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 other products, so look for aloe vera, water, and soothing botanicals in the ingredients list.
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.
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.
A good primer will set you back a few quid though, but we've got our eye on the best Net a Porter deals, best Black Friday makeup deals, best Black Friday Amazon deals and best Black Friday beauty deals to save you some money.
With the holiday season approaching, there's also going to be a number of limited edition beauty releases so it's worth taking a look at our edit of the best Christmas makeup gift sets for inspiration. A holy grail primer is something that'd find its way onto our Christmas gifts for her or Secret Santa gift ideas edit if you've got a beauty guru in your life. (You also never know what you're going to get in our gallery of the beauty advent calendars.)
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 lookfantastic | £26.50
2. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, £33.99
3. Illamasqua Hydra Veil Primer, £34
Illamasqua is quickly becoming a favourite with beauty gurus and with good reason. This clear vegan-friendly primer is infused with vitamin C, B3 and is designed to hydrate - nourishing your skin as it keeps your face of the day looking flawless.
Perfect for: Dry, dull skin
Available at Illamasqua | £34
4. Paula's Choice Resist Smoothing Primer Serum, £24
This primer by Paula's Choice is a total triple threat and is designed to provide sun protection, rejuvenate skin and - you know - work as a primer. Drawing on plant-based ingredients, it's a great lightweight formula with SPF30 and a great shout if you hate having too much product on your face.
Perfect for: All skin types, especially for those who spend a lot of time outdoors
Available at lookfantastic | £24
8. Bare Minerals Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer, £24.00
9. Revlon Photo Ready Perfecting Primer, £7.10
10. Cover FX Anti-Ageing Primer, £29
11. Giorgio Armani Light Master Primer, £34.20
12. 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
13. 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
14. 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
15. 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
16. 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.
Perfect for: skin in need of smoothing and evening out.