The Glowsly editors independently research and hand-pick the best products. We may receive commissions on purchases made from the affiliate links.
Drugstore makeup primers can keep your makeup looking fresh all throughout the day without costing you an arm and a leg! Sure, there is something special about using a luxury product, but if you’re on a budget, your priority is to look good. A drugstore primer can help with that while keeping your finances under control.
Primers come in all kinds of forms, so you can choose the best drugstore primer for you by considering your needs. They can blur pores, give your skin a glow, mattify oils, hydrate the skin, or increase the wear time of your foundation, although unfortunately, it’s not always the case that one primer can do it all. That’s why we’ve selected the best drugstore primers for every need and effect, so you can find the one that’ll suit you best. We also added a few tips for choosing the right primer for your needs!
This is the best drugstore primer to try if you’re not sure what effects you want yet. It is fragrance-free with a blend of effects that can work for all skin types and even sensitive skin! It has a slightly mattifying, silicone-based formula that will work with most foundations, but it’s not overly drying. It fills in and blurs both pores and fine lines, and it can even work under the eyes! It comes in a jar, so you may want to apply it with a brush rather than hands. Shop for it on Amazon or Ulta!
The word “hydrating” in the name of this primer is probably a little misleading, although it’s still one of the best drugstore primers for dry skin. The formula is very creamy, though it should still be used on top of a moisturizer (and sunscreen if you’ll be out in the sun). It’ll help smooth down flaky skin and keep the foundation looking fresh all day long, with a bit of a pore- and line-blurring effect. Order it from Amazon or Ulta!
This is a hydrating, silicone-free drugstore primer that keeps the skin glowy and dewy. It has a unique jelly texture that infuses the skin with water while adding a cooling effect. We think it could easily replace a moisturizer if your skin is oily yet dehydrated. It’s a little sticky, which is awesome for keeping foundation in place even if you skip the powder. While it does help to slightly reduce the look of imperfections, it’s not the main purpose of this primer. It’s available at Ulta and Amazon.
If you have very oily skin, we can’t think of a better drugstore primer for you to try! This incredible primer controls oils like no other, helping to keep the skin matte all day long. It has a very light texture, so it doesn’t feel like a heavy layer of silicone on your skin, and yet it dries down to have the same velvety effect. Watch out if you have combination skin, however, and only apply it to the oily areas of your face. Pick it up on Amazon!
Combining a serum and primer in one is a unique choice that leads to an interesting product. It’s a two-phase formula with an oil layer and a water layer, so you mix it up in the bottle right before applying. The result is hydrated, glowy skin that’s a little tacky, which makes foundation adhere better.
It keeps the skin looking glowy and helps foundation stay in place, but it doesn’t have an impact on the look for pores or fine lines. All in all, we’d recommend it for those with dry skin. If you’re sensitive to fragrance, note that it does have a light, fruity scent. You can get it from Amazon.
This simple silicone-based drugstore primer does exactly what we expect: it blurs pores beautifully. Beyond that, it also helps to extend the longevity of your foundation and mattifies lightly. The formula is exceptionally simple and free of fragrance, so it should work even for very sensitive skin. Keep in mind that it’ll only work with silicone-based foundations. Buy it from Ulta or Amazon!
CoverGirl Simply Ageless Anti-Aging Foundation Primer
Whether you’re hoping for age prevention or to hide the look of fine lines, this is the best drugstore primer to choose! It’s a silicone-based primer that’s a little more hydrating than a few of the other ones we’ve profiled, so it does a better job of hiding fine lines. It leaves the skin looking naturally smooth rather than matte or dewy.
It also includes some anti-aging ingredients with real skincare effects, like antioxidant niacinamide and collagen-boosting palmitoyl pentapeptide 4. It’s an ideal choice for normal, dry, and combination skin. Find it at Ulta or Amazon!
This is e.l.f.’s famous putty primer, which is often considered a dupe for Tatcha’s Silk Canvas Primer. It’s ridiculously affordable, and it is a great do-it-all primer. It makes the skin extremely smooth and helps to seriously extend the wear time of your foundation. It gives the skin a natural, demi-matte finish that will work for most skin types. It has a slightly thicker texture that’s great for filling in pores. You can purchase it from Ulta or Amazon.
If you just want to glow, this is the best drugstore primer to buy. This hydrating, creamy formula has glowy minerals embedded within it, so it really works like a light strobe cream. Because the formula is so finely milled, it doesn’t look like a shimmer but like a truly natural highlight, which is why it’s been compared to Becca’s Backlight Priming Filter.
It wears well throughout the day, although it doesn’t blur pores or extend longevity the way a silicone-based formula would. As a bonus, it’s even more budget-friendly than other drugstore primers. We think it’s ideal for dry and normal skin. It’s sold on Amazon.
Milani Make It Last Setting Spray Prime + Correct + Set
If you want a product to do it all, look no further than this priming setting spray from Milani! It’s one of the best multitaskers when what you want is exceptional makeup longevity.
It’s made with sticky polymers that help foundation adhere to the skin when you spray it as a primer and then create an impenetrable layer when you spray it on after, so it helps to truly ensure your makeup doesn’t go anywhere throughout the day. The formula has some lovely skincare ingredients, as well, including niacinamide and a ferment extract. Grab it from Ulta or Amazon!
Best ‘Chok Chok’
Colourpop Pretty Fresh Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Primer
Bouncy, glowy, hydrated skin – that’s exactly what the term “chok chok” should bring to mind. It’s also what this incredible drugstore primer can offer! The formula is a moisturizer and primer hybrid that loads the skin up with moisture, smooths down flakiness with a blend of luxurious oils, and helps to keep foundation in place thanks to a powerful polymer.
It gives the skin a pretty, dewy look, and helps to keep foundation in place all day long. It’s silicone-free, as a bonus for those who use silicone-free foundation. You can buy it at Ulta.
It’s pretty clear that NYX was trying to emulate Smashbox with this primer, and we gotta say they didn’t do a bad job! This is the best drugstore primer for smoothing out skin texture and controlling oil, especially preparing for a photoshoot. It’s a very typical silicone primer, so it’ll go well with most silicone foundations, and it also means that it helps to gently control oils and extend the lifetime of your makeup. It’s great especially for oily and combination skin. Order it from Ulta or Amazon!
Best Mattifying Silicone-Free
Catrice Prime & Fine Pore Refining and Anti-Shine Base
Most mattifying primers rely on silicone to do their jobs, but if you don’t want to use silicone for whatever reason (maybe it piles over your sunscreen or just doesn’t work with your skin), this is the best drugstore primer to buy. It’s made by the German brand Catrice, and it delivers a long-lasting, skin-smoothing effect as well as all-day oil control. It’s not the best at blurring pores, but it still helps. It’s ideal for oily skin. Pick it up at Ulta or Amazon!
If you prefer to avoid most synthetics, this is the drugstore primer you should try! Made by Honest Beauty, it’s free of silicones, parabens, or anything else you might want to avoid using (though, to be clear, we generally don’t mind such ingredients here at Glowsly). This formula gives the skin a dewy glow thanks to botanical oils and antioxidant-rich extracts and even has some anti-aging effects on the skin! As a result, it’s best for dry and normal skin types. Shop for it at Ulta or Amazon!
This is the most affordable mattifying drugstore primer on our list, so if you’re on an extremely tight budget but need your skin looking totally matte without a pore in sight, this is the primer to pick up. It’s extremely simple with just silicones, polymers, and some vitamin E, but simple works for us. Get it if your skin is oily, but avoid it like the plague if it’s dry. It’s available at Ulta and Amazon.
Best Serum Primer
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Glow Booster Primer & Serum
We’re always pleasantly surprised when skincare brands try their hands at makeup (while the reverse is unfortunately not always true), although admittedly, this product is definitely more skincare than anything else. It’s a sticky but super hydrating product with glycerin and hyaluronic acid. It pulls water into the skin, which keeps the foundation looking glowy, but it also helps with adherence and longevity, especially if you battle dehydration. Find it on Amazon!
This primer is truly unique, with a very hydrating yet silicone-based formula. It’s absolutely fantastic for combination skin, and we also really love it for blurring fine lines and wrinkles. It infuses the skin with glycerin and apple extract, but it also has cyclopentasiloxane for that smoothing, makeup-extending effect. Get it from Ulta or Amazon!
Almost all primers should help your foundation look better throughout the day! While we do note on our list that a few primers are not great for longevity, in general, it’s a feature that’s inherent for all types of primers.
If you have oily skin that gets very shiny or greasy throughout the day, choose a primer that’s advertised as mattifying. These primers are usually silicone-based, and since most foundations these days (including high-coverage, mattifying ones) are also silicone-based, they should go well together.
If your skin doesn’t tolerate silicones, or you use a non-silicone-based foundation, it’s important to choose a silicone-free primer that won’t clash with your foundation and pile up. In that case, scan the ingredient list and make sure it’s free of ingredients that end in “cone” or “siloxane” like dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane.
If you have large pores, visible skin texture, or even fine lines, a pore-filling primer made of silicone is the easy choice! These primers help to improve skin texture in two ways: first, they fill in the grooves in the skin, giving a smoother texture, and second, they have a photo focus effect that blurs the appearance of texture and makes the skin look smoother to the eye.
There aren’t a lot of silicone-free primers that can do this well, but if that’s a requirement for you, look for ones that include silica and pore-blurring minerals.
If you have dry or dehydrated skin, chances are you want the opposite of mattification: you want a primer that will give your skin a glow and make it look much more moisturized.
In general, silicone-based primers (with a few exceptions) don’t do the trick, while cream, serum, and oil-based primers can work beautifully. Each type works in a different way, so choose the one that’ll work harmoniously with your foundation while also helping your skin’s particular needs.
If you’re primarily dehydrated, you want a water-based primer or primer-serum that includes a lot of humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid. This will help pull moisture into your skin and add a glow, and it’ll also help foundation adhere better to the skin because of a sticky texture. As a bonus, they work under all foundation types.
If your skin is drier, choose an oil-based, two-phase, or creamy primer that includes either just emollients or both emollients and water. Some common ingredients to look for include caprylic/ capric triglyceride, squalane, coconut oil, sunflower oil, or any other botanical oil. These create a smooth layer over the skin, add luminosity, and help foundation go smoothly over the skin. Just make sure that the primer you choose has a similar formula to your foundation to avoid awkward mixing.
Photos via @jantoski23, Instagram
Zooming in on the Topic
For more personalized lists, check out the following pages: