The best primers to create a better base, for all skin types

Our beauty team rounds up the best primers for pristine makeup and healthy-looking skin, for every budget and complexion concern.

an image of some of the best primers we tested
(Image credit: Future)

The best primers and foundations go hand in hand like two best friends. They also have the bonus perk of skincare benefits. 

If you've been wondering how to use face primer so your foundation lasts, it's important to start by understanding your skin type and the makeup finish you're after, as you can then narrow down what sort of primer you need. Luckily there’s a primer out there for everyone no matter what skin tone, type or finish you’re after, including the best primers for dry skin that contain amazing skincare ingredients.  “It’s all about trialling different products and understanding your skin issues,” explains celebrity makeup artist Buster Knight.

“Think of your foundation as an extension of your primer, you want all your products to be working together, not against each other,” Knight explains. Much like finding the best foundation, it’s beneficial to discover the best buy for your skin type. Here we break down the best primers on the market and reveal top industry tricks for application.

Buster Knight
Buster Knight

Buster Knight is a pro makeup artist who has worked with the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Kris Jenner and Katy Perry. 

an image of some of the best primers we tested for the article

(Image credit: Future)

How we tested to find the best primers

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Each primer option in this list has been tested and worn by at least one member of the W&H beauty team to provide the most cohesive list of the best primers. We tried each buy over the course of a couple of days to make sure we had the most well-rounded view and could see the product's longevity as well as immediate impact. 

We tried to sample products from a range of brands, price points and styles. Some of the primers were dual-purpose and were designed for multi-use, so we wanted to make sure we had tested all the product's functions, to give a fair review. 

Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

(Image credit: Benefit)

1. Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

The best primer overall

Specifications

RRP: £29.50
Type: Smoothing
Targets: Pores, lines, makeup longevity

Reasons to buy

+
Multipurpose benefits
+
Oil-free
+
Works well with makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragranced

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, making it one of the top primers as it's one of the best pore minimizers

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

Specifications

RRP: £15
Type: Smoothing, colour correcting
Targets: Brightening, blurring, makeup longevity

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Flattering rosy tone
+
Vegan formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragranced

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

Specifications

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

-
Expensive

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 moisturisers 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 dressing table. 

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

(Image credit: Laura Mercier)

4. Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

Best primer for radiance

Specifications

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 has less shimmer and more than a 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 and dot it on top of cheekbones for an extra glow hit. Acting just like one of your best highlighters, this gives a glow like no other! 

Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

(Image credit: Urban Decay)

5. Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

Best primer for melt-proof makeup

Specifications

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 lasts 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.

an image of bobbi brown vitamin enriched face base

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

6. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

Best primer for dry skin

Specifications

RRP: £49
Type: Smoothing, illuminating
Targets: Hydration, glow

Reasons to buy

+
Plumps skin from within
+
Radiant finish 
+
Vegan formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Won't blur texture

This iconic formula is loved by so many, especially those with dehydrated skin. This moisturiser-come-primer hybrid delivers an intense dose of nourishment for thirsty skin and leaves your complexion looking and feeling its best. The rich formula is packed with shea butter, hyaluronic acid and more to smooth, soften and hydrate your skin; making it the perfect makeup base. 

We were surprised by how thick the formula was and therefore it wouldn't be best suited to those with oily or combination skin. But once worked in, the buttery cream melted into our Beauty Writer's dry, dry skin and left her face looking plump and radiant. Makeup glides on top and provides a stunning subtle dewy finish thanks to all the hydrating skincare ingredients. We also loved the gorgeously luxe-smelling scent – a mix of geranium and grapefruit.

an image of stila colour correcting primer

(Image credit: Stila)

7. Stila One Step Correct Skin Tone Correcting & Brightening Primer

Best primer for colour correcting

Specifications

RRP: £28
Type: Colour correcting
Targets: Uneven skin tone, dark circles

Reasons to buy

+
Evens out skin tone
+
Colour correct immediately
+
Skincare benefits
+
Can wear without makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
None, we love this

If you suffer from redness, sallow undertones, dull skin or blemishes, then this is one of the best primers for you. The innovative triple-swirled serum instantly primes, colour-corrects, brightens and nourishes for a flawless-looking base. As well as working hard to colour correct, the formula also controls oil, and reduces the appearance of pores and fine lines, in addition to deeply hydrating thanks to the glycerin included in the formula. 

It does absolutely everything you could want in a base product and more. Our Beauty Writer suffers from redness in her cheeks and the occasional hormonal spot, so this sorts our her skin right out before she applies her makeup. We recommend this to everybody as it just does so much and helps our makeup look flawless from AM to PM.

an image of NARS Soft Matte Primer

(Image credit: NARS)

8. NARS Soft Matte Primer

Best primer for combination skin

Specifications

RRP: £25
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 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.

an image of hello sunday spf50 illuminating primer

(Image credit: Hello Sunday)

9. Hello Sunday SPF50 The Illuminating One Glow Primer

Best primer for SPF protection

Specifications

RRP: £22
Type: Illuminating
Targets: Anti-ageing, sun protection

Reasons to buy

+
Multi-tasking primer
+
Has multiple skincare benefits
+
Contains SPF50 protection

Reasons to avoid

-
You might not like the luminous finish

Another multi-tasking primer that is an absolute must-have for all dewy makeup lovers. Ticking just about all the beauty boxes you could think of this lightweight primer contains SPF50, Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid plus shimmering pigments for a gorgeous sun-kissed glow. Bursting with the ingredients your skin craves, this works to brighten, deeply nourish, plump and help prevent skin damage thanks to the SPF50 UVA and UVB protection. 

We also adored that it had a luminous skin finish, making it one of the best primers for a night out or a day in the sunshine. The glass skin effect it gave still looked really natural but also delivered a flattering high-shine finish. Knowing it also contains SPF50 is another bonus feature, as we trust that our skin is protected until we need to top up during the day. 

an image of elf liquid poreless putty primer

(Image credit: elf Cosmetics)

10. e.l.f Cosmetics Liquid Poreless Putty Primer

Best primer for long-lasting makeup

Specifications

RRP: £10
Type: Smoothing, oil control
Targets: Dullness, pores

Reasons to buy

+
Instant blurring of pores
+
Soft focus finish 
+
Weightless texture
+
Grips makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
Can pill if applied in a rush
-
Doesn't completely reduce shine

The popular putty primer has had a rebrand and now comes in a liquid form and we couldn’t have been more excited to get our hands on it. During the summer months, when skin produces more sweat and oil, we like to turn to this formula. We really like all the elf primers and do think that you can't go wrong for the price. This feels more elevated than smooshing the original primers out of the pot, and we think that having it in the tube makes it easier to use without getting too much or too little out.

It's satisfyingly sticky and grips tight to our base, helping to keep it in place for longer than it would normally survive before my skin evicted it from my complexion. This affordable option might not be the most effective for balancing out oiliness in your skin but it does a great job at keeping makeup from slipping, so it's still worth adding to your beauty portfolio and touching up with some powder in your T-zone. 

an image of Tacha the liquid silk canvas

(Image credit: Tacha)

11. Tatcha The Liquid Silk Canvas

Best primer with skincare benefits

Specifications

RRP: £51
Type: Smoothing, oil control
Targets: Reducing imperfections, adding hydration and blurring pores

Reasons to buy

+
Refreshing lightweight formula
+
Contains skin-loving ingredients
+
Minimises pores, fine line and imperfections

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive option

Despite being one of the most expensive primers in this round-up, this is worth the spend if your budget allows. This super lightweight formula is packed with amino acids, antioxidants, and green tea extracts to really care for your skin needs. Upon application, this refreshingly silky milk left our skin looking and feeling amazing, ready for makeup application. It did a good job of minimising pore size and balancing out any visible oil on the surface of our skin. 

Once makeup was applied on top it managed to keep it looking fresh and flawless for most of the day and also left skin plump and juicy. Overall this was another product we would definitely add to the list of best primers and would recommend to people with combination and oily skin types. It's so worth the money when you think it also doubles up as one of the best skincare products, too. 

an image of milk hydro grip primer

(Image credit: Milk)

12. Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

Best primer for all skin types

Specifications

RRP: £35
Type: Smoothing, oil control
Targets: Reducing shine, adding hydration

Reasons to buy

+
Packed with skin loving ingredients
+
Works for all skin types
+
Keeps makeup in place all day

Reasons to avoid

-
Remains tacky after application

One of the best-known base products, this primer keeps your complexion looking balanced from AM to PM. Boasting an impressive amount of plant-derived oils, plus aloe water, cherry blossom, and hyaluronic acid, this primer packs a punch. After leaving the formula for one minute to fully absorb we noticed how mattified our skin looked. 

The blue agave extract worked to form an invisible layer of grip to ensure that makeup stayed in place all day and didn’t budge no matter what the day threw at us. Our skin felt hydrated and plump immediately after application and we noticed that our makeup didn't budge a jot. We are truly stunned by how good this is. 

FAQ 

Are primers essential in a makeup routine?

While absolutely not an essential part of your makeup routine, the best primers will offer skincare benefits as well as making your foundation look flawless. They enhance and bring out the best in your makeup, so industry experts recommend them. 

"The clue is in the name, prime your skin and your make-up will have an even, flawless base. They are essential for long wear looks like evening events or when you are on holiday," explains Knight. 

"Primers are now widely available in so many textures and finishes and you can use them in so many ways. My favourite way to use a primer is to help the makeup last longer and make my skin appear smoother before I apply my foundation. I also use a primer to manipulate the skin to give me a specific effect/look," Cherelle Lazarus, National Senior Makeup Artist for NARS, tells us. 

Cherelle Lazarus
Cherelle Lazarus

Cherelle Lazarus is an experienced makeup artist currently working as National Senior Makeup Artist for NARS. 

How do I know which primer to choose for my skin type?

After you've found out what skin type you are, you can then pick the best primers for you and skin. 

Lazarus breaks it down for us. "Dry skin benefits from a hydrating primer, and oily skin needs a mattifying primer. If you have combination skin, it might be worth trying both on the specific skin area. If you have oily skin but prefer a dewy complexion, a mattifying primer on the T-zone but a hydrating primer on cheekbones could work well for you," Knight says. 

"Depending on your skin type, you can start narrowing down your choice with what your skin may need," she continues. "Once you have chosen what you want your skin to feel like, you might want to look at if you could find any extra benefits to enhance your routine, like firming and plumping, colour-correcting or SPF protection."

At what point in my routine should I apply a primer?

Industry expert Knight gives us some top tips for when and how to apply a primer, just like he does for his celeb clients. 

"Follow through with your usual skincare routine (cleanse, tone, serum etc) and once you’ve moisturised, wait. You want to let that moisturiser sink in and do its job. After a few minutes, go in with a primer and apply it like a foundation. Not many people realise that primer can be applied with a brush or sponge and layered onto the skin rather than massaged in. This is what creates the lovely even base to work with pre-make-up." 

Can you match your type of primer with your foundation?

Here's something you might not have considered about primers before. But it really does make sense to have a primer and foundation that compliment each other and that aren't designed for two different skin types or finishes. 

Lazarus explains that, "There are some primers that don't work well with certain foundations or work better with a specific foundation. My main rule is whatever foundation I use, I will purchase the primer from the same brand. When creating base products, most brands will design a primer or foundation that work well together."


Consider your masterclass in the best primers complete. We hope you've found a new makeup bag essential to keep your foundation perfectly in place from AM to PM. 

The best primers and foundations go hand in hand like two best friends. They also have the bonus perk of skincare benefits. 

If you've been wondering how to use face primer so your foundation lasts, it's important to start by understanding your skin type and the makeup finish you're after, as you can then narrow down what sort of primer you need. Luckily there’s a primer out there for everyone no matter what skin tone, type or finish you’re after, including the best primers for dry skin that contain amazing skincare ingredients.  “It’s all about trialling different products and understanding your skin issues,” explains celebrity makeup artist Buster Knight.

“Think of your foundation as an extension of your primer, you want all your products to be working together, not against each other,” Knight explains. Much like finding the best foundation, it’s beneficial to discover the best buy for your skin type. Here we break down the best primers on the market and reveal top industry tricks for application.

Buster Knight
Buster Knight

Buster Knight is a pro makeup artist who has worked with the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Kris Jenner and Katy Perry. 

an image of some of the best primers we tested for the article

(Image credit: Future)

How we tested to find the best primers

Each primer option in this list has been tested and worn by at least one member of the W&H beauty team to provide the most cohesive list of the best primers. We tried each buy over the course of a couple of days to make sure we had the most well-rounded view and could see the product's longevity as well as immediate impact. 

We tried to sample products from a range of brands, price points and styles. Some of the primers were dual-purpose and were designed for multi-use, so we wanted to make sure we had tested all the product's functions, to give a fair review. 

Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

(Image credit: Benefit)

1. Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

The best primer overall

Specifications

RRP: £29.50
Type: Smoothing
Targets: Pores, lines, makeup longevity

Reasons to buy

+
Multipurpose benefits
+
Oil-free
+
Works well with makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragranced

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, making it one of the top primers as it's one of the best pore minimizers

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

Specifications

RRP: £15
Type: Smoothing, colour correcting
Targets: Brightening, blurring, makeup longevity

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Flattering rosy tone
+
Vegan formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragranced

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

Specifications

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

-
Expensive

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 moisturisers 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 dressing table. 

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

(Image credit: Laura Mercier)

4. Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

Best primer for radiance

Specifications

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 has less shimmer and more than a 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 and dot it on top of cheekbones for an extra glow hit. Acting just like one of your best highlighters, this gives a glow like no other! 

Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

(Image credit: Urban Decay)

5. Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

Best primer for melt-proof makeup

Specifications

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 lasts 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.

an image of bobbi brown vitamin enriched face base

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

6. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

Best primer for dry skin

Specifications

RRP: £49
Type: Smoothing, illuminating
Targets: Hydration, glow

Reasons to buy

+
Plumps skin from within
+
Radiant finish 
+
Vegan formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Won't blur texture

This iconic formula is loved by so many, especially those with dehydrated skin. This moisturiser-come-primer hybrid delivers an intense dose of nourishment for thirsty skin and leaves your complexion looking and feeling its best. The rich formula is packed with shea butter, hyaluronic acid and more to smooth, soften and hydrate your skin; making it the perfect makeup base. 

We were surprised by how thick the formula was and therefore it wouldn't be best suited to those with oily or combination skin. But once worked in, the buttery cream melted into our Beauty Writer's dry, dry skin and left her face looking plump and radiant. Makeup glides on top and provides a stunning subtle dewy finish thanks to all the hydrating skincare ingredients. We also loved the gorgeously luxe-smelling scent – a mix of geranium and grapefruit.

an image of stila colour correcting primer

(Image credit: Stila)

7. Stila One Step Correct Skin Tone Correcting & Brightening Primer

Best primer for colour correcting

Specifications

RRP: £28
Type: Colour correcting
Targets: Uneven skin tone, dark circles

Reasons to buy

+
Evens out skin tone
+
Colour correct immediately
+
Skincare benefits
+
Can wear without makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
None, we love this

If you suffer from redness, sallow undertones, dull skin or blemishes, then this is one of the best primers for you. The innovative triple-swirled serum instantly primes, colour-corrects, brightens and nourishes for a flawless-looking base. As well as working hard to colour correct, the formula also controls oil, and reduces the appearance of pores and fine lines, in addition to deeply hydrating thanks to the glycerin included in the formula. 

It does absolutely everything you could want in a base product and more. Our Beauty Writer suffers from redness in her cheeks and the occasional hormonal spot, so this sorts our her skin right out before she applies her makeup. We recommend this to everybody as it just does so much and helps our makeup look flawless from AM to PM.

an image of NARS Soft Matte Primer

(Image credit: NARS)

8. NARS Soft Matte Primer

Best primer for combination skin

Specifications

RRP: £25
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 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.

an image of hello sunday spf50 illuminating primer

(Image credit: Hello Sunday)

9. Hello Sunday SPF50 The Illuminating One Glow Primer

Best primer for SPF protection

Specifications

RRP: £22
Type: Illuminating
Targets: Anti-ageing, sun protection

Reasons to buy

+
Multi-tasking primer
+
Has multiple skincare benefits
+
Contains SPF50 protection

Reasons to avoid

-
You might not like the luminous finish

Another multi-tasking primer that is an absolute must-have for all dewy makeup lovers. Ticking just about all the beauty boxes you could think of this lightweight primer contains SPF50, Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid plus shimmering pigments for a gorgeous sun-kissed glow. Bursting with the ingredients your skin craves, this works to brighten, deeply nourish, plump and help prevent skin damage thanks to the SPF50 UVA and UVB protection. 

We also adored that it had a luminous skin finish, making it one of the best primers for a night out or a day in the sunshine. The glass skin effect it gave still looked really natural but also delivered a flattering high-shine finish. Knowing it also contains SPF50 is another bonus feature, as we trust that our skin is protected until we need to top up during the day. 

an image of elf liquid poreless putty primer

(Image credit: elf Cosmetics)

10. e.l.f Cosmetics Liquid Poreless Putty Primer

Best primer for long-lasting makeup

Specifications

RRP: £10
Type: Smoothing, oil control
Targets: Dullness, pores

Reasons to buy

+
Instant blurring of pores
+
Soft focus finish 
+
Weightless texture
+
Grips makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
Can pill if applied in a rush
-
Doesn't completely reduce shine

The popular putty primer has had a rebrand and now comes in a liquid form and we couldn’t have been more excited to get our hands on it. During the summer months, when skin produces more sweat and oil, we like to turn to this formula. We really like all the elf primers and do think that you can't go wrong for the price. This feels more elevated than smooshing the original primers out of the pot, and we think that having it in the tube makes it easier to use without getting too much or too little out.

It's satisfyingly sticky and grips tight to our base, helping to keep it in place for longer than it would normally survive before my skin evicted it from my complexion. This affordable option might not be the most effective for balancing out oiliness in your skin but it does a great job at keeping makeup from slipping, so it's still worth adding to your beauty portfolio and touching up with some powder in your T-zone. 

an image of Tacha the liquid silk canvas

(Image credit: Tacha)

11. Tatcha The Liquid Silk Canvas

Best primer with skincare benefits

Specifications

RRP: £51
Type: Smoothing, oil control
Targets: Reducing imperfections, adding hydration and blurring pores

Reasons to buy

+
Refreshing lightweight formula
+
Contains skin-loving ingredients
+
Minimises pores, fine line and imperfections

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive option

Despite being one of the most expensive primers in this round-up, this is worth the spend if your budget allows. This super lightweight formula is packed with amino acids, antioxidants, and green tea extracts to really care for your skin needs. Upon application, this refreshingly silky milk left our skin looking and feeling amazing, ready for makeup application. It did a good job of minimising pore size and balancing out any visible oil on the surface of our skin. 

Once makeup was applied on top it managed to keep it looking fresh and flawless for most of the day and also left skin plump and juicy. Overall this was another product we would definitely add to the list of best primers and would recommend to people with combination and oily skin types. It's so worth the money when you think it also doubles up as one of the best skincare products, too. 

an image of milk hydro grip primer

(Image credit: Milk)

12. Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

Best primer for all skin types

Specifications

RRP: £35
Type: Smoothing, oil control
Targets: Reducing shine, adding hydration

Reasons to buy

+
Packed with skin loving ingredients
+
Works for all skin types
+
Keeps makeup in place all day

Reasons to avoid

-
Remains tacky after application

One of the best-known base products, this primer keeps your complexion looking balanced from AM to PM. Boasting an impressive amount of plant-derived oils, plus aloe water, cherry blossom, and hyaluronic acid, this primer packs a punch. After leaving the formula for one minute to fully absorb we noticed how mattified our skin looked. 

The blue agave extract worked to form an invisible layer of grip to ensure that makeup stayed in place all day and didn’t budge no matter what the day threw at us. Our skin felt hydrated and plump immediately after application and we noticed that our makeup didn't budge a jot. We are truly stunned by how good this is. 

FAQ 

Are primers essential in a makeup routine?

While absolutely not an essential part of your makeup routine, the best primers will offer skincare benefits as well as making your foundation look flawless. They enhance and bring out the best in your makeup, so industry experts recommend them. 

"The clue is in the name, prime your skin and your make-up will have an even, flawless base. They are essential for long wear looks like evening events or when you are on holiday," explains Knight. 

"Primers are now widely available in so many textures and finishes and you can use them in so many ways. My favourite way to use a primer is to help the makeup last longer and make my skin appear smoother before I apply my foundation. I also use a primer to manipulate the skin to give me a specific effect/look," Cherelle Lazarus, National Senior Makeup Artist for NARS, tells us. 

Cherelle Lazarus
Cherelle Lazarus

Cherelle Lazarus is an experienced makeup artist currently working as National Senior Makeup Artist for NARS. 

How do I know which primer to choose for my skin type?

After you've found out what skin type you are, you can then pick the best primers for you and skin. 

Lazarus breaks it down for us. "Dry skin benefits from a hydrating primer, and oily skin needs a mattifying primer. If you have combination skin, it might be worth trying both on the specific skin area. If you have oily skin but prefer a dewy complexion, a mattifying primer on the T-zone but a hydrating primer on cheekbones could work well for you," Knight says. 

"Depending on your skin type, you can start narrowing down your choice with what your skin may need," she continues. "Once you have chosen what you want your skin to feel like, you might want to look at if you could find any extra benefits to enhance your routine, like firming and plumping, colour-correcting or SPF protection."

At what point in my routine should I apply a primer?

Industry expert Knight gives us some top tips for when and how to apply a primer, just like he does for his celeb clients. 

"Follow through with your usual skincare routine (cleanse, tone, serum etc) and once you’ve moisturised, wait. You want to let that moisturiser sink in and do its job. After a few minutes, go in with a primer and apply it like a foundation. Not many people realise that primer can be applied with a brush or sponge and layered onto the skin rather than massaged in. This is what creates the lovely even base to work with pre-make-up." 

Can you match your type of primer with your foundation?

Here's something you might not have considered about primers before. But it really does make sense to have a primer and foundation that compliment each other and that aren't designed for two different skin types or finishes. 

Lazarus explains that, "There are some primers that don't work well with certain foundations or work better with a specific foundation. My main rule is whatever foundation I use, I will purchase the primer from the same brand. When creating base products, most brands will design a primer or foundation that work well together."


Consider your masterclass in the best primers complete. We hope you've found a new makeup bag essential to keep your foundation perfectly in place from AM to PM. 

The best primers and foundations go hand in hand like two best friends. They also have the bonus perk of skincare benefits. 

If you've been wondering how to use face primer so your foundation lasts, it's important to start by understanding your skin type and the makeup finish you're after, as you can then narrow down what sort of primer you need. Luckily there’s a primer out there for everyone no matter what skin tone, type or finish you’re after, including the best primers for dry skin that contain amazing skincare ingredients.  “It’s all about trialling different products and understanding your skin issues,” explains celebrity makeup artist Buster Knight.

“Think of your foundation as an extension of your primer, you want all your products to be working together, not against each other,” Knight explains. Much like finding the best foundation, it’s beneficial to discover the best buy for your skin type. Here we break down the best primers on the market and reveal top industry tricks for application.

Buster Knight
Buster Knight

Buster Knight is a pro makeup artist who has worked with the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Kris Jenner and Katy Perry. 

an image of some of the best primers we tested for the article

(Image credit: Future)

How we tested to find the best primers

Each primer option in this list has been tested and worn by at least one member of the W&H beauty team to provide the most cohesive list of the best primers. We tried each buy over the course of a couple of days to make sure we had the most well-rounded view and could see the product's longevity as well as immediate impact. 

We tried to sample products from a range of brands, price points and styles. Some of the primers were dual-purpose and were designed for multi-use, so we wanted to make sure we had tested all the product's functions, to give a fair review. 

Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

(Image credit: Benefit)

1. Benefit The Porefessional Face Primer

The best primer overall

Specifications

RRP: £29.50
Type: Smoothing
Targets: Pores, lines, makeup longevity

Reasons to buy

+
Multipurpose benefits
+
Oil-free
+
Works well with makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragranced

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, making it one of the top primers as it's one of the best pore minimizers

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

Specifications

RRP: £15
Type: Smoothing, colour correcting
Targets: Brightening, blurring, makeup longevity

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Flattering rosy tone
+
Vegan formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragranced

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

Specifications

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

-
Expensive

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 moisturisers 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 dressing table. 

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

(Image credit: Laura Mercier)

4. Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

Best primer for radiance

Specifications

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 has less shimmer and more than a 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 and dot it on top of cheekbones for an extra glow hit. Acting just like one of your best highlighters, this gives a glow like no other! 

Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

(Image credit: Urban Decay)

5. Urban Decay All Nighter Primer

Best primer for melt-proof makeup

Specifications

RRP: £26
Type: Oil control, smoothing
Targets: Makeup longevity, smoothness