Rant & Rave: Face Primers

Tell us what you love and hate about...

Face Primers

Nothing is coming to mind about them to dislike… I like how they often make the skin look and feel smoother, make base products last longer, and are easy to apply.

— Christine


Comments that do not adhere to our comment policy may be removed. Discussion and debate are highly encouraged but we expect community members to participate respectfully. Please keep discussion on-topic, and if you have general feedback, a product review request, an off-topic question, or need technical support, please contact us!

Please help us streamline the comments' section and be more efficient: double-check the post above for more basic information like pricing, availability, and so on to make sure your question wasn't answered already. Comments alerting us to typos or small errors in the post are appreciated (!) but will typically be removed after errors are fixed (unless a response is needed).

We appreciate enthusiasm for new releases but ask readers to please hold questions regarding if/when a review will be posted as we can't commit to or guarantee product reviews. We don't want to set expectations and then disappoint readers as even products that are swatched don't always end up being reviewed due to time constraints and changes in priorities! Thank you for understanding!

Comments on this post are closed.
Elyse Avatar

I LOVE them! Makeup just melts off of me unless I use a primer. I use the Nivea for Men after shave balm as a primer and it is A+++.

I have one small rant, though. I am acne prone, and using the wrong primer can be a recipe for disaster 🙁 I’m not sure which ingredient is causing a reaction, so I don’t know what to avoid. It just becomes a game of trial and error for me.

Oh and also… yeah, another rant. Sometimes the primers pill up as your’re applying foundation over them. This may be user error, though, haha 😛

Claire L Avatar

I have the same problem, I think it’s the silicones used in some primers. Sensitive skin can react to those. They can be listed in the ingredients list as:
Phenyl trimethicone
or Dimethicone copolyol

A theory of why they can make acenaic or sensitive skin break out is because they act as a shield on the skin so skin oils build up and react with bacteria on the skin under the silicone layer, causing breakouts where there are tiny tears or cracks in the skin.

‘Rolling’ happens when you layer two products, either both with silicones, or one silicone and one oil based, together they act against each other and cause ‘rolling’

I prefer to use oils or ‘concentrates’ instead of serums. Although essential oils can also be irritating, I’m OK with most of them.

Maggie Avatar

I have this same problem with primers. Breakouts–esp the one’s that makes my makeup last (smashbox light, mufe, hourgalss mineral) and these all have silicone. I am going to have to try the nivea. Do you have a primer you like Natalie?

Michele @Binxcat4ever Avatar

Sometimes it’s hard to strike the right balance between primer and foundation. Sometimes my go-to matte primer dries me out too much with my matte foundation and sometimes it simply controls the shine. Sometimes my regular primer lets my face become too oily. I actually just ordered a new primer (this morning) to test out – the Sunday Riley tinted primer. I should have it in about a week. I’m curious to see how well it plays with all my foundations and how much additional coverage, if any, it offers.

Daralyn Avatar

I’ve tried Porefessional, Hourgalss, Becca, and Smashbox and I can’t see a difference in finish or longevity. I’ve put primer on half and left it off the other and I can’t see a difference. I’ve also taken selfies with and without, still can’t tell. Seems like the emperors new clothes to me.

Ivanna Avatar

I feel the same way, albeit with less adventurous experimenting. They make absolutely no difference, or worse, make the foundation less skin-like.

Kat Avatar

I mostly use primers to fill in my pores in my T-zone, so I love how good smoothing primers (I love Too Face Primed and Poreless, I’ve been through about 4 tubes) can make my skin look smoother and therefore healthier. The problem with bad smoothing primers is that they can actually ball up, bunch up, and therefore actually emphasize pores.

Nancy T Avatar

All I know is that I never knew just how desperately I needed one until I began using one. I’ve always had large pores, but now also some fine lines are cropping up, especially in the undereye area. Plus, deep ethnicity related naso-labial creases. So I have a deep appreciation for face primers. My only rant is that I must be careful, and read reviews on a primer I’m interested in, because even at 57 y.o., I can get a deep cystic acne pimple or two if the formula is wrong!

NancyMc Avatar

The primer I use is totally dependent on the time of year. I live in southeast Texas, so the summer is humid and the winter is cold and dry. Hourglass serum 28 saves me in the wintertime when I need an extra hit of hydration. Most any of the primers that minimize pores are fine for summer. As others have mentioned, I can’t tell much of a difference between any of them.
I will rant about a couple of them…I tried the Marc Jacobs primer and the hangover primer from TF, and neither of them did much of anything. They were moisturizing, but other than that, nada.

Nati Avatar

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to wearing a primer, but I have to admit that it makes quite a difference WHEN it is a good primer. I like those that give radiance and illuminate most. I once used one from Palladio beauty (a few years ago) that made me break out like hell, and i will never forget it! It was awful. So caring for ingredients is the thing to do, other than that, primers are the best!

Mariella Avatar

I’ve had one or two (including one of the new ones from MUFE, from which I expected BETTER!) that ball up, almost no matter how careful I am. But I do love how most of them make my skin look (I sometimes wear primer without any foundation over top) and love how smoothly my foundations do apply over the good ones and how well they keep my foundation looking good all day long.

Lea Avatar

No rants on my end. The only ones I use tend to be either Armani or Cle de Peau and I have a selection from each line, depending on if it’s winter and I’m looking for luminosity or the humidity of Washington, DC in the summer and I don’t want to sweat and shine through my make-up. I have a new TF one to try out, but I’m waiting to break the seal on that when I finish my Armani lumizing primer.

Efrain Avatar

Rant: die two the high silicone content I must be careful about the formula and/or not using them everyday. Also the ones I’ve tried haven’t impressed me in oil control.

Rave: with the correct one you look like I woke up like this.

Tracy Avatar

For ages I dodged using primers, but I’ve embraced them as a way to keep my sunscreen from fighting with my base makeup; bb creams tend to work fine with my [Japanese, chemical] sunscreen, but throw something with any sort of wax on it, and I’ve got wild pilling. Hourglass Veil keeps me sane, basically.

Dianne Avatar

Rave: I have tried a handful, and the Hourglass Veil Mineral primer is the most amazing– my makeup looks freshly applied 8 hours later. I don’t think I could find anything comparable.

Rant: The Hourglass Mineral Veil is $52 a pop, which is more expensive than any of my foundations!

LMM Avatar

I’m oily, and the ones meant to help with that – often silicone-y, pore-filling ones – break me out.

The Becca Ever Matte is a rave. Just a tiny bit keeps shine off my face.

Brittany Avatar

I still hate most of the ones I’ve tried, or at least the ones I’ve tried that are silicone-heavy. They feel gross on my skin and makeup doesn’t tend to stay well over them on me. The only primers I’ve ever liked are hydrating ones, which tend to feel pointless, because I’d rather just use some extra moisturizer and then I wouldn’t need to spend $30 on a hydrating primer. I kind of like the Korres Pomegranate Mattefying primer, but I’m not sure if it actually keeps me matte. I like it underneath powder foundation.

Stephanie Avatar

Rant: I have pores roughly the size of moon craters and no primer can fill them enough to make them invisible…at least, in person.

Rave: They help my foundation stay on better, and sometimes using a face primer can make a big difference in photos/selfies for those of us with large pores.

Erica Avatar

I have only had minimal at most success with face primers with Hourglass’s mineral veil and Monistat’s anti chaffing gel being two I have liked somewhat. Most don’t do what they claim or really do anything special. They don’t help my foundation go on smoother or last longer. Most make my skin oilier and I have better results without one. The only primer I have noticeably good results with are eye primers. With oily skin I just don’t think a face primer is needed imo

Anne Avatar

I think they’re great, though the more silicone-based ones can sometimes feel too heavy or pill up over time, but if you find the right one for your skin type, they’re great. I keep meaning to try the Too Faced Hangover Rx one.

Nicole Avatar

Rave: They seem to work for most people and there seem to be a lot of great formulas out there.

Rant: I have combination skin which is difficult to find products for since most of them cater specifically to either dry or oily skin. I’ve only tried one primer from Cover Fx that does nothing for me. Liquid foundation still slides right off my t zone and flakes on my cheeks/jaw. Maybe I’m just annoyed that I spent almost $40 on a product I rarely use. To be fair, I liked it the first few times I used it, I guess it just didn’t stand the test of time. But if anyone knows of a good primer or any tips for combo skin I’d appreciate it!

denise Avatar

I LOVE LOVE PRIMERS!!!!!!!!! I FEEL LIKE they help my foundation to go on smoothly and kinda (praying) THEY hide some wrinkles. Miss my Guerlain Pure with the tiny gold flecks. So I have been using Make primer with Charlotte Tilbury, oh so GOOD!!!!! In the summer months I use a lighter one, because NY can get very humid. I tried so many of them, I guess I will stick with these for now.

Caroline Swaffiekd Avatar

Laura Mercier radiance and hydrating all I have in my extensive kit .
As a bridal make up artist it’s essential for durability and filling in .
Can’t fault it just a shame can’t get it at a pro price here in uk :(. Costs me a fortune .

Stacy Avatar

Most of the primers I’ve tried just make any face products I put on top of it kind of slide off my face, like they’re sitting on a layer of tiny ball-bearings. I know I have “weird skin,” but that’s one issue that really baffles me… primers are supposed to help makeup last longer, right? For me, it usually does the opposite.

Instead, if I use anything *as* a primer, it’s Paula’s Choice Super-Light Wrinkle Defense, and then it’s usually only in warm weather months. It smooths, mattifies, and diminishes pores very nicely when I need it, and doesn’t interfere with the rest of my makeup.

Melissa Avatar

Without primer I can feel the difference in applying my make-up…although I don’t feel it too necessary since I use strong setting spray… Finding the right one is so difficult especially when the selection is HUGE (and lack of decent reviews across the internet). Although I’m curious about the Nivea after shave…might give it a go 😛

Linda Avatar

Can’t find one that doesn’t break me out except the Benefit PoreFessional, which I don’t use for other reasons – makes makeup look gross on top of it in my opinion but everyone else seems to love it, LOL

I did buy the Nivea for Men balm and it’s sitting in my bathroom, I’m working up the courage to try it.

I also just started playing with the Lancome green corrector and it seems to do a decent job underneath makeup – not sure if it’s a “primer” that makes your makeup stay longer or if it’s just for color correction…gonna try the half face with and half without to compare.

Wednesday Avatar

Sometimes I feel primers make foundation less skin like and wearing a full face of primer makes foundation look even more mask like. Foundation on me always looks better on bare skin after a couple of hours when it merges and takes on the texture of my skin. Still, I like the added longevity and noticeable smoothness so I often use a couple and just place different types in different areas using a small brush; I use a stronger more matte primer on my nose and chin where makeup tends to disappear very quickly on me. I use an illuminating primer on my cheeks. I tend not to wear a full face of it though. I do not like primers under my eyes, or around my nose or by the sides of my eyes and I don’t need it on the lower planes of my face. I like that it is a product which you can use selectively if desired. Now if I could just figure out how to properly use makeup mediums. I completely scrooooed up my eye look yesterday so badly while trying to add a highlight to center mobile lid with a really shimmery shadow where I wanted to punch it up in intensity even more. It was a disaster (sticky mess everywhere) and I had to wipe off and start from scratch.. doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but I really haven’t a clue with mixing mediums.

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! 🙂 If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!