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The 10 Best Makeup Primers for Flawless Skin

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If your foundation doesn’t glide on as smoothly as you’d like, or you notice that your pores are still deeply visible post-application, you need a makeup primer. Primers come in the form of a gel, cream, or even putty — they melt into the skin like moisturizers but impart a surface layer that ensures a better makeup application. 

Some primers excel at blurring skin texture, others smooth the skin so your foundation seamlessly glides on, and many are a little sticky to help makeup stay in place for longer. In this guide, we’ve curated the best makeup primers of 2023, with options that deliver every type of effect, with different finishes to flatter every skin type. Read on to discover the primer that’ll help you perfect your makeup base. 

Best makeup primers overview:

How we chose the best primers for makeup

To compile this list, we researched manufacturer specifications, including main ingredients, suggested skin type, finish, and more, to create a short list of the top primers for makeup. Then, we combed through detailed product descriptions, ratings, and reviews to find the best makeup primer for each category.

Our picks for the best makeup primers

Best overall
Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

What we love

  • Grips foundation for 12-hour wear
  • Hydrating, silicone-free formula
  • Radiant, dewy finish

What we don’t love

  • May pill

The release of Hydro Grip marked a major innovation within the makeup primer category. It’s a fluid, hydrating gel that leaves the skin feeling a little tacky, ensuring the foundation sticks for up to 12 hours. 

The formula is very skincare-forward with effective hydrators like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, plus aloe, niacinamide, and hemp seed for even more smoothing and nourishing action. It leaves the skin dewy and healthy, but these non-oily ingredients will still suit all skin types. 

It’s a silicone-free primer, which means it’ll work beautifully with water-based foundations. That said, it doesn’t have the silky texture you might be used to from silicone-based primers. Some reviewers mentioned that it caused their foundation to slightly separate or bunch up (aka “pilling.”) This likely resulted from not allowing the primer enough time to dry down or using too many products with non-compatible bases.

Mainn ingredients: Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Skin type: All | Finish: Dewy

Best budget
E.l.f. Poreless Putty Primer

What we love

  • Budget-friendly
  • Hides pores
  • Excellent for all skin types

What we don’t love

  • Balm texture takes getting used to

This budget-friendly primer has a unique texture that allows it to camouflage pores instantly. It’s incredibly smoothing and blurring, with a natural finish for all skin types. The formula is infused with squalane, so it helps the skin retain moisture. 

In case you’re after slightly different effects, there are a few other versions of the Putty Primer with various key ingredients and finishes. Learning to use it can be a little odd at first since it needs to warm up slightly before it can spread. We think the thickness is responsible for its reputation as the perfect pore eraser, though.

Mainn ingredients: Silicones, squalane | Skin type: All | Finish: Natural

Best splurge
Tatcha The Silk Canvas

What we love

  • Helps makeup last longer
  • Blurs lines and pores
  • Contains anti-aging ingredients

What we don’t love

  • Pricey

This luxurious balm primer is quite the splurge, but thousands of shoppers swear by it to make their makeup look better and last longer. The unique natural finish minimizes excessive shine but adds some luminosity with pink and gold pearls.

It softens the skin and diffuses texture immediately upon application, helping hide fine lines and wrinkles. In addition to camouflaging wrinkles, it helps to prevent premature aging with a patented complex of Japanese superfood ingredients.

Mainn ingredients: Silicones, Hadasei-3 | Skin type: All | Finish: Natural

Best for oily skin
Rare Beauty Always an Optimist Pore Diffusing Primer

What we love

  • Soft matte finish
  • Extends makeup wear time
  • Includes hydrating hyaluronic acid

What we don’t love

  • Fragranced

We used to think that more is more when it came to mattifying primers, but that’s no longer the case. This elegant primer is our top choice for oily skin thanks to its matte finish yet gentle, hydrating blend of ingredients. It prevents the skin from getting greasy throughout the day and helps makeup stay intact for longer. 

Because it’s infused with hyaluronic acid, it keeps oily skin comfortably hydrated without feeling heavy or greasy. While it’s recommended for sensitive skin, we’d actually suggest caution here since it’s not a fragrance-free formula.

Mainn ingredients: Silicones, hyaluronic acid | Skin type: All | Finish: Matte

Best for pores
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer

What we love

  • Velvety smooth finish
  • Blurs pores and fine lines
  • Excellent for all skin types

What we don’t love

  • Pricey
  • May feel heavy on the skin

Even after decades on the market, Photo Finish is still one of the best primers for makeup. It’s a silicone-based formula with a velvety feel and the remarkable ability to blur all sorts of textural imperfections. It’s an excellent choice for all skin types since it minimizes the look of pores and wrinkles. 

It has an extremely pleasant texture — it’s very lightweight, but it imparts a silky layer that allows for a smoother foundation application. It offers a soft matte finish and even includes a touch of vitamins E and A to nourish the skin. That said, it’s a little pricey and may feel heavy on the skin if you’re not used to silicone formulas.

Mainn ingredients: Silicones, vitamin A, vitamin E | Skin type: All | Finish: Natural matte

Best budget silicone-free formula
NYX The Marshmellow Smoothing Primer

What we love

  • Reasonably-priced
  • Softening, moisturizing formula
  • Extends makeup wear time

What we don’t love

  • Too greasy for some

This light, hydrating primer from NYX is an excellent silicone-free drugstore option. This water-based formula has a creamy texture that softens and nourishes the skin, with ingredients like glycerin, shea butter, and marshmallow extract. It gives the skin a diffused finish and extends the wear of your foundation for up to 16 hours. 

Reviewers raved about how it smells but some mentioned that it felt a little too greasy on their skin. While it’s recommended for all skin types, we think those with very oily skin might want to skip this one.

Mainn ingredients: Glycerin, shea butter, marshmallow extract | Skin type: All | Finish: Natural

Best for glowing skin
Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Hydrating Primer

What we love

  • Very glowy finish
  • Hydrates the skin
  • Blurs texture

What we don’t love

  • Pricey
  • The shiny look isn’t for everyone

If you’re looking for a real glow, Armani delivers. This light, fluid formula is infused with mica, giving the skin a radiant finish. Since it’s a hydrating formula, nourishing glycerin also contributes to the sheen for a total glass skin effect. 

That said, it still contains some silicone, so it’s silky smooth with a subtle skin-blurring effect. Since it’s so light, it’s an appropriate choice for all skin types, although you may not like the intense glow if you’re oily.

Mainn ingredients: Silicone, glycerin, mica | Skin type: All | Finish: Glowy

Best for dry skin
Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Hydrating

What we love

  • Hydrating formula
  • Gives the skin a healthy natural finish
  • Keeps foundation looking fresh

What we don’t love

  • Pricey
  • Doesn’t significantly blur pores

Load up on moisture with this silicone-free makeup primer for dry skin. The focus of this product isn’t just keeping your foundation in place but also keeping it looking fresh. 

Rich in glycerin and squalane, it gives the skin a long-lasting natural glow by replenishing it with moisture. You might even be able to skip your moisturizer when using it. The ingredient list doesn’t include any fragrances, so we think it’s also a safe choice for those with sensitive skin. 

It’s pricey, but reviewers mentioned that a little goes a long way, thanks to its smooth-gliding texture. It’s not as pore-blurring as some of the other primers on our list, although the hydrating ingredients may help fill in fine lines.

Mainn ingredients: Glycerin, squalane | Skin type: Dry, balanced | Finish: Natural

Best with SPF
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

What we love

  • Comprehensive SPF 40 sun protection
  • Light texture and natural finish
  • Smoothes and blurs the skin

What we don’t love

  • Pricey
  • Must use 1/4 tsp to achieve full protection

If you’re scratching your head, wondering how to layer moisturizer, sunscreen, and primer on your skin, you’re not alone. This priming sunscreen saves you the hassle of figuring all of that out. It offers excellent protection from both UVA and UVB rays, which is a must for preventing sunburns and keeping your skin youthful. 

It goes on the skin like a light, clear gel with a natural finish to flatter all skin types. The formula contains several silicones, so it feels like a lighter version of your average primer. Reviewers said that, indeed, just like a primer, it blurred their skin and allowed their foundation to blend in more easily. Supergoop! also carries glowy and matte versions of this sunscreen. Remember that you need to apply around a quarter teaspoon of sunscreen to benefit from its full protective power.

Mainn ingredients: Sunscreen filters, silicones, red algae | Skin type: All | Finish: Natural

Best cream
Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

What we love

  • Creates a smooth base for foundation
  • Creamy and moisturizing
  • Infused with antioxidant vitamins

What we don’t love

  • Pricey
  • Thick consistency isn’t for everyone

This moisturizing hybrid product creates the smoothest base for your foundation while nourishing the skin. Even though it’s a thick cream, it sinks into the skin quickly, leaving behind the silky touch of silicone. If you like fluid primers, however, this formula might be too thick for your liking. Shea butter and squalane add richness, helping to lock moisture into the skin. It’s also infused with vitamins B5, C, and E, known for their conditioning and anti-aging effects.

Mainn ingredients: Silicone, shea butter, squalane, vitamins B, C, and E | Skin type: Balanced, combination, oily | Finish: Natural

Primed and ready 

Primer helps you start your makeup on the right foot by transforming your skin into a smoother canvas. Our top pick, Milk Hydro Grip, is an incredibly popular choice, thanks to its dewy, hydrating finish and makeup-extending effects. Still, if you’re after a matte finish or pore-blurring effects, there are plenty of other options.   

How to pick the right makeup primer for you

With so many types of primers, choosing the right one comes down to your skin type, the key ingredients, and the kind of finish you prefer. 

Skin type

  • Dry. Look for primers with moisturizing ingredients since the more hydrated your skin, the better your foundation will look on top of it. Both silicone-based and water-based primers will work as long as they’re not advertised as mattified. 
  • Oily. Primers with a matte finish are the classic choice for oily skin since they can help prevent shininess or greasiness. If you have visible pores, you may want a silicone-based formula that fills them in. If you like a dewy look, opt for primers with a natural finish that’ll allow some of your skin’s own moisture to shine through. 
  • Balanced. With balanced skin, you have plenty of options. Choose a primer based on the type of finish you prefer, but a natural finish is always a safe choice. 
  • Combination. Primers with a natural finish are an easy choice since they look great over all parts of the face. That said, if some parts of your skin get very oily, you can use a more mattifying primer only over those areas. 


  • Silicones. Silicone-based primers are made with dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane near the top of the ingredient list. They’re famous for their velvet texture, blurring effect, and ability to control oils and shine. They work beautifully with silicone-based foundations but can pill up when layered with water-based skincare or makeup.  
  • Glycerin. Glycerin is usually the star ingredient in water-based, silicone-free primers. It can be a little sticky, so if you see it at the top of the ingredient list along with water, it’s a good chance you’re holding a hydrating, grippy primer that’ll work well with water-based foundations.
  • Plant oils and butters. Ingredients like shea butter, squalane, and other oils are known for their skin-softening and moisturizing effects. You can find them in all kinds of primer formulas, and they’re usually a good sign that your primer is ideal for dry skin. 
  • Vitamins and plant extract. A good amount of vitamins and plant extracts turns a primer into a proper skincare product. Different extracts and vitamins can have slightly different skin benefits, but the ones used in primers are usually added for a nourishing, soothing, or antioxidant effect. 
  • Polymers. Polymers are typically added to silicone-free primers to improve their ability to grip makeup and extend its wear time. Without any polymers, a water-based primer is pretty much just a moisturizer. 


  • Natural. A natural finish is a little bit reflective, much like the skin would be naturally. It’s not very glowy or too matte, so it’s an excellent choice for just about anyone. 
  • Dewy. Dewy primers give the skin a reflective finish with ingredients like glycerin or oil. They’re ideal if you want your skin to have a healthy sheen, especially if it’s naturally dry. 
  • Matte. Matte primers aren’t as popular as they used to be, but if your skin gets very oily, they’re worth their weight in gold since they can absorb oils. 
  • Glowy. Glowy primers add luminosity to the skin with the help of reflective mineral flecks like mica. They’re ideal if you’re aiming for a glowy, strobed look. 


Which brand’s makeup primer is best? 

Many consider Milk’s Hydro Grip Primer the best because of its ability to help makeup adhere to the skin. That said, there are a lot of primers out there with different finishes and unique benefits, so take your preferences into account to find the best primer for you. 

Which is the best primer for mature skin?

The skin often becomes drier with age, so choose a more moisturizing primer like the Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer if you have mature skin. Hydrating and nourishing ingredients like glycerin or plant oils will give your skin a bit of glow and plumpness that looks great under makeup. 

What primers do celebrities use?

Celebrities use the exact same primers available to the average shopper. A higher budget means they may opt for pricier options from brands like Tatcha or Armani. Remember that celebrity makeup artists always fit the primer to the celebrity’s skin type and unique needs. Nowadays, some also have their own makeup brands, like Selena Gomez with Rare Beauty or Rihanna with Fenty, so it’s safe to assume they’re using their own branded products.