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10 Best Primers for a Flawless Makeup Look

Consider face primer your secret weapon for longer-lasting makeup and a smooth complexion.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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The key to flawless makeup

We’ve all been there: A few hours after putting on a face full of makeup, we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror and discover our formally flawless face is flaky, cakey, and smeared. It’s certainly less than ideal. After all, if you’ve gone to the trouble of learning how to apply foundation, the last thing you want is for it to look cakey or to slide right off your skin. That’s where primer comes in. The best primer can seriously change your makeup game.

Applying this miracle product before you put on one of the best foundations and best concealers can ensure your makeup glides on smoothly and stays put. “Primer can help even out the texture of your skin, control oil or dryness, and help makeup grip to the skin so it lasts all day,” says Jamie Greenberg, a Los Angeles–based celebrity makeup artist. Sounds pretty great, right?

You can wear primer every day under your makeup, but you may not need to. “I do not think a traditional primer is necessary for everyday use. If your skin is hydrated, exfoliated, and your products are packed with nourishing, skin-loving ingredients, then you most likely will not need one because your products will sit well on the skin,” says Stevie Rose, a professional makeup artist and the director of education for beauty brand Saie. “With that said, I definitely do recommend a primer for special occasions where you have more time to spend on your routine and you need your makeup to last longer.”

Tips for applying primer

Before you can apply primer, you need to find the best primer for your skin. “Look for one that addresses your skin issues,” says Beck Wainner, a celebrity makeup artist in Nashville. “If you’re oily in the T–zone, you may look for a mattifying primer. Or there are options that can address large pores, textured skin, and redness.”

So, what’s the best way to apply it? You’ll want to smooth primer onto your skin after your normal skin care routine but before you apply face makeup,” says Manuel Espinoza, a makeup artist with StyleSeat, a website for booking a local makeup artist. You need about a dime-sized amount for your entire face and can either use your fingers or a makeup sponge to spread it.

Armed with that info, you’re now ready for the fun part: shopping. Whether you like to buy products one at a time or make a big list for savings events (we’re looking at you, spring Sephora sale), a primer is definitely something worth adding to your cart. We’ve done the hard work for you, consulting with top makeup artists and sorting through hundreds of products to find the ones with lots of five-star ratings and amazing user reviews. Scroll through to check out the best primers on the market.

The best primer for you

Best overall: Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Hydrating Makeup Primer

Best multitasker: MAC Prep and Prime Fix+ Primer and Setting Spray

Best value: Elf Hydrating Face Primer

Best for blurring pores: Rare Beauty Pore Diffusing Primer

Best for oily skin: It Cosmetics Your Skin but Better Makeup Primer+

Best for staying power: Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer

Best lightweight formula: Tatcha the Liquid Silk Canvas Featherweight Protective Primer

Best dewy finish: Saie Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter

Best matte finish: Smashbox Photo Finish Control Mattifying Face Primer

Best for dry skin: Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Hydrating

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Best overall

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Hydrating Makeup Primer

Who doesn’t want makeup tips from professionals? Well, Milk Makeup’s Hydro Grip primer was recommended to us by multiple makeup artists. “It’s one of my absolute favorites,” says Wainner. “It helps your skin look smoother while gripping the makeup you put on for a long-wear finish.” The gel formula goes on smoothly and contains hyaluronic acid to infuse moisture into the skin.


  • Long-lasting finish
  • Adds moisture
  • Smooth, gel formula


  • Slightly sticky feel until it dries

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Best multitasker

MAC Prep and Prime Fix+ Primer and Setting Spray

You’ve got to love a two-in-one product. Spritz on MAC’s Prep and Prime Fix+ before applying your makeup to prime skin. Then, once you finish putting the rest of your products on, give your face another mist to set your makeup.

“I love this for hot days,” says Sara Lau, a makeup artist in Vancouver, Canada. The reason: It helps keep your makeup pristine, even if you sweat. Just make sure you apply sweatproof makeup on top of it. Here’s another trick: To apply spray formulas, hold the bottle a foot away from your face and spritz evenly.


  • Can be used as a primer and setting spray
  • Lightweight


  • Spray formulas sometimes take a bit longer to dry

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Best for blurring pores

Rare Beauty Pore Diffusing Primer

This gel formula from Selena Gomez’s beauty line is lightweight enough that it doesn’t feel heavy when it goes on but substantial enough to make large pores invisible. “It’s hydrating and works to blur the signs of pores and fine lines,” says Espinoza, who counts this product as one of his favorites. “It also includes key ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, green tea extract, and vitamin E, that all work to soothe, hydrate, and protect your skin.”

Bonus tip: To keep your complexion looking flawless, dust your face with one of the best setting powders after you finish applying your foundation and concealer.


  • Diminishes the appearance of pores
  • Hydrating formula


  • The pump only dispenses a little at a time, so you need multiple pumps

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Best value

Elf Hydrating Face Primer

Great makeup doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. From moisturizers with SPF to the best makeup brushes, there are plenty of affordable products out there—and the same is true when it comes to finding the best primer. This hydrating option from Elf has over 12,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. Reviewer Lacy P. says she likes that “when you apply your foundation over it, you can see how much smoother [your skin] is.” As an added bonus, the primer contains vitamins A, C, and E to improve your skin.


  • Affordable
  • Hydrating


  • Takes a few minutes to completely dry on your skin

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Best for oily skin

It Cosmetics Your Skin but Better Makeup Primer+

If your skin produces a lot of oil, you have probably spent lots of time looking for things like the best foundations for oily skin and other products to combat grease. Since adding more oil is a no-go, this oil-free primer from It Cosmetics is an ideal pick. But just because it’s oil free doesn’t mean it won’t hydrate your skin—which is a good thing. See, when your skin is oily and you deprive it of moisture, your oil glands will produce even more oil to make up for it.

With nearly 300 five-star reviews on Sephora, you really can’t go wrong with this one. One oily-skinned reviewer even noted that it helped blur her acne scars.


  • Oil free
  • Contains glycerin to moisturize


  • On the pricier side

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Best for staying power

Dior Backstage Face and Body Primer

Both professionals and reviewers love Dior’s Backstage primer, which can also be used on your body to smooth the look of pores and wrinkles. “It is used backstage at fashion shows because it’s been tried and tested to keep makeup looking good for long periods of time and in stressful environments,” says Lau. “It also keeps your skin looking smooth, blurred, hydrated, and natural.”

Most of the five-star reviewers praise how long it makes their makeup last, one saying that her makeup doesn’t “roll off” when she uses it. And as long as you know how to apply concealer, you won’t have to worry about blemishes and dark circles becoming visible during the day.


  • Helps makeup last much longer
  • Blurs imperfections


  • Small bottle spout can be frustrating

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Best lightweight formula

Tatcha the Liquid Silk Canvas Featherweight Protective Primer

“This liquid primer is weightless,” says Espinoza. “But that’s not all. It is made with a unique blend of botanical extracts that works to prevent breakouts and helps skin look luminous.” Made with silk powder, Tatcha’s Liquid Silk Canvas feels light and airy on the face. Best of all, Tatcha is a clean beauty brand, so you know the products are free of bad-for-you ingredients.


  • Feels light on your skin
  • Clean beauty brand


  • Expensive

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Best dewy finish

Saie Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter

“Personally, I prefer a more natural, radiant look, so I stay away from mattifying primers that over-absorb oil and dull the complexion,” says Rose. “So I always look for something that’s lightweight, hydrating, and that provides me with that glassy skin effect that I love so much.”

Saie’s Glowy Super Gel Highlighter is a great option—and can be used in many ways, so you really get a good bang for your buck. Made from 75 percent water, it goes on before your makeup to give you a dewy look and help products last longer. But you can also use it as a highlighter, dabbing it on your cheekbones to make them pop after applying the best blush for your skin tone.


  • Gives skin a dewy finish
  • Can also be used as a highlighter


  • Comes in two shades, which will work for most but not all

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Smashbox Photo Finish Control Mattifying Primer Ecomm Via Sephoravia merchant

Best matte finish

Smashbox Photo Finish Control Mattifying Face Primer

Whether your skin has a tendency to get greasy as the day goes on or you just prefer a more velvety complexion, Smashbox’s Photo Finish Control Mattifying Primer is definitely worth your consideration. It contains zinc and salicylic acid to mop up oil and has over 250 five-star reviews on Sephora. One reviewer even noted she wears it on days she doesn’t put on foundation to give her bare skin a matte look.

If you find even this doesn’t keep your face from getting greasy as the day goes on, consider switching to a moisturizer formulated for oily skin.


  • Gives skin a matte finish
  • Helps makeup last much longer


  • May be too mattifying for those with dryer skin

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Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Ecomm Via Sephoravia merchant

Best for dry skin

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Hydrating

Sure, Laura Mercier’s Pure Canvas Primer does all the things you want a primer to do—smooths skin, keeps makeup from wearing off, and evens out your skin texture—but it also hydrates the heck out of your complexion. It contains olive extract to lock in the hydration your skin already has and glycerin to infuse even more moisture into your face.

A ton of the nearly 900 five-star reviewers comment on how silky their dry skin felt after using it. Keep the well-hydrated look going by topping the primer with one of the best foundations for dry skin.


  • Moisturizes skin
  • Long-lasting finish


  • Slightly thicker formula can feel tacky until it dries

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  • Jamie Greenberg, celebrity makeup artist in Los Angeles
  • Stevie Rose, professional makeup artist and director of education for Saie
  • Beck Wainner, celebrity makeup artist in Nashville
  • Manuel Espinoza, makeup artist with StyleSeat
  • Sara Lau, makeup artist in Vancouver, Canada

Bethany Heitman
Bethany is a lifestyle writer and editor with over 15 years of experience and has worked for some of the largest media brands in the world. She covers beauty, fashion, tech, entertainment and more.