The best primers to boost skin texture and help makeup last all day

The best primers can smooth pores, blur lines, and even out skin tone—these are our favourite formulas

NYX, 3ina and Erborian primers on a lilac background
(Image credit: Future)

One thing nearly all the best primers have in common is that anyone with an interest in beauty has probably heard of them, even if they don't actually use one or know what they are for. Makeup primers aren't a new trend, but their popularity has been consistently growing for years along with our understanding of what they can do. So, naturally, brands have responded with a steady flow of new formulations for every area of our faces and every skin concern.

Are you a face primer fan looking for your next dream product? Or do you see them as an unnecessary extra product the beauty industry wants you to spend your hard-earned dough on. Perhaps you are just curious if primers really make a difference underneath the best foundation, or if they're the secret behind a flawless natural makeup look. Whatever your reason for being here, it's worth at least getting acquainted with the best primers to discover what these versatile products can do for smoothing lines, brightening complexions, plumping skin and more.

How to choose the best primers for you

Before you begin figuring out the best primer for your skin, you might be wondering if you really need to prime in the first place. 

The short answer is no. In as much as, you don't need any particular item of makeup (although some would argue the best mascara is non-negotiable) But if we're talking about wants rather than needs, and what you want is lovelier-looking skin and longer-lasting makeup, then priming could be for you.  

Yes it's an extra step in your routine, but effort-wise, learning how to use primer takes all of ten seconds and zero skill, the trickiest bit is picking one. There are as many different varieties of primer as there are faces to prime, but they generally fall into four categories:

  1. Traditional smoothing primers
    These gloss over lines, blur pores and give complexion makeup products extra staying power. Normal to combination skin types tend to get on best with these, although dryer skin can appreciate the plump sheen they impart.
  2. Oil control primers
    These tend to have similarly grippy bases to smoothing primers, but take things one step further by including absorbent and mattifying ingredients. Naturally, oily skin or anyone experiencing hot flushes will be drawn to these formulas.
  3. Illuminating primers
    Unsurprisingly, these add radiance with peach or rose-toned pigment and light-reflecting particles. This makes them a great choice for dull or dehydrated skin that lacks natural juiciness. Avoid anything too sparkly or cool-toned to keep things subtle.
  4. Colour correcting primers
    These come in an array of pastel tones to neutralize unwanted colours within the complexion. This nice pre-emptive strike means you may not need to learn how to apply concealer like an expert in order to cover things like rosacea, pigmentation, and dark circles. 

Decide which priming effects that most appeal to you, bearing in mind that many makeup primers are multitaskers and do a little bit from two or three of these categories. Narrowing down the work you'd like your primer to put in will help you select from our tried and tested expert-recommended buys. Ready? It's prime time!

Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

(Image credit: Benefit )

1. Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

The best primer overall

RRP: £29.50
Type: Smoothing
Targets: Pores, lines, makeup longevity
Reasons to buy
+Multipurpose benefits+Oil-free+Works well with makeup
Reasons to avoid

There's a reason this is the top prestige primer in the UK, it does a little bit of a lot of things and, unusually enough, does them all very well. The main aim is pore-blurring, which comes courtesy of a combination of flexible silicone polymers, but that velvety effect also smoothes over lines, scarring and any other texture issues very effectively. 

The texture is balm-like, but not at all greasy, and sets down to a smooth, plumping layer that makeup sits happily on top of without pilling. It also contains a Vitamin E derivative for gentle antioxidant action. Despite pointing out the fragrance as a potential downside, we couldn't actually detect it on testing so it must be ultra subtle and would be very unlikely to bother even the most staunch perfume refuseniks. 

NYX Professional Makeup The Marshmellow Smoothing Primer

(Image credit: NYX Professional)

2. NYX Professional Makeup The Marshmellow Smoothing Primer

The best budget primer

RRP: £15
Type: Smoothing, colour correcting
Targets: Brightening, blurring, makeup longevity
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Flattering rosy tone+Vegan formula
Reasons to avoid

NYX Professional makeup is many a Beauty Ed's go-to brand for brilliant, affordable colour makeup (we particularly rate the eyeliner pencils) So it's no great shock this budget-friendly primer is a winner too. 

It combines hydrating, pore-blurring and brightening powers in an ultra light, almost mousse-like texture that smoothes on the skin beautifully and plays well with skincare or makeup. The pink undertone is a clever move, as it flatters skin tones across the spectrum, without leaving a chalky cast on darker skin as some primers do. 

One thing: It smells like marshmallows. You might be into that or you might not. If you are, you will absolutely love this primer. If you aren't, there are so many other redeeming qualities here you should be able to forgive it anyway.  

Victoria Beckham by Augustinus Bader Cell Rejuvenating Priming Moisturizer in Golden

(Image credit: Victoria Beckham)

3. Victoria Beckham by Augustinus Bader Cell Rejuvenating Priming Moisturizer in Golden

The best luxury primer

RRP: £58
Type: Illuminating
Targets: Dullness, lines, skin texture
Reasons to buy
+Skincare and primer in one+Silicone-free+Flattering glow finish
Reasons to avoid

This primer caused quite a stir when it launched, for a few reasons. Firstly, it was the first complexion product from VB Beauty, exciting stuff. Secondly it is created in conjunction with skincare guru Professor Augustinus Bader, and thirdly it comes at the sort of price that makes you do a sharp intake of breath. 

The clue to the third point is the second one, Augustinus Bader makes one of the most hyped, priciest best face moisturizers on the market, and this skincare-makeup hybrid packs in the same skin rejuvenating TFC8 technology plus black tea ferment and a plant-based silicone alternative for smoothing. Skincare aside, this gives skin instant radiance thanks to a subtle golden pigment that also blurs over pores and texture issues. Like everything by Victoria Beckham Beauty the packaging is ultra-considered too, a chic recyclable glass pump that protects the actives inside and looks great on your dresser. 

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

(Image credit: Laura Mercier)

4. Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

Best primer for radiance

RRP: £32
Type: Illuminating
Targets: Radiance, skin hydration
Reasons to buy
+Skincare and cosmetic ingredients+Lovely texture+Subtle radiance
Reasons to avoid
-Not ultra-glowy

Laura Mercier's reformulated primer range, Pure Canvas, includes a few entirely new formulations, and some updates on classics. This is the latter. The previous formula was packed with illuminating particles. Version 2.0 is less shimmer, more hint of radiance, so it gives skin a lovely dewiness without looking sparkly or obviously highlighted.

 There are plenty of kind to skin ingredients in here too, like nourishing jojoba seed extract and antioxidant-packed porcelain flower. Wear it underneath makeup on dull days, then go back over makeup dot it on top of cheekbones for an extra glow hit.

Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

(Image credit: Urban Decay)

5. Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

Best primer for melt-proof makeup

RRP: £26
Type: Oil control, smoothing
Targets: Makeup longevity, smoothness
Reasons to buy
+Ultra effective+Fills skin texture
Reasons to avoid
-Cosmetic benefits only

Urban Decay are pioneers of hard-wearing makeup and of creating secret under-products that keep everything where it should be. This budge-proof belter, has that smooth, slippery texture and line-filling power that only silicones can provide. It applies nicely and doesn't misbehave under makeup, which truly last about three times longer than it would without All-Nighter underneath. 

You might not want to use this every day but it would be a godsend for parties, all-day events like weddings and evening meals on holiday when even the best foundation for oily skin usually melts off before you've finished your first pre-dinner margarita.

3ina Revitalizing Primer

(Image credit: 3INA)

6. 3ina Revitalizing Primer

Best primer for dry skin

RRP: £16.95
Type: Illuminating, smoothing
Targets: Hydration, glow
Reasons to buy
+Plumps skin from within+Radiant finish +Vegan formula
Reasons to avoid
-Won't blur texture

As well as a light peachy tint that gives subtle brightness to skin, this also packs in oil absorbing powders to do away with the worst of any shine and hyaluronic acid (HA). 

You've probably heard of HA before: it's a super hydrating molecule that holds onto 1000 times its weight in water so it plumps skin from the inside out. This, as well as a slightly sheeny finish means just one layer of 3ina Revitalizing Primer gives skin an ultra-juicy glow that lasts. It's also vegan and has SPF15, if either of those are important considerations to you. 

BareMinerals Prime Time Eye Lid Primer

(Image credit: Bareminerals)

7. BareMinerals Prime Time Eye Lid Primer

Best primer for eyes

RRP: £18
Type: Oil control, colour correcting
Targets: Eye makeup application
Reasons to buy
+Evens out skin tone+Helps eyeshadow stay
Reasons to avoid
-For eyes only

Cream eyeshadows are beautifully flattering, diffusing light over lines and uneven skin tone, but they can fall far short of powder formula in terms of staying power. 

With this eye primer, you can embrace flattering creams but beat smudges. The grippy texture prevents creasing and ensures the shade of your chosen shadow looks perfectly opaque, while also covering any little veins or uneven skin tone on the lids. The texture is light and fluid so a little goes a long way, meaning you'll get about a year's worth of stay-put eye looks in one tiny tube.

NARS Pore & Shine Control Primer

(Image credit: NARS)

8. NARS Pore & Shine Control Primer

Best primer for combination skin

RRP: £29
Type: Oil control
Targets: Excess oil, skin texture
Reasons to buy
+Lasting oil absorption+Lightweight texture+Refreshing feel
Reasons to avoid
-Matte finish not for all

This clever primer from NARS will keep shiny bits in check without drying out areas that don't overproduce oil. Smooth a thin layer of the cooling white liquid on all over, concentrating on the bits that suffer from makeup melt midway through the day (nose, chin, forehead) then pop your makeup straight on top, no need to wait. 

Immediately your base will appear nice and smooth, with pores and lines blurred away, and a semi-matte finish and no chalky dryness as with so many oil-control products. You can top up over makeup if needed and still feel comfy, but unless you're seriously oily or experiencing hot flushes it should last until you take your makeup off at the end of the day.

Amazing Cosmetics Line Smoother + Primer

(Image credit: Amazing)

9. Amazing Cosmetics Line Smoother + Primer

Best primer for lines

RRP: £27.05
Type: Smoothing
Targets: Lines, makeup longevity
Reasons to buy
+Ultra effective line filling+Skincare ingredients
Reasons to avoid
-No glow

If you've ever used Amazing Cosmetics Concealer you'll know they make hardcore, seriously hard-working products, and this Primer is no different.

An excellent targeted treatment for those whose foundation tends to settle into lines around the mouth, nose and eyes this is also quite fun to use with little metal roller-balls in the tip. As well as cosmetic ingredients designed to work a bit like Pollyfilla it's also packed with peptides and ceramides for longer term skin benefits. Roll over your least favorite lines before applying make-up and you won't see them again for the day.

Erborian Pink Perfect Creme

(Image credit: Erborian)

10. Erborian Pink Perfect Crème

Best primer for brightening

RRP: £36
Type: Colour correcting, smoothing
Targets: Dullness, pores
Reasons to buy
+Instant tone benefits+Soft focus finish +Weightless texture
Reasons to avoid
-Can pill if applied in a rush

It's cute, it's pink but it's also super effective—must be Korean skincare, then. This PP Creme from cult French-Korean brand Erborian works perfectly under foundation, creating a lightly pearly but not shiny glow, lifting dull skin and blurring pores.

Spread a thin layer over skin and press it in, don't rub too much too quickly as that tends to make this sort of product separate into annoying little balls on skin. You'll get extra mileage out of your foundation for your efforts, as well as plenty of compliments and a very subtle, very pretty scent.

Fiona McKim

As woman&home's Senior Beauty Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more beauty products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant beauty find on or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair dye experiments and cute shih-tzus)

Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013, working under legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know about the industry (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). 

In a previous life, Fiona studied journalism back home in bonnie Scotland and honed her skills as a features writer at publications including Junior and Prima Baby, with a brief and terrifying stint on the showbiz gossip pages of a tabloid newspaper in between. She's a skincare fanatic who can’t resist adding an extra step to her routine if it’s all the rage in Japan, loves fragrance, has fun with makeup and never turns down the chance to test a new hair tool. Basically, she loves it all.

When not slathering herself in self tan or squinting at a tiny ingredients list on a moisturiser, you’ll probably find Fiona enjoying something to do with food - cooking it, eating it, cajoling her friends into trekking across London to try a hyped pop-up in a dirty car park. 

Come to think of it, the hot dinners and beauty products are probably about even.