The reason I started this blog was mainly because I get asked a lot of the same questions over and over. After repeating myself for about 7 years I thought maybe I should write all this information I have (and still learn) down and I could just point people here when I'm asked "what's the best foundation?" for the zillionth time. The second most asked question I get is "what is the best mascara?" (see previous post) and a very close third is always about primers. I don't think people really understand primers and I think there are just as many people using them when they don't really need to as well as plenty of people not using them when it would probably help them because they're not quite sure what a primer is. So I've written everything I think you need to know about primers but, as always, if you have any other questions just post them in the comments section and I will happily answer for you.

My favourite primers

1. Primers seem to be a step that a lot of us skip, should we be using them daily? What do they do?
I tend to use primers when im working to give myself as much help as possible to keep the makeup looking fresh and long lasting under hot lights and sweaty conditions. Generally for day to day use it's not something everyone must have or need, it really depends on your skin type; if you have typically normal skin that holds makeup well then no, you probably don't need one. However, if you have dry or oily skin, or you plan to be out for a very long day or evening, it's another step that will work to make your makeup look better and last longer. Most of us try to get up and out to work as fast as we can in the morning and that extra step can be a pain, so it can be a good thing to invest in a base that does more than one thing. A good tinted BB cream or moisturiser with a high SPF mixed with a primer, or even used as a primer can be all you need.

2. Do different skin types need different primers?
The idea is to find one that works for you, someone with dry skin would want to find a more hydrating one than someone who gets shiny throughout the day. Someone who has great skin and doesn't want any coverage but gets shiny, a primer used alone is an excellent alternative to powdering throughout the day.

3. Are there any ingredients that we should be searching for in primers when looking to purchase?
It's always a good idea to check product ingredients for things that you know you react to or are allergic too, like lanolin for example. If you have oily skin it's a good idea to choose oil free products (and change your moisturiser). SPF is always an important factor in any item you're applying to your face and the higher the better.

4. How should we be applying them?

You really can just apply primer to the areas you feel you would benefit, most typically that would be the shiny t-zone area and the chin. Apply a small amount and let it sink in before applying the rest of your makeup (a good tip for all makeup bases).

5. What are my top primer picks?

Well I have a few that treat various needs. My favourites are MAC Face Protect protection Visage SPF 50, Estee Lauder Matte Perfecting Primer (for oily skin) and Laura Mercier have different types which are all great; hydrating, regular and oil free. Recently the lines between skincare and makeup science have blurred with fantastic new products emerging like BB or CC creams and perfecting creams that don't have the name primer but work fantastic as one whilst doing a whole heap of other great things for the skin. Some for example are Sisley Radiant Lift which is an excellent base for over 30s or whenever dullness from ageing has started to take effect. Sisley Instant Perfect (see my full review) for more mature skin works great to blur the lines and stops makeup caking in the cracks. And Estee Lauder have just brought out a new product Daywear Base SPF 50 thats reduces ageing, evens skin tone and also works wonderful as a primer. 

Always remember that like most makeup some products work differently on different people so try a few and see what works great for you. Ask at the makeup counters to take a sample home with you and try it out for a few days, if you don't notice much difference right away try another one. This is also a really good tip for foundation shopping, and take a few little pots with you in case they have run out of samples at the counter.


  1. That is very useful info. I've just bought a primer because I commented to the make up artist that I wanted the make up to last all day. I couldn't really tell the difference but maybe I put my foundation on too quickly afterwards. I will try again, thank you!

  2. If you don't notice a difference don't bother with it, some are very hit and miss. Good luck!

  3. I've tried budget and high end primers and my favourite is Nivea's Daily Essentials primer. Great finish, long lasting, you can apply product on top of it almost immediately and it doesn't bead on the skin like some primers do.

  4. Thanks for sharing Alison, I'll check it out

  5. Samuel Novák13 July 2013 at 12:11

    Thank you for a great article, I still have a question though. If I have a water based foundation (Vitalumiere Aqua) can I mix it with a water based primer if I only need a part of the coverage and want it to spread more easily (using fingers)? Thanks.

  6. Hi Samuel, to get a primer's full effect apply it to the areas you want it to work first and fully let it soak in, then apply your foundation on top. If you mix a primer with the VA it may not work as it's supposed to. If you find VA too much coverage maybe switch to a BB cream or you can sheer it out with a BB cream like you suggest above. Hope that helps.


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