Once you've found the one, you won't look back...
Primers are divisive - some rely on their smoothing, blurring action daily, others think they’re just another unnecessary step in their beauty routine. If you fall into the latter camp, reconsider; the right primer can really impact the finish of your make-up by laying down a canvas that’ll make everything else sit uniformly for longer - and add an all-important soft focus finish to skin.
The world's most beloved primers are arguably Benefit's Porefessional and Smashbox's Photo Finish primers; loved by MUAs and beauty aficionados alike, both have a silicone-based formula that glides over the skin, minimising uneven texture and delivering a softly matte finish. Proceed with caution, however - silicone can be a nightmare for acne prone skin when layered with too many ingredients.
To find the best one for your skin's needs, try Powder's genius primer quiz to get a personalised recommendation in seconds.
If dryness is your issue, then Giorgio Armani's Light Master primer and Becca's illuminating Backlight primer are perfect for giving luminosity and suppleness on their own, or under foundation. For any sallowness, dark cirlces, or red areas, a colour-correcting number like Stila's will counteract any pigmentation that shouldn't be there.
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Once skin is primed, you may need less foundation then you think, though if you need recommendations to help your skin out, try looking through our best foundations for oily skin feature, or grab one of these foundations for dry skin.
These primers pretty much act like an instant filter for the skin, with the ability to colour correct, mattify, blur pores and nourish the skin, so that whatever is laid down next can work to the best of its ability.
1. Benefit POREfessional Primer, £26.50
Benefit's POREfessional is clever, with the oil-free creamy balm smoothing on and instantly minimising the appearance of pores - like magic. It makes for a great base for foundation, but can also be worn alone if you just want a little extra smoothness. Extra bonus: the handy tube can be popped in the bag for touch-ups throughout the day.
Best for: All skin types, particularly oily
Available at Amazon | £26.50
2. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, £33.99
6. Bare Minerals Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer, £24.00
7. Revlon Photo Ready Perfecting Primer, £7.10
8. Cover FX Anti-Ageing Primer, £29
9. Giorgio Armani Light Master Primer, £34.20
10. Nude by Nature Primer, £22
Containing vitamin C-rich kakadu plum and a host of antioxidants including vitamins A and E, this primer is half radiance-imparting base, part skincare. Ideal if you have reactive or sensitised skin.
Perfect for: All skin types, though especially good on sensitive skins
Available at ASOS | £22.00
11. Too Faced "Hangover" Face Primer, £27
Infused with coconut to hydrate, probiotic-derived ingredients to soothe a ruffled surface and a blend of humectants, this primer doesn't just quench thirsty skin the morning after a late night, it also supercharges it thanks to the whammy of skincare.
Perfect for: All skin types - especially effective after a big night out!
Available at Debenhams | £27.00
12. Hourglass No 28 Primer Serum, £24
This blend of lipid-rich plant extracts, essential oils and vitamins is on the money if your skin is parched and your foundation is prone to settling into your wrinkles. You can also add a drop to your foundation if you find the formula too drying.
Perfect for: dry skin
Available at John Lewis | £24.00
13. Becca Backlight Priming Filter, £32
This is the big guns if you need your glow back, stat. Apply a thin layer under foundation to mimic the look of healthy skin on days when you look exhausted - the pearls suspended in the primer will reflect light and make skin look luminous instantly.
Perfect for: All skin types, though it is magic on dull, dehydrated skin
Available at Cult Beauty | £32
14. Stila One Step Correct Colour Corrector
Besides having one of the coolest swirly bottles we've ever seen, Stila's primer manages to seamlessly reduce any unwanted colouring that's inflicting your skin, leaving it even and unbelievably soft.