Best make-up primer 2021

T3’s roundup of the top 5 must-have primers for all skin types

(Image credit: Getty)

When it comes to the beauty world makeup primers are always so highly debated. Some say it’s not necessary, whereas others swear by its importance. It’s undeniable that makeup primers serve a purpose, although some say using a good moisturiser is enough in itself, but how true is this? 

Makeup primers come in many forms: liquid, cream or a gel formula and the one you opt for really does depend on your skin. For example, are you looking to fill in your pores, hide skin texture or are you simply just looking for an all-over primer? If you’re someone who ends up with a creasy skin base by the end of the night or smudged eyeliner around your eyes, you could probably benefit from using a primer. Although you can find primers for your own specific skin needs, there are primers out there designed for all skin types.

You’ll often find silicone-based primers and water-based primers on the market, and you might ask what is the difference? Silicone primers prevent makeup from sinking into your pores and creases, giving you a smooth canvas, whereas, water-based primers are in short lightweight moisturisers, although in the beauty community most recommend you use a silicone primer as it helps minimise your pores, fine lines and evens out your skin texture. 

The good thing about primer is that if you don’t like the way it looks under your makeup, you can literally just use it without makeup as an additional moisturiser to trap moisture in the skin to keep it from drying out, so it actually serves as a skincare benefit.

No matter what primer you go for, it will always improve the staying power of your foundation so that you can get the most out of it. Throughout the day, your skin’s natural oils can break down your foundation base so by having a clean, oil-free base for your makeup allows your base to last so much longer. 

Here is a summary of the best 5 primers for all skin types.

Best make-up primers you can buy

Best makeup primer: Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Blur Primer

(Image credit: Saint Laurent)

1. Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Blur Primer

Ideal for those who want dewy glowy skin

Reasons to buy
+Improves skin texture +Non-comedogenic (doesn’t clog pores)
Reasons to avoid
-Mattified finish can cause oily skin  -Does not hide skin texture well

The YSL Blur Primer is versatile product and can be worn alone after your moisturiser to minimise pores, fine lines, and improve skin texture as well as under foundation to create a smooth canvas that will allow your makeup to last longer. It boosts the skin’s radiance as it’s a light-infused, fluid primer that allows optimal light diffusion. The shimmer-flecked gel uses advanced blurring technology and that is what creates the blurred skin effect. 

Most of the reviews left for this product boasts of how good this primer is as it creates a silky-smooth finish that gives you a natural look. Most people who had oily skin were concerned this product would add an extra layer that would break them out, but most said they were pleasantly surprised at how it kept their skin oils intact.

Best makeup primer: Too Faced Hangover Primer

(Image credit: Too Faced)

2. Too Faced Hangover Primer

Instagram favourite primer, ideal for hydration

Reasons to buy
+Hydrates the skin +Free from gluten, parabens and silicone
Reasons to avoid
-Does not hide pores well-Subtle fragrance 

The Too Faced Hangover Primer is a cruelty-free, vegan primer that is designed to hydrate and brighten the skin to create a dewy finish. It’s infused with coconut water and skin-reviving ingredients that help smooth out skin textures. Although most of the reviews online state this product does not necessarily hide enlarged pores that well, it does in fact hydrate the skin to allow foundation to sit on top effortlessly without cracking the base. 

Most of the reviews mention the smell of the primer and how subtle the coconut scent in the primer is, but it might not be suitable for those who have sensitive skin or who suffer from contact dermatitis. Although this product generally has good reviews, especially for creating a brighter appearance the following day after a night out, it does not serve a specific skin concern but is more targeted at getting rid of the dull, opaque skin from the night before hence the name Hangover. 

Best makeup primer: Benefit Cosmetics The Porefessional

(Image credit: Benefit)

3. Benefit Cosmetics The Porefessional

Best primer for pores

Reasons to buy
+Hides pores well+Translucent finish
Reasons to avoid
-Can be drying on the skin-Is not long-lasting 

The Benefit Porefessional Primer is one of the best primers on the market for those who have enlarged pores, fine lines and wrinkles who are looking to smooth out their skin. It’s versatile, but particularly made for pores. It’s oil-free, lays down as an invisible, smooth shield to create the ‘poreless’ appearance, and this primer has Vitamin E derivatives that help keep the skin moisturised while also prolonging makeup wear. 

Most reviews left for this primer state how this primer feels like a filter and that it blurs out redness on the skin too. A little bit of this product goes a long way and is also available in travel size, which is handy. This primer, like most primers, can be used alone or under makeup and most people who have used this product state how long it lasts on the skin so it’s definitely worth a purchase.

Best makeup primer: Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

(Image credit: Milk Makeup)

4. Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

Most hydrating primer

Reasons to buy
+Prolongs makeup wear+Hydrates the skin
Reasons to avoid
-Does not hide skin texture -Can sometimes make foundation patchy

The Milk Makeup Hydro Grip primer is a relatively new primer on the market. It’s a green-tinted liquid that contains plant-derived oils, as well as moisturising soothing aloe water, hyaluronic acid, cherry blossom, and B vitamins to feed the skin prior to makeup application. In their consumer study they found that 100% of people said their skin felt more healthier and more hydrated than ever before allowing their makeup to last for as long as 12 hours. 

However, most of the reviews left on various retail websites state the formula is so hydrating that it can sometimes separate foundation and create patchiness, so it is recommended to let the product sit on the skin for a couple of minutes before applying any further layers. The only negative aspect of this product is that it can be a little bit sticky at times, but that is what helps the foundation stick better although many don’t like the feeling. This product is available in sample sizes so you can try before you buy to see it really fits your canvas.

Best makeup primer: The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer

(Image credit: The Ordinary)

5. The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer

Most affordable primer

Reasons to buy
+Lightweight serum-like formula  +Free from alcohol, water and oil
Reasons to avoid
-Does not target any skin concerns -Not always crease-proof 

The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer is a part of a new generation of primers. It’s a super light-weight serum that creates a flawless base that helps makes the blending of makeup so smooth. It is great for avoiding pigment around the eyes and on dry skin by creating a naturally dewy look that creates a silk-like canvas for a youthful appearance. Most reviews talk about the formula in particular and how it is quite easy to spread around the skin using just 1-2 drops. 

This primer is in a good price range and is one the best, cheapest primers available that does the same job as the high-end primers available, except it is not designed with a specific skin concern in mind so it does not really and truly target blemishes, and hyperpigmentation on the skin but more so serves as an additional layer of moisturising to create a dewy skin base.

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Farhiya Ali
Farhiya Ali

Farhiya Ali is a freelance journalist, writer and researcher. She covers beauty, fragrance and grooming products for T3.