I wrote my original ‘Top ten primers‘ post back in 2010, a few years after my primer obsession began. Finding an excellent primer was life-altering for me because for the very first time my makeup actually lasted all day. I’ve always had strange skin, products don’t last long on me at all – I put blush on and an hour later, it’s completely gone. For a long time I thought there was nothing I could do about it – until I found a primer that actually made my makeup (and most happily my blush) last a whole day. I think I bought every primer on the market for the next few years after that. I have owned and used so many different primers I am ashamed to put a number on it.
This list is a long overdue update of my personal choices for the top ten primers – each one is unique, they all have their advantages, and they are all excellent. Which primer I choose is determined by the condition of my skin that day, my skin tone, and the foundation I am going to use. (A side note – I was astounded by the price increases when I updated them!)
My top ten list is not in any particular order – these are my top favorites, but they are all equal in terms of play time they get.
1. Kevyn Aucoin The Primed Skin Developer ($68)
The earlier version, called The Sensual Skin Primer, was actually the primer that began my obsession. I used it one day and could not believe how vibrant and fresh my makeup was 10 hours later. The new version is even better – I use the Normal to Oily one. The texture has slip but it doesn’t feel extremely silicone heavy. It dries quickly to a satin finish. It keeps makeup on like no other. There are some drawbacks, though – it is an expensive item, so expensive that it hurts to buy it. I tend to use this on special occasions only to try to make it last as long as possible. And while I love the hygienic pump bottle, it drives me crazy that I never know how much I have left. Regardless, I will never be without a bottle – and a back up.
2. Grand Central Beauty S.M.A.R.T. Skin Perfecting SERUM+PRIMER ($68)
I like to say that the only time I have ever been wrong was that one time I thought I made a mistake. Unfortunately, in reality I have been wrong on a few more occasions than that…and I was completely wrong about the S.M.A.R.T. Skin Perfecting SERUM+PRIMER. While it has a slew of cool ingredients, including squalane from brazilian sugar cane, apple, watermelon, lentil, rice and soybean protein, I initially thought it worked better as a serum than a primer…totally incorrect. This is a kick ass primer. It keeps makeup looking totally perfect for 12 hours. Every time I use it I think, “How could I have been so wrong??”
3. Reviva Labs Makeup Primer ($19.50) This is absolutely one of my favorite primers of all time. It has silicone, but it isn’t super thick. I find that it works best if I apply the primer and then let it sit for about three minutes. It has a slightly wet texture at first that will collide with your concealer and foundation application. If you wait a few minutes it dries down to a beautiful finish that helps concealer and foundation apply and wear perfectly. It does everything a primer should do: makes skin super smooth, allows even application of concealer and foundation, and increases longevity.
4. Pur Minerals Colour Correcting Foundation Primer in Green ($31):
This is the primer I reach for when I’m broken out. The green color balances out redness from acne, broken capillaries, and rosacea. It doesn’t make me look like an alien – the green transforms into a beautiful, even skin tone color. Less is more with this primer. You don’t need much to neutralize redness and create a perfect canvas for foundation.
5. OCC Skin Primer ($27.50):This is a really cool primer. Not only is it great for the face, but you can also use it as a lid primer for mineral eyeshadows. It’s unlike most primers. You HAVE to shake the bottle before squeezing some out – and then be careful when you do, because it has a thin, liquid consistency. Once applied, wait until it dries because it applies quite wet, but does dry down to a super smooth, satiny finish. And boy does makeup stick to this stuff!
6. Paul and Joe Protective Foundation Primer ($32)
This is, by far, the strangest primer I have ever used. And I love it. It has an SPF of 30. It’s also super watery – it must be properly shaken before squeezing the product out. It has a very thin consistency that dries down to a satiny finish. It also has super fine, really tiny microshimmers in it, which gives skin the best natural looking glow. The primer looks really yellow, but it goes on colorless – aside from the glow. Makeup lasts and lasts with this primer. I find that I reach for it when I am using very matte, oil-inhibiting foundations like Clarins Truly Matte Foundation because the microshimmers counteract the flatness.
7. Cle de Peau Correcting Cream Veil ($76)
I have a love-hate relationship with Cle de Peau. Some products I adore and will buy despite the exorbitant price tag. Other products I can’t stand, and I get offended at the price of items that do absolutely nothing for you. This primer, however, is well worth the price. At the same time, I get the sample sizes at the counter when I can…they are great for travel and give several weeks of use. This primer is a thick, creamy lotion. You don’t need a lot of it – a little goes a very long way. In fact, if you use too much you will get a distinctly white cast to your skin. Use the right amount and it sinks into your skin nicely, leaving no white or greyish cast. Skin is super smooth, lines are filled in, and makeup goes on beautifully and lasts all day. Pores look smaller and it lessens oil production throughout the day. Get a sample at the counter before investing, but I’ll bet once you try it, you’ll want the full size version. I love this under cream foundation.
8. IT Cosmetics Feel the Moment Anti-Aging Primer Serum ($38)
The Feel the Moment Anti-Aging Primer Serum is a thick, super hydrating primer that makes skin baby smooth. Ingredients include caviar extract, hydrolyzed collagen, peptides, hyaluronic acid, vitamins A, E, and C, argan and jojoba oils, and avocado. The serum is in glass jar with a dropper, and two drops is more than enough to prime and hydrate. It goes on slightly tacky then dries down to create a perfect canvas for makeup. This is just what I need for perfect makeup when I have dry skin. I have gone through two bottles of this and am halfway through my third!
9. Algenist Pore Corrector Anti-Aging Primer ($42)
This primer comes in an opaque airless pump which keeps the product integrity and effectiveness safe and sound. It does everything a great primer should do – it reduces the look of pores, creates a satin finish for easy makeup application, and it keeps that makeup in place and reduces fading throughout the day.
Ingredients include Alguronic Acid, which ramps up the anti-aging quotient. I am thrilled that over time it actually improves my skin – but I am even more thrilled with the immediate results of perfectly primed skin. And, of course, not looking like a sad clown with melted makeup at the end of the day is a huge plus!! The Pore Corrector Anti-Aging Primer has a beautifully lightweight texture that doesn’t feel heavy on the skin. While liquidy, it dries quickly and truly makes that beautiful canvas you need to happily play with all the rest of your cosmetics art supplies.
10. Fyrinnae Pixie Epoxy ($7) So this is a bit of a cheat…it’s not a face primer, but it is such a fantastic eye primer I had to put it on the list. If you like pigment eyeshadows, you need this. If you have oily lids, you need this. Heck, it’s only seven bucks…try it out! A tiny dab makes eyeshadow not only cling to your lids for dear life, it also brings out a vibrancy you never knew the eyeshadow had in the first place. I think of my Pixie Epoxy as liquid gold.
The biggest difference I notice between my original list from five years ago and the one I have now (beside the price increases!) is the addition of primer/serums. Primers don’t just prime anymore, they also treat the skin. Most people probably only need or want one, maybe two different primers. I happen to be just a *little* obsessive about makeup, so my collection is extreme – but if you are looking for a primer, I am sure you can find something perfect for your needs on this list.
Ok ladies, what is your favorite primer? Is there another amazing primer out there that I just have to try?? There’s always room for one more! – Lisa