If you worship at the altar of multitasking, the best primers to wear alone deserve a spot in your pantheon. Obviously, primers are best known for creating a smooth, grippable canvas for your makeup to glide over, but these makeup/skin care hybrids can offer your bare skin a little something extra, too, whether that’s reducing redness, protecting your skin from the sun, keeping you shine-free all day long, or something else entirely.
It’s always a good idea to cater your choice of primer to your skin type. But if you’re looking for a primer to wear alone in particular — i.e., you won’t be covering it up with foundation — pay special attention to the finish you want, whether that’s powdery, dewy, glowy, or matte. That’s how your skin is gonna look all day — choose wisely!
However you want your bare (or almost-bare) skin to look and feel, there’s a primer for you featured here — so scroll on to shop seven of the best face primers that the internet has to offer.
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1. Best For Dry Skin
The words “hydrating,” “hyaluronic,” and “repair” should tip you off to the things this First Aid Beauty primer can do for your skin. But in addition to its moisturizing and soothing abilities, it’ll also make your bare skin look a little glowy, thanks to light-diffusing Micro-Pearls in the formula. Plus, it’s fragrance-free, dermatologist-tested, and hypoallergenic, so it’s a safe choice for people with sensitive skin.
2. Best For Oily Skin
Touch In Sol’s No Pore Blem is the rare mattifying primer that zaps unwanted shine without zapping all traces of life from your face. Rather, it replaces excess grease with a soft-focus, “lit-from-within” glow, right alongside some smoothing and plumping action. Think the Paris filter on Instagram (i.e., the filter you use when you don’t want people to know you’re using a filter). It feels silky to the touch, as a nice bonus, so you may find yourself lovingly stroking your forehead throughout the day.
3. Best For Blurring Pores
Most oil-absorbing primers can also minimize the appearance of pores, but perhaps none do that so well as DHC Velvet Skin Coat. An absolute favorite among beauty editors and makeup professionals, this Japanese primer gives your skin a powdery finish that subdues the look of enlarged pores and other inconsistencies in your skin’s texture. It’s pretty hardcore on the mattifying front, so this is another good choice for folks with oily skin. Alternatively, you can use it as a spot-treatment wherever you’re hoping to blur out pores, and/or on extra-oily areas (which, conveniently, tend to be the same place).
4. Best For Color Correcting
Green is on the opposite side of the color wheel to red, as you may recall from art class; so reach for a green-toned primer, like this one from PUR, if you’re hoping to cancel out ruddiness in your skin. But this’ll provide some skin care benefits beyond the aesthetic as well, like gentle resurfacing and moisturizing, courtesy of things like lactic acid, aloe vera, and ceramides in the formula. There are lots of green primers available on Amazon, however — Maybelline and Touch In Sol both make great ones — so you can pick and choose according to your skin type, budget, and brand preference.
5. Best For Brightening
Purple and yellow are also complementary colors, according to color theory, so this lavender primer can cancel out dullness or sallowness in your skin. (Never let anyone tell you makeup isn’t art.) This is dimethicone-based, so it’ll help keep oil at bay for a few hours in addition to giving your skin a brightening boost. There’s also a green version of this fan-favorite primer for those who lean more “flushed” than “sallow”; or a colorless formula if you’re solely after the mattifying effects.
6. Best For Sun Protection
When we say “the best primers to wear alone,” we actually mean “the best primers to wear under your sunscreen.” But if you’re really trying to cheat the system, get this Dermalogica primer. It packs an SPF of 30, the minimum amount that dermatologists recommend for daily wear. It’ll do some primer-y things, too, like smoothing and brightening your skin; and although it contains silicones, it feels surprisingly moisturizing. But for this (or any other face product containing SPF) to effectively replace your sunscreen, you’ll need to apply the recommended one-third to half teaspoon amount to both your face and neck.
7. Writer’s Pick
I was never a primer person, until I discovered TULA’s Skincare Face Filter. And then my life changed. (Not really, but my skin definitely did.) This breathable, moisturizing primer genuinely feels more like a skin care product than makeup, and it acts like one, too: In here, plant-based ingredients like turmeric, chia seeds, and licorice temper redness and boost your natural glow, while probiotics work to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier over the long term. In addition to making my skin look dewy and radiant, it doesn’t trigger any redness or irritation in my sensitive skin — one of the only primers I’ve tried that ticks that very important box.
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