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Best makeup primer 2020: Discover the secret to a glowing and even complexion

Jade Vincent
20 Jan 2020
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Mattifying, illuminating or pore-minimising? We’ve got the scoop on the hottest face primers around

Primers are that one product in everyone’s makeup routine that often gets forgotten about. However, if you choose the right texture and type for your skin, primers hold all the power to fix your makeup woes – oily, dry and dull complexions be gone!

Primers can provide that perfect, smooth and even base that’s ideal for foundation, but they’ll also help to keep your makeup in place throughout the day. In fact, we like to think of primers as real life camera filters for our face.

These multitasking primers come in liquid, gel or cream formulas and should be applied to freshly cleansed and moisturised skin. In other words, just before you apply your foundation and concealer. You can even skip the moisturiser part since many primers double as a makeup-skincare hybrid that can be trusted to inject plenty of moisture and active ingredients into your skin.

Not sure which primer is perfect for your skin? Then read on and we’ll explain everything you need to know.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best tinted moisturisers

How to choose the best makeup primer for you

Which formula should you choose?

Naturally, the first thing to consider is your skin. Is it oily? Do you get dry patches? Have you got large pores? Once you’ve decided on an area that you’d like to correct, you can choose a primer accordingly; with mattifying, illuminating and skin-blurring primers on the market you’ll be spoilt for choice. Below, we’ve narrowed down the best of each type.

What ingredients should I be aware of?

Those with dry skin will be thankful for formulas that are packed full of moisture-boosting ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and aloe vera. Similarly, sensitive skin types pair well with these ingredients, as well as natural oils like jojoba and almond oil. We advise that sensitive skin types should steer clear of fragrances though, as these are known to irritate delicate skin.

On the other hand, most smoothing primers use silicone to fill pores and give a blurred effect to the skin. Our acne-prone friends may want to give these primers a miss since they can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Those with combination to oily skin work best with water-based, oil-free primers, as they’re not too rich and won’t sit in pores.

The best primers to buy

1. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer: Banish oiliness for velvety skin

Price: £17 (10ml), £49 (30ml), £68 (60ml) | Buy now from Cult Beauty

The Veil Mineral Primer from Hourglass ticks all the right boxes: it’s paraben and fragrance free, has SPF 15 sun protection and a mineral-based formula that’s a saviour for oily and acne-prone skin. It’s a pricey investment (a 30ml bottle costs £49) but we’d recommend buying the mini travel size tube first to ensure it’s the right primer for your skin.

How does it work? Well, the Veil Mineral Primer uses naturally occurring minerals that absorb excess oil without clogging pores or upsetting sensitive skin. The silky fluid feels lightweight on the skin and helps your makeup last longer which is great for special occasions when you need your expertly applied base to stay put. Its claim to “waterproof” your makeup is a stretch but we definitely noticed that our skin appeared smoother with reduced redness and smaller pores. Overall, we’d use the Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer to control shine and blur imperfections for a clear and well balanced complexion. 

Buy now from Cult Beauty


2. Glossier Priming Moisturiser: Soothe and hydrate dry, sensitive skin

Price: £18 (50ml) | Buy now from Glossier

Glossier’s best-selling primer has a lightweight, buildable texture that can be applied to bare skin or over makeup multiple times a day – all depending on how your skin is feeling. Formulated with oxygenating agents to enhance your skin and give it a healthy glow, the Priming Moisturiser calms redness, minimises large pores and evens out the skin’s texture. All that combines to form an even and well-balanced base that’s ready for your makeup. It’s hypoallergenic, dermatologically tested and fragrance free which means it shouldn’t upset or unbalance the delicate skin. The primer is non-comedogenic too, but we found the formula was too rich for oily and acne-prone skin.

Overall, the Priming Moisturiser is a smart choice for dry and sensitive skin since it combines all the nourishing properties of a moisturiser with a skin-prepping balm. Plus, this powder-pink primer is affordably priced at just £18 for a large 50ml tube, which should last a long time since it only takes a pea-sized blob to cover your entire face. Although, Glossier's £7 delivery cost is a frustrating addition. 

Buy now from Glossier


3. Benefit Porefessional Face Primer: Minimise pores for a flawless base

Price: £22 | Buy now from Boots

A primer can help to “fill in” large pores to give a smooth and even complexion, and the Benefit Porefessional Face Primer is best in class. The silicone-based primer is enriched with a blend of vitamins which provides a protective barrier from the pollutants that can damage our skin. It’s silky, balm-like texture works hard to smooth pores, wrinkles and imperfections, while locking your makeup into place.

Similar to Glossier’s hydrating primer, the Porefessional Face Primer can be applied before and after your makeup to perfect your base and touch-up on the go. Simply pat the primer over your makeup on any problem areas and it’ll soak up oil and reduce the appearance of pores to leave a velvety finish. Our only bugbears: it’s not compatible with acne-prone skin since it’s been known to clog pores and if too much is used the product can “ball up” on the skin. Not a good look. 

Buy now from Boots


4. Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow Primer: For a glowing, luminous complexion

Price: £15 (15ml), £40 (40ml) | Buy now from Charlotte Tilbury

Calling all glow-getters! Apply the Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow Primer for luminous skin that beams through your makeup. The illuminating primer uses pearlescent particles to reflect light and draw attention away from wrinkles and imperfections to give a radiant and youthful complexion.

Our thoughts? Dull, tired skin will drink up this creamy primer and look brighter and fresher in the process; wear it solo for a healthy glow or underneath your choice of foundation for added glamour. Our favourite way to wear the primer is paired with a lightweight foundation, making sure to focus the product on the top of the cheekbones for a natural highlight. It’s also great for chucking in your handbag since Wonderglow can be applied over the top of your makeup to perk up your look before a night out.

Buy now from Charlotte Tilbury


5. Laura Mercier Foundation Primer: Balance combination skin

Price: £30.50 (50ml) | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

Primers for combination skin need to work twice as hard since they’ve got to moisturise dry skin without making oily patches look slicker. Luckily, a brand that’s renowned for enhancing our natural beauty has delivered a primer that’s up for the job. The gel-texture primer is vitamin-rich and designed to extend the wear of makeup, rebalance the complexion and protect your skin from the environment. It’s water-based which hydrates the skin and calms oilier areas and has been formulated to provide a natural coverage that makes your skin look like skin. The results? A balanced base that creates the perfect canvas for your makeup. For an added treat, keep the primer in the fridge to calm puffy and tired skin in the morning.

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners


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