also helps prevent fading and creasing, so your foundation looks flawless all day.

But before you buy, you’ll need to pick the right formula, ingredients, and other features that will help your complexion look its best. Our shopping guide is chock-full of tips to help you find the perfect primer for dry skin. We’ve even included some specific product recommendations for entirely stress-free shopping.

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Because a dry-skin primer can help keep your foundation in place, there’s usually no need to set your foundation with powder. If your foundation needs a little extra help, use a hydrating setting spray instead.

Key considerations


While all primers for dry skin are moisturizing, you can choose from several different formulas depending on how much hydration your skin needs.

  • Lotion primers have a similar consistency to a daily face moisturizer. They can hydrate the skin, but they are lightweight and are best if you only need light hydration.

  • Serum primers are slightly thicker than lotion primers. Not only do they provide effective hydration for dry skin, but they also help smooth and fill in skin texture issues, like fine lines or enlarged pores.

  • Oil primers are also thicker in consistency than lotion primers and feature an oil-based formula that provides significant moisture for dry skin. They often provide a healthy glow without needing any shimmer or glitter, too.

  • Balm primers have the thickest consistency of all primers for dry skin, so they usually feel like a thick, rich cream rather than a lotion or serum. Due to their texture, they offer the most significant hydration of any primer, making them an ideal choice for extremely dry skin. The thick formula often helps fill in pores and fine lines, too.


When you’re choosing a primer for dry skin, always check the ingredient list first. You want to make sure that any primer you’re considering is packed full of hydrating ingredients that prevent your skin from losing moisture throughout the day and your makeup from fading.

Some ingredients to look for in primers for dry skin include:

  • Oils, including argan, maracuja, olive, jojoba, and coconut, are always a good match for dry skin because they can effectively moisturize while also forming a protective barrier that helps keep the skin healthy and hydrated. The oils in a primer can also increase your skin’s radiance for a healthy glow.

  • Glycerin is a humectant, which means it’s able to draw water into the skin from the air to help moisturize it. Like oils, it can also create a protective barrier that locks the moisture into your skin, so your makeup looks fresh all day long.

  • Hyaluronic acid is another humectant that draws moisture to the skin. It also helps smooth the skin, so your makeup looks as flawless as possible. Best of all, hyaluronic acid is extremely gentle, which makes it ideal for even the most sensitive skin.

  • Silicones, including dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, and cyclohexasiloxane, have a unique consistency that blends across the skin more easily. Silicone is also a water-binding ingredient that helps prevent moisture loss and can fill in pores and fine lines effectively.

  • Coconut water is a naturally moisturizing ingredient that’s able to hydrate without adding excess oil to the skin. Because it’s so lightweight, it won’t cause your makeup to break down, fade, or crease.



Dry skin can often look dull and lackluster due to the lack of moisture. While you can choose a foundation with a dewy or radiant finish to give yourself a glow, some primers for dry skin are also illuminating, which adds radiance to your skin before you apply your foundation. Some primers may include glitter or shimmer particles to add a sheen to your face, but if you have mature skin, the glitter can accentuate fine lines and wrinkles. Other primers contain light-reflecting particles for a dewy finish that works for all ages.


While most primers for dry skin are translucent, some formulas are tinted. The majority of these are tinted with a skin tone shade to help even out your complexion. Depending on the brand, you can find primers in up to three different shades, such as light, medium, and dark. If you have extremely pale or extremely dark skin, though, you may not be able to get a good color match with a tinted primer. Other primers for dry skin have a green tint, which uses color theory to counteract red or pink tones in the skin.


As with many makeup and skincare products, fragrance is often added to primers to give them a pleasant scent. However, because dry skin tends to be sensitive, it’s best to choose a fragrance-free formula to avoid any redness, itching, or flaking.

Expert Tip

Primers for dry skin prices

Inexpensive: The most affordable options are usually lotion formulas. Those with lower-quality ingredients usually cost between $6 and $16, while those with higher-quality ingredients usually range from $16 to $36.

Mid-range: For $36 to $65, you can find primers for dry skin that are usually serum or oil formulas, and they typically have average to high-quality ingredients.

Expensive: The most expensive primers for dry skin are usually balm formulas that offer significant hydration. They usually have high-quality ingredients and cost between $48 and $76.


  • You may be tempted to skip moisturizer if you’re using a primer for dry skin, but you shouldn’t. The primer is meant to be an additional step to give dehydrated skin an extra boost of moisture, so your foundation looks as smooth and flawless as possible.

  • Wait approximately five to ten minutes after you moisturize your skin before you apply your primer. That allows your skin to absorb the moisturizer fully, so it doesn’t interfere with the primer.

  • Use clean fingers to apply a primer for dry skin to your face. If you use a brush, not only will your skin not fully absorb the primer, but the bristles can actually rough up the dry patches on your face, so they look flaky under makeup.

  • Allow your primer to sit for two to five minutes before applying your foundation. That gives your skin time to fully absorb it, so there isn’t any residue that might affect your makeup from adhering.

Other products we considered

The Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Oil is an ideal option if you prefer an oil-based formula, because it not only moisturizes, but it also gives the skin a radiant glow without emphasizing fine lines or wrinkles. Despite the hydration it offers, it’s still incredibly lightweight and quick-absorbing, too. We also like the Laura Mercier Hydrating Foundation Primer if you prefer a lotion formula, because it’s packed with hydrating ingredients as well as key antioxidants vitamins A, C, and E. It’s dermatologist-tested, too, so you don’t have to worry about it irritating sensitive skin.

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Some primers have SPF to add an extra level of sun protection for your skin.


Q. How much primer should I apply to my dry skin?
Even if you have dry skin and are using a hydrating primer, less is definitely more. If you apply too much primer, your skin won’t absorb all of it, and it will prevent your foundation from adhering to the skin. Check the packaging to see if the manufacturer offers specific instructions, but in most cases, a quarter-size amount of primer should be enough to cover your entire face.

Q. Do all primers work with all foundations?
All primers for dry skin may not work well with every foundation. Based on the ingredients, you may find that certain foundations look cakey or patchy over a particular primer. It’s a good idea to match formulas. For example, if you’re using an oil-based primer, opt for an oil-based foundation. If you choose a silicone-based primer, opt for a foundation that has silicone high up on its ingredient list.

Q. Does primer for dry skin expire?
Just like any makeup or skincare product, foundation primer has an expiration date. Some primers will have an expiration date printed on their packaging, but a good rule of thumb is to toss a primer after it has been open for one to two years. You can usually tell that a primer has expired when it starts to separate or smell strange.

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