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Best hydrating primer 2024: For glowy makeup on dry skin

Want long-lasting, illuminating makeup? Blur imperfections and keep your makeup looking fresh with the best hydrating primers for dry skin

Those with dry skin can often struggle to keep their foundation from becoming cakey and flakey, but the best hydrating primers for dry skin can help overcome these woes, delivering a much-needed moisture boost while keeping your makeup in place. A good hydrating primer will also plump your skin, resulting in an all-day glowy finish – without making your skin oily.

However, the reasons for dry skin vary and, as such, where one hydrating primer will work wonders for one person, that same formula might not address your issues at all. This is especially true if your skincare routine already includes an array of skin-loving ingredients; too much of one ingredient could cause more harm than good.

So, to help you make an informed choice, we’ve been busy testing a wide range of hydrating primers, with this roundup featuring the very best you can buy. Whether you have sensitive, ageing or dry skin, read on to discover a bit more about how you choose the best primer for your skin type, plus our top picks.

Best hydrating primer for dry skin: At a glance

Best hydrating primerIllamasqua Hydra Veil Primer (~£34)Check price at LookFantastic
Best for long-lasting makeupMilk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer (~£35)Check price at Cult Beauty
Best affordable multitasking primerEmbryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (~£22)Check price at LookFantastic

How to choose the best hydrating primer for you

Do I need to use a primer?

Those who have been blessed with flawless, poreless skin that doesn’t become so oily that it fails to keep makeup in place, or so dry that foundation clings to dry patches, are unlikely to need a primer.

For the rest of us, however, using a primer will bring benefits. These include smoothing out imperfections and blocking oiliness while preventing dryness, thereby ensuring that your makeup stays put. In addition, the primers that feature on this list will deliver a much-needed boost of hydration to dry skin, leading to a glowing face of makeup that lasts all day without becoming greasy, flaking off or blocking pores.

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What type of formula should I opt for?

When it comes to finding the best hydrating primer, consistency and formulation for your particular skin type is key. This roundup includes a variety of primers; some are of a clear gel consistency that melts into the skin, while others are essentially priming moisturisers.

For dry skin, you need to look for humectants, occlusives and emollients, which draw moisture into the skin and keep it there. You’ll find many a primer will include hyaluronic acid for delivery of hydration, but there are other moisture-boosting ingredients to look out for, too. For example, the Embryolisse Lait-Creme uses emollients such as stearic acid to soften and smooth the skin, while the Illamasqua Hydra Veil primarily uses the humectant glycerin for deeper hydration.

Also, pay attention to the base ingredient of your primer, which will typically be either water, oil or silicone. This is because, if your foundation is water-based and your primer is not (or vice versa), the foundation could separate on your skin, making your makeup look worse than it would without a primer. Essentially, the bases of both products need to match, so check the ingredients of your favourite foundation before you purchase a primer to ensure both will work together.

In most cases, the base of a product will be the first ingredient listed. However, if it’s a liquid formula, with the first ingredient listed as water but followed by a silicone (for instance, an ingredient that ends in “-methicone”, “-siloxane” or “-cone”), it indicates that the foundation is silicone-based.

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And what about sun protection?

Something to bear in mind when choosing a primer is how it works with your SPF, which should be a key part of everyone’s skincare routine. If you don’t already use sun protection daily, you’re leaving your skin vulnerable to sun damage, which is the leading cause of irreversible premature ageing, fine lines and wrinkles. Take a look at our roundup of the best facial sunscreens for our top recommendations to protect your skin.

While there might be some formulations that include SPF protection, the majority of primers come without. So, in terms of how you would layer the two products, apply sunscreen first and then primer over the top, once the sunscreen has had a few minutes to sink in. If the primer comes in the form of a moisturiser, apply it before sun protection to allow it to sink into your skin properly.

How we test hydrating primers

We start our testing process by scanning the ingredients list of a product, considering the base ingredient while looking for any potential irritants such as perfume, plus those that deliver additional skincare benefits; hyaluronic acid and glycerin are commonly included for hydration.

As we explained earlier, it’s important that the base ingredient in a primer and foundation match. If they don’t, it could cause makeup to go on patchy. Having established this, we apply the primer to the face, taking note of how it feels on the skin – a formula that feels tacky or takes some time to sink into the skin is undesirable. We’re looking for a primer that blurs the pores without feeling heavy or drying.

Of course, we also need to evaluate how a primer performs as a base for any makeup, which we do through our 16-hour wear test. We take note of how makeup looks throughout the day, paying close attention to any oiliness or shininess that appears over time – or, if any dry patches start to show. Essentially, we’re looking for a hydrating primer that locks in moisture and keeps your makeup looking as close to the initial application as possible.

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The best hydrating primers you can buy in 2024

1. Illamasqua Hydra Veil Primer: Best hydrating primer

Price when reviewed: £34 (30ml) | Check price at LookFantastic

Primers that offer intense hydration that lasts all day without causing your makeup to slip are difficult to find. However, Illamasqua has pulled it out of the bag with Hydra Veil. Formulated with two humectants – glycerin and sodium hyaluronate – alongside skin-brightening niacinamide, it’s a hybrid product, delivering both ultra-hydrating skincare and a primer that forms a protective barrier between the skin and environmental pollutants. If you have super-dry skin, the Hydra Veil primer is sure to deliver an extra boost of hydration on top of your moisturiser.

Arriving in a sleek-looking black pot with a small application spoon, you’ll be able to scoop out the formula without contaminating the pot with any bacteria that might be on your fingers. While on initial inspection the product looks very jelly-like, it’s easily massaged into the skin, without leaving any tacky feeling. A little goes a long way, too, so you’ll need only a pea-sized amount to cover your entire face.

Following application, makeup glided on smoothly and lasted flawlessly throughout the day, making this primer a game-changer for use in colder climates where skin can dry out easily.

Key details – Formula type: Gel; Base ingredient: Water; Hydrating ingredients: Glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, niacinamide

Check price at LookFantastic

2. Transformulas Flawless PhotoGlow SPF30+: Best primer with sun protection

Price when reviewed: £76 (50ml) | Check price at Amazon

Those looking to invest in a primer that delivers multiple benefits will definitely want to consider the Transformulas Flawless PhotoGlow moisturiser. Not only does it come with SPF30+ for sun protection, it delivers hydration deep into the skin while also providing a glowy base for your makeup – rolling what could be a three-step makeup prep routine into one simple application.

Transformulas’ innovative drone delivery system uses X50 anti-ageing technology, which encapsulates active ingredients and delivers them to specific cells to stimulate the production of collagen deep within the skin. Essentially, it gives your skin-cell turnover a boost. In addition, the combination of peptides, vitamins and actives will immediately leave skin glowing on first application, with continued use as a daily moisturiser bringing improvements to the skin over time. It’s no wonder that so many people rave about seeing more youthful, glowing skin after just a few weeks of use.

Key details – Formula type: Moisturiser; Base ingredient: Silicone; Hydrating ingredients: Squalane, LPD multi-vitamin A, C, D, F

3. Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer: Best primer for long-lasting makeup

Price when reviewed: £35 (45ml) | Check price at Cult Beautybest hydrating primer Milk Makeup Hydro Grip (1)

This comforting gel primer from Milk is formulated with aloe water, cherry blossom, hyaluronic acid and B vitamins – an ideal cocktail of ingredients for thirsty skin. It looks green in the bottle but is more or less clear when pumped onto the skin and it does a brilliant job of both locking in hydration and keeping makeup in place all day.

It’s a little tacky on application but it doesn’t take long for the product to fully sink in. It’s also one of the pricier primers on our list, but a little goes a long way and when we say the Hydro Grip primer holds makeup in place all day, we mean it survived everything from a gym workout to an intense rain shower without budging.

It somehow manages to strike the perfect balance between being hydrating and smoothing and mopping up oily patches, too, making this a great product for combination skin.

Key details – Formula type: Gel; Base ingredient: Water; Hydrating ingredients: Aloe water, cherry blossom, hyaluronic acid

Check price at Cult Beauty

4. XX Revolution Hydra FiXX hydrating primer: Best budget hydrating primer

Price when reviewed: £12 (30ml) | Check price at Boots

Revolution products have a reputation for being a bit hit or miss, but this primer definitely sits in the “hit” category. Formulated with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, it draws moisture deeper into the skin, building a glowy, hydrated base on which you can apply your makeup. It’s great for people whose skin is very dry since it adds a further layer of hydration on top of a moisturiser.

The only downside to this product is that it’s slightly tacky, which means you’ll need to wait for a few minutes to let the product dry before applying your makeup. However, once it’s set in place, pores will be less visible, the skin will be more hydrated and your makeup will be better prepped to last the day.

At the price, it offers superb value, and since it’s a dedicated primer, it should more effectively keep oiliness at bay while blurring pores better than the moisturiser-primer hybrids in this roundup.

Key details – Formula type: Gel; Base ingredient: Water, Hydrating ingredients: Glycerin, sodium hyaluronate

Check price at Boots

5. Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré: Best affordable multitasking primer

Price when reviewed: £22 (75ml) | Check price at LookFantasticbest hydrating primer Embryolisse Lait-Creme

The Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré is a lightweight hydrating cream that also beautifully primes the skin for makeup. It acts as a moisturiser, leave-on mask and primer, which leaves your skin feeling supple, smooth and hydrated. So, if you’re on the hunt for a boost of moisture in a product that can be used during the day beneath makeup and overnight for deep hydration, this is one to consider. And, since the tube contains 75ml of product, Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré delivers fantastic value for money.

As a moisturiser, it accelerates skin renewal, feeding the skin with the nutrients it needs to thrive, including essential fatty acids and vitamins. As a lightweight primer, it blurs pores, allowing for smooth and even makeup application, giving your finished face a healthy-looking glow.

Those with sensitive skin should note that this product is perfumed, which could cause irritation. It’s not unpleasant smelling, however if you’re prone to breakouts then you might want to consider an alternative. For those who would like to try the product before investing in a full-sized tube, Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré is also available in a 15ml or 30ml version.

Key details – Formula type: Moisturiser; Base ingredient: Oil, Hydrating ingredients: Stearic acid, paraffinum liquidum, aloe vera

6. Super Facialist Skin Perfecting Primer: Best colour-correcting primer

Price when reviewed: £17 (30ml) |Check price at Bootsbest hydrating primer Super Facialist Skin Perfecting Primer

Unlike the other primers we tested, this version from Super Facialist contains colour-correcting pigments to help blur imperfections and improve skin tone, helping to create the ideal foundation for your base of choice.

Comfort and hydration certainly stand out: hyaluronic acid is there to lock in moisture, cica helps to soothe and calm inflamed patches and niacinamide helps to control oil and refine the skin’s texture. However, it’s the clever (and rather mesmerising) colour-correcting technology that really sets this primer apart, which includes green to tone down redness, lavender to counteract sallowness and peach to brighten.

We loved the semi-sheer texture, which feels light and soothing on the skin. The product absorbs quickly, works well on top of SPF without piling and we saw a marked improvement in skin redness after use. It’s also incredibly versatile; since it does such a great job of evening out the skin tone, it can be worn with or without makeup.

Key details – Formula type: Gel-cream Base ingredient: Water, Hydrating ingredients: Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, cica, aloe vera

7. Katherine Daniels Rehydrating Concentrate: Best primer for barrier repair

Price when reviewed: £62 (45ml) | Check price at Katherine Daniels

It can often be a risk to move away from big-name brands, especially when it comes to high-end skincare. However, there’s no way you’ll regret investing in the Katherine Daniels Rehydrating Concentrate, especially if you’ve been struggling with dry skin for some time.

Dryness is one of the most common signs of a damaged skin barrier, so using a hydrating serum such as this one as a protective barrier between your skin and makeup will help to ease dryness and promote healthy skin long-term.

The serum itself has a water-like consistency and is applied directly onto the skin using a dropper. On gently rubbing in, the serum has an instant cooling and moisturising effect; let it sink in for a few seconds and your skin will be smooth and primed, ready for makeup.
Alongside the classic humectant glycerin, the formula also includes antioxidant-rich shea butter, skin-balancing jojoba seed oil and urea – a key ingredient found in hydrating skincare – for keeping skin plump, hydrated and elastic. It’s also known to improve and regulate the epidermal structure and function, which is essential to keeping your skin in check.

Key details – Formula type: Serum; Base ingredient: Water, Hydrating ingredients: Glycerin, urea, shea butter, jojoba seed oil

Check price at Katherine Daniels

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