8 best primers
Keep skin looking flawless with a hard-working base
A primer may sound like another unnecessary and expensive step to add to your makeup routine, but the right one can be a game changer.
They are excellent troubleshooters, so if you struggle with foundation settling into dry patches or slipping on oily skin, need to fake a healthy, rested glow or want to blur out pores and fine lines – a primer is a great quick fix.
Our favourites generally fall into one of two categories: smoothing, creating an even mak-up base, or luminising (without being full-on day glow glittery, of course). Both help foundation stay put and both blur out lines and pores.
For full effect, we like to layer the former over the latter.
Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter: £30, Charlotte Tilbury
Confusingly, this looks like a foundation in the bottle and comes in different shades, but it isn’t one.
Apply it under foundation (or mix in with it to minimise steps) for blurring and a radiant glow without being glittery.
Wear it on bare skin with just a little concealer for a barely there look, too, or use it as a highlighter on the high points of the face.
Becca Backlight Priming Filter: £32, Cult Beauty
After Dior's holy grail Glow Maximiser primer was discontinued, we have been on the search for its replacement, and we think we've finally found it.
Thin yet creamy, it spreads easily and gives a pale peachy glow that is at once natural and high impact.
Benefit Porefessional Face Primer: £27.50, Boots
If you're after a primer that will mattify oily skin, smooth out pores and help foundation stay put on greasy patches, the gel-like Porefessional is your friend.
Combination skins may find it drying on non-oily areas, so try applying only where your skin gets oily throughout the day.
It is also excellent at stopping concealer from settling into fine lines under the eyes.
Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer: £55, Space NK
We frequently wear this under Becca’s Backlight to combine their powers.
It is milky and white and gives a similar luminous glow, but also blurs out pores and leaves skin silky smooth a la Benefit Porefessional.
Tom Ford Complexion Enhancing Primer: £57, John Lewis
There's no denying that Tom Ford's offering has a hefty price-tag, but if you can stretch to it, you get proper luxury: a thick, moisturising (good for preventing your foundation settling into dry patches), light-reflecting primer in gorgeous packaging with a clever twist-up mechanism.
The boost it gives is subtle rather than spangly, and we love wearing on its own as much as with foundation.
REN Perfect Canvas Skin Enhancing Primer: £50, REN
A lot of primers that smooth and fill out pores and lines and mattify oily skin contain silicone, to give them that easy slip over the skin; the problem with silicone is that it often causes products that you apply on top to peel.
REN’s clever, clear Perfect Canvas mimics the effects of a silicone primer but without the silicone! Our only complaint is the price.
Laura Mercier Foundation Primer: £30, John Lewis
We’ve loved Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturiser for a long time, but have somehow only just discovered the brand’s primers.
The basic formula (there’s also Radiance, Hydrating and Oil-Free) is a rich gel that creates a clear layer over skin to lock in moisture and create a smooth, grippy base for whatever you put on top of it.
We like to double it up with a light reflective primer (such as Charlotte Tilbury’s or Becca’s) for extra glow.
Cover FX Anti-Aging Primer: £30, Space NK
We’re a little sceptical of makeup that claims to have skincare benefits too, such as anti-ageing, but we loved this.
It comes out of the tube yellow, thick and balm-like and feels more like a mask than any primer we’ve ever tried.
It plumps out lines and dull skin, feels nourishing on application and kept our tester’s usually papery dry cheeks moist for longer than anything else.
The Verdict: Best primers
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