What’s Your Favorite Makeup Primer?

Published in: Makeup, Makeup Tips/How To



Homies, no matter how busy you are, try to take care of your teeth. For serious. After yesterday’s deep cleaning sesh with the evil Silver Hook of Doom, I feel like someone tenderized my jaw with a hammer.


Thank goodness for Advil, right?

Never again will I skip those annual cleanings… Tartar shall not defeat me!

Makeup primer

Now, on a less painful note, how do you feel about makeup primers? πŸ™‚

They’re commonly used to create a smooth surface upon which foundation and powder can adhere.

Many are gels, and beyond improving the staying power of makeup, primers help to control oil and prevent creasing. A few of ’em even double as anti-aging products or add extra hydration to skin.

MBB reader Kerry is looking for some help with her quest to find a good makeup primer.

What are your recommendations for a makeup primer (something to keep down the shine)? When I use the MAC ones, oil comes through on my skin, and my face looks greasy. HELP!

One Love,


Hi Kerry,

When my skin was super oily a few years back, summertime was always the toughest season for me. By mid-morning, my forehead and face would always take on what I liked to call THE SHINING!


Summer heat and/or humidity would also cause m foundation and powder to slip right off.

Now I have combination oily/acne-prone/dry skin — a regular skin care triumvirate — so I like versatile primers, and here are two of my faves.

Laura Mercier Oil-Free Primer ($30)

What it is:
Created for oily, sensitive and acne-prone skin, Laura Mericer Oil-Free Foundation Primer grabs hold of makeup like 40-something cougars (MEOW!) latch onto frat boys.

What it does:
With its creamy, lightweight gel texture, it extends the wear time of my foundations and powders, controling oil and adding light hydration, too.

Why I love it:
The formula never triggers breakouts (for me), and that’s been a huge plus.

And a little goes a long way. One dab spread around with my fingers covers my forehead, nose, chin and cheeks.

Added bonus? The formula contains antioxidant Vitamins A, C and E, ingredients believed to help in the anti-aging department.

You might like it if…

  1. …you like primers that feel like a lotion,
  2. …you have sensitive skin,
  3. …you want a primer to control oil while still offering some extra hydration.

Tarte Clean Slate Face Primer ($27)

What it is:
Tarte, a line known for their green approach to makeup, created Clean Slate Face Primer to add hydration and prime the skin for makeup.

It’s a lightweight, clear gel primer that feels slightly thicker than Laura’s. After it absorbs, it feels drier and a touch smoother, too.

What it does:
Chock full o’ natural fruit- and plant-derived extracts to moisturize, decrease inflammation and restore skin’s natural elasticity, Clean Slate controls oil and increases makeup wear time without clogging pores or causing breakouts.


Why I love it:
Clean Slate adds hours of wear time to face makeup and doesn’t settle into fine lines.

When I apply it beneath foundation and powder in the morning, my makeup looks fresh until the wee hours of the evening.

You might like it if…

  1. …you worry about makeup settling into fine lines and wrinkles,
  2. …you like green/earth-friendly products,
  3. …you want a primer with an ultra-dry, smooth finish.

Okay, ladies, it’s your turn to weigh in. What are your favorite makeup primers, and why do you love ’em?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



Like this post? Tell your friends!

So far, 75 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Rani says:

    Hi Karen..I like both of the MAC Prep and Prime and recently starting givin my Smashbox Primers some love. The original Smashbox glides on so well, but not good for keeping the oilies at bay..so I am just testing out the Smashbox Lite..It’s not as smooth to put on, but it works better for combo/oily skin. The MAC primers have more of a creamy feel and I’m lovin the SPF 50 that one of them has! Still lookin out for my HG Primer though..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rani,

      Thanks for throwing in your picks. I think the holy grail primer quest is a never ending one. There seems to always be something new out there.

      I have got to check out the one with SPF 50. Have you used it for pics? Sometimes products with SPF tend to leave a white cast, but if this one doesn’t I’d be down to try it.

      • Restorationgirl says:

        The person that commented in 2009 (this is 2014 when I’m writing this) is right! Monistat Non Chaffing Gel Powder @ CVS for $8. Go to Amazon and read hundreds of reviews for it – you’ll find lots of great tips for using it for other things. (But don’t buy it there ’cause the price is inflated – go to CVS.)

  2. YadiQ says:

    i am not a fan of makeup primers

    i have tried out many but i always feel like my face is suffocating – my skin is like yours where i can be oily, dry and acne prone all at the same time !

    the only primer i tend to use is on my eyes – too faced shadow insurance

    and i cant live without that!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Yadi,

      Ugh, I hate that suffocating skin feeling. I feel that way when I wear pancake makeup or really heavy powders. Can’t stand that feeling!

      How have you been? πŸ™‚

  3. Solé says:

    I use the Smashbox primers (I have the clear, tan, and purple ones) and the Laura Gellar Spackle (in clear and bronze). I like using the tan ones in the summer and the white and purple one in the winter. I also use the purple one when I’m going to use cool colors and I want to tone done the natural orangey color of my face. I love all of the ones I have but I don’t have particularly oily skin so I can’t say which one would work best for someone else. I also use MAC Prep & Prime Eye on my eyelids and it’s wonderful for keeping shadows in place.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sole,

      I remember you mentioning that you liked to use the purple primer for the days you wear cool colors. That’s a great trick. πŸ™‚

  4. Christina says:

    I LOVE Philosophy’s The Present. I have dry skin but some shine as well (even in the same place!) And The Present is not a silicone primer but almost a lightweight moisturizer that really, and I mean really helps your makeup stay just as fresh as when you first apply. I live in Texas and I even weather the humidity without shine. How’s that for a product plug?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christina,

      OH you make that sound tempting. I am a BIG fan of the Philosophy skin care line so I’ll have to track this down and test it out.

  5. Dao says:

    I love Laura Geller Welcome Matte as a primer, it is a whole lot silkier than Smashbox IMHO. Also, if you use mineral makeup, Sunlight kaolin face powder is also a good primer. I use it more often than anything else because it does not make my skin feel too crunchy (or crunky!)

    Dao´s last blog post..For the Mascara Obsessed Ladies

    • Karen says:

      Hi Dao,

      That’s a brand I haven’t heard of — thanks for the rec. πŸ™‚ Crunchy skin is never good, lol!

      How’s Jack the cat? Have you guys been hanging around lately?

  6. Allie says:

    I like the Smashbox primers for normal skin (the green one does wonders for redness), Laura Geller Spackle for dry skin, and Laura Geller Welcome Matte for oily skin.

  7. L says:

    The girls and I recently had a Girl’s Night where we shared products that we loved and I got to try out two primers. Smashbox and Laura Mercier. For some reason the Smashbox primer just kept flaking while we were applying it but wow did my skin look smooth after. Laura Mercier one also smoothed out my skin and applied beautifully. The only beef we had with it was that it was super expensive for a tiny little tube.

  8. McKenzie says:

    I use Ulta’s eyeshadow base and The All Natural Face’s eyeshadow primer, both work really great and are inexpensive. They’re really creamy and don’t irritate my skin at all, which is great.

  9. Rae says:

    The Body Shop’s Vitamin C Skin Boost is literally my favourite primer ever — and it’s not even made to be a primer!! It’s definitely on the thicker side, but I’ve never had any oiliness or pore-clogging issues (and neither has anyone else that I’ve used it on). It feels like a dream, smells great, and doubles as a moisturiser/skin treatment πŸ™‚ Plus, it’s only $26/30ml, compared to Smashbox’s $36 for the same amount. And hey! The fact that it’s cruelty-free and supports community trade? Just another added bonus!

    For reference, I’ve tried Vincent Longo, MAC, Smashbox, and Aura Science (disc.) — and this one has been better than all of them!

    Rae´s last blog post..Neutrogena: the new sun authority?

  10. Leonette Ayala says:

    I never really experimented with primers but want to badly. My face gets very shiny after just a hour of makeup time, Clean Slate sounds like the answer to my prayers, besides getting a job. I’m using bare escentuals makeup and I know they have a primer but haven’t tried it yet. I let you know the results after I experiment okay?! Thanks for all your wonderful tips… luv it…. keep um coming… Mahalo sista πŸ˜‰

  11. noi says:

    Bare Escentuals’ Prime Time is really good for keeping my makeup long-lasting and applying foundation is just really smooth… but keeping oil at bay? nah, it didn’t do anything with the slick factor πŸ™
    so im also for the look-out for a mattifying primer.. Karen, is the Laura Mercier one mattifying enough for daytime heat (esp. Philippine heat! lol)? i’m also thinking about Becca’s mattifying primer since it’s available here.. :]
    thanks! πŸ˜€

    noi´s last blog post..Beauty Stash: Delux Beauty’s Lipstick!

  12. Martha says:

    Monistat chafing cream all over my face. Super cheap and works like a high end primer, has the same ingredients too. Google it. All the cool kids are doing it.

  13. noi says:

    AND.. i’ve also been thinking about Philosophy’s Never Let Them See You Shine or Make Up For Ever’s All Mat primer..
    i’m not sure which really works to keep shine away for a whole damn day (LOL).. D: πŸ™

    noi´s last blog post..Beauty Stash: Delux Beauty’s Lipstick!

  14. joanne says:

    I’m a big fan of philosophy’s The Present as well. I do wedding makeup on the side and I never do a job without it. It holds everything well and gives a nice subtle finish to the skin. Also, the makeup tends to settle nicely throughout the day. I’ve never had a problem with makeup falling – even after a long reception!

    Just to note, when you use the present, you have to give it 2-3 minutes to settle before putting on makeup. It’s also anti-bacterial, which helps prevent breakouts and such. It is a silicone based product that was originally created to protect patients who just got plastic surgery done. Think of a really thin band-aid over healing skin. Later on, makeup artists started using it because it prevented makeup from melting under harsh lights. Yes. I’m a fan!

    On the everyday, I use philosophy’s Supernatural Poreless Flawless SPF. It’s easy and when I’m too lazy to wear foundation, it evens out whatever I need to be evened out.

  15. Vanessa H says:

    Hi Karen! I haven’t found a primer that I love yet πŸ™

    Where do you get the awesome cartoons for your posts?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vanessa H,

      I think the search for the perfect primer is a never-ending quest for a lot of us. πŸ™‚

      LOL, I make those cartoons (the ones with the weird sayings like “note to self” in this post). I have a weird sense of humor that I figure I might as well put to use.

  16. Caitlin says:

    Perfect timing! I was just thinking about looking into some primers. I’ll def. have to look at these! Tell Tabs I say hi.

  17. Tania says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE MAC’s Prep + Prime Protect (the one with SPf). I know it’s high priced for a tiny bottle but it does it’s thing. Makes my makeup fabulous!!

    BTW: Love the movie “The Shining”. Stanley Kubrick (the director) is ‘da bomb! Though I watched the movie one time while I was living in Colorado during a snow storm, super creepy! How’s your grill doin’ after the dentist? Holla at ya girl!!

    Note: Karen I’m totally sorry about the influx of ebonic phrases, I just watched the movie “Notorious” and I’m feelin’ fly yo!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tania,

      El Hub and I went to Blockbuster last night to get a movie and I actually wanted to get Notorious. We ended up picking Shaun of the Dead, which was pretty funny. I’ll have to catch the Biggie bio when I’m on my own, I guess.

      You know what Biggie song is my favorite? Hypnotize!

  18. RetroRiotGrrrl says:

    I love Smashbox Photo Finish Light I live off of it.

  19. Nora says:

    My go-to primer isn’t a primer at all– it’s sunscreen! The Neutrogena Dry-touch Extra Sheer Sunscreen (mine is usually SPF 85 or 70)gives my skin a nice matte finish and dries quickly, so I can immediately put on makeup and run. Being a super pale, super busy student, it solves all my problems without needing to have too many layers of product on my young skin.

  20. shockingly enough, I am in L-O-V-E with Rimmel Fix and Perfect! Its like $7 at ULTA and goes on really smooth. It has this strange peach color cast to it in the tube, but it dissapears in to any skin tone! πŸ™‚

    The Bargainista´s last blog post..NYX Haul coming soon!!!

  21. Vonvon says:

    I normally don’t use a specific makeup primer. I bought MAC prep+prime a while ago but it’s still in the box πŸ˜‰

    I now use Stila Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 in shade 01 as a base.

    Vonvon´s last blog post..Vonvon’s SUMMER GIVEAWAY

  22. Sheila says:

    +1 Laura Gellar Spackle. I like that I can use it under my eyes too.

  23. Lehea says:

    For the eyes, it’s either my MAC paint pot in Painterly or Bare Escentuals Prime Time for eyes. I use Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Primer on the rest of my face. It’s a light foam, so it’s not at all heavy.

  24. Christina says:

    Smashbox’s green primer totally flopped for me.
    Foundation settled into my pores, flakiness, gone by the middle of the day. Poorly accomplished.

    I’ve switched to Korres, and while it smoothes out my complexion and smells yummy, it doesn’t last too long either. I blame it on the sunscreen I wear that turns my face into the Shining and my cheeks into the Sahara….

  25. Kimie says:

    I ditto Martha, Monistat gel works great and it’s under $10! I used to use prep n Prime but now…no facial chafing for me lolz! It also works great for it’s intended purpose…umm eww not that I would know you understand..yeah I just heard.

  26. ellalthea says:

    I like the Chanel Blanc Base…I feel like that does a really good job of mattifying and taking care of the redness on my face.

    One I would avoid is Lancome’s Le Base Pro-the silicone texture felt cool, but it didn’t make any difference with my makeup looking better or lasting longer, and it made me break out.

  27. Jaime says:

    smashbox photofinish made me break out so badly it took me 4 months to fully get over it… πŸ™
    I agree with ellalthea,chanel blanc base works best for me, the colors tone down the yellow in my skin and its quite mattifying.

  28. Stephie says:

    Hmm. I’ve only tries the travel size Smashbox lite. It really does make my face smoother but i definitely get that faded oily face by midday. From reading this post and the comments, Tarte Clean Slate and Philosophy the Present sound good. My Sephora has those 2 brands so when I get the paycheck I’ll be hitting one of these babies up πŸ˜›

    But Karen, do you find that the Tarte one controls oil well? or is the LM one you recommended better for oil control?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Stephie,

      Both work well for oil-control… the LM one is slightly more moisturizing. The big diff is in texture. If you prefer a thicker primer that has a drier finish then you might like the Tarte one a bit more. When you pop into Sephora maybe ask a MA to make you a few samples to see which one you prefer. They do that if you ask nicely. πŸ™‚

  29. DanielleO says:

    I just bought my first bottle of primer (MUFE) and I’m not sure it’s worth the extra step (moisturizer, sunblock, primer, *then* tinted moisturizer – whew!) Does anyone out there use it in place of moisturizer?

    • Karen says:

      Hi DanielleO,

      I wouldn’t skip moisturizer, but that’s because I’m partly dry. If you’re very oily you might be able to get away with it, though…

  30. Mikele says:

    Smashbox broke me out too. πŸ™ I haven’t tried a primer since and I NEED one!! lol Can anybody (or you Karen) recommend one with different ingredients? I kind of have the combo normal to super oily skin.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mikele,

      A lot of people have problems with that primer due to the silicones in the formula. If you think that you are breaking out because of the silicones, scan the ingredient lists of the primers you’re considering — if Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone or Cyclopentasiloxane are listed at the top then you might want to skip it. I really like Laura’s. Even though it contains dimethicone it’s listed towards the middle of the list (which means there’s less of it in the formula) it doesn’t irritate my skin. You could also always purchase your items from a place with a really good return policy like Nordstrom. Keep your receipt and return it if your skin doesn’t like it. That’s what I do. πŸ™‚

  31. Anne says:

    For dry sensitive skin, I like T’Fivve under makeup moisturizer. It’s a moisturizer and primer in one.

  32. Brii says:

    I would recomend the Benifit That Gal primer, its really oil absorbing, but it its not great if your skin is dry. I am definately a HUGE fan of the smashbox photo finish primer in green.

  33. Cindy Lartigue says:

    My favorite primer is Smashbox! And I will look like a total idiot for saying this. I had gotten a sample of it with a Sephora.com purchase and even though I don’t wear foundation – I still tried it. I loved the way it glided on my face and made my face feel. I use it every day now.

  34. Nicole15 says:

    I tend to go back & forth with a lot of primers since i constantly seem to be getting samples of them. primers are a necessity for me since i have oily skin & wear foundation that i want to stay in place. However, some of my faves are: Smashbox Light Oil-Free Primer, Laura Gellar Welcome Matte, Givenchy Mister Mat, Philosophy The Present & Philosophy Never Let Them See You Shine Velvet Primer.

  35. Stef says:

    I don’t use a primer, but I have pretty good skin that looks great with just moisturizer with SPF! I use primer on my eyelids though, Benefit’s Lemon-Aid, but most of the time I use that alone.

  36. Sanayhs says:

    Though I’ve been using Smashbox’s photofinish for quite a while, I’ve recently tried Tarte’s Clean Slate. I like the thicker texture and how it feels on much better!

    Sanayhs´s last blog post..Flashback a la MAC: Jet Lipstick

  37. Fair says:

    Currently I’m loving Laura Geller Spackle Under Make up Primer!!! My powder goes on super smooth over it & it’s affordable. I’ve found it to be terribly versatile as well; I can use more for greater foundation staying power without looking greasy or I can apply it under a thin layer of powder covered by my moisturizer topped off with another light dusting of powder for an airbrushed, but not overdone look.

    I’ve tried a few Smashbox primers, but in my opinion they don’t compare to my Spackle.

  38. Sakura says:

    I like Shiseido’s spf 20 make-up base. Although in the summer I use the sunblock(spf 55) as a base. The former keeps your skin from getting oily. The latter, no so much. My skin is supper oily I think that I’ll try Tarte’s primer.

  39. Rani says:

    Hi Karen,

    Yes, I have used the Prep and Prime SPF 50 in Pics..and Yay! No dreaded white cast! I am an NC35 but my skin gets darker during the summer, so its always a concern with sunscreen white cast. But you should try it out..plus, it is supposed to be good for us oily/combo girls..I hear it has something in it to help keep the oilies at bay..more reason to try.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rani,

      I’ve had trubs with MAC skin stuff in the past but I think I’ll give it a go. I’ll ask for a sample next time I’m at the counter. Thanks for letting me know about it. I hope it works for me. πŸ™‚

      Have a good weekend!

  40. Anna says:

    I’ve only tried DHC Velvet Coat which is wonderful for me (oily skin and all). But I’m looking for something that is more skin -beneficial (vitamins, antioxidants etc) and with SPF.

    Any thoughts on Sue Devitt’s Microquatic Blue Anti-Aging Primer SPF 30 ($48) or Paul & Joe Beaute’s Protective Foundation Primer UV ($30)?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Anna,

      I used Paul & Joe’s primer in the past and wasn’t too fond of it. I got a white cast on my skin, but if you’re paler than I am it might work for you. I liked the scent of it and the packaging…

  41. chicknamedvick says:

    I use Monistat AntiChaffing Gel as my primer πŸ™‚

  42. Cindyrela says:

    Two great ones for oily skin are Dr. Brant Pores No More (it’s a bit smelly at first) and Smashbox Lite.

  43. Michelle says:

    Bare Escentuals makeup primer & Benefit’s that gal. Although if you like matte skin, don’t get the Benefit one, it makes me glow, which is why I like it πŸ™‚

  44. Mary Kelly says:

    DHC Velvet Skin Coat is the best primer in the world. It makes your skin smooth as a baby’s you know what. And make-up glides on as pores seem smaller. Just fantastic.

  45. Paula says:

    I’m surprised no one mentioned Avon’s Magix Skin Perfector. This stuff gives me the nicest, softest finish when it dries down, and makes my TM last so much longer. I picked it up cheap on sale for $7.50, in the uncolored. But, they just came out with colored to use as your pimer AND foundation. Unfortch, the colors were a bit too yellow for me, but I know some ladies who LOVE! it. πŸ™‚

    Paula´s last blog post..The Magnifique Box (+ a Giveaway!!)

  46. Neelia476 says:

    I have been using MAC’s Prep and Prime Transparent Powder and it works like a dream! I have used a few primers, which are usually silicone based and they always break me out. I found out about this new product by MAC and I used it before I use my powder foundation (MAC mineralized skinfinish natural) and apply it on top to set it. It is wonderful! My pores disappear and when I get a little shiny (if I look closely) my face doesn’t look like an oil slick. It almost keeps that shiny look to a very minimum even if you are a little oily (which you can see from blotting). Highly recommended!!

  47. michelle says:

    I love the shaun of the dead movie. It had me laughing. I like that main guy in everything he does.
    About primers. I have philosophy the present, I use it all by itself. It great for days I don’t want to wear makeup. When I tried it as a primer- even after letting it dry- I had a hard time applying foundation over it. I love the monistat. But I think macs blot powder does better for oilies than any primer. LOL. Good luck in the search.

  48. Rachel says:

    I have not used a primer, yet. Upon, viewing that colorful chart, I became inspired to try the Monistat. I think it’s the most in my price range.

  49. Bobbie says:

    DHC’s Velvet Skin Coat rocks, if you haven’t tried it your missing one of the best! Sometime’s I don’t feel like wearing makeup and just use this and my skin looks great. Monistat anti chafe is my runner up & it works nearly as well.

  50. Michele says:

    I use Aloette Primer & Avon because it comes in a color. I use the medium.

    Happy Sunday!
    I saw ” UP” today
    It was great.

  51. Trude says:

    I have horrible skin and pores, so I’ve tried a ton of different primers. My all-time fave? Kevyn Aucoin. Makes your skin feel like buttah! It sets nicely and I just can’t do without it now. πŸ™‚ Plus it’s now available at larger Sephoras and on their website.

    Trude´s last blog post..This Week in Photos

  52. Jennifer says:

    I’ve just started using Makeup Forever’s green tinted primer…my skin, though olive-y Italian, trends toward redness. This stuff is A-May-Zing. Clears up the red and leaves an even skin tone. It’s not oily, goes on lotion-yand absorbs right in. It also doesn’t make foundation look ashy like I’ve found with other primers.

    There are about six (seven?) different colors depending on what issues your skin has. I picked mine up on a whim from Sephora and love love love love it.

  53. Markie says:

    I use Youthful Trends caffeinated primer. It’s a natural spray with caffeine, cucumber, sage and other herbals and it’s the best primer ever. It’s so light and yet it smooths lines and holds makeup all day. It’s so silky smooth and not sticky like Prime Time or Nars. Youthful Trends…I Love it!

  54. Michelle says:

    I have large pores which I would LOVE to conceal with a really good primer. However, due to my large pores, I am prone to blackheads. Could someone recommend a primer that would not not cause blackheads? I really appreciate it ladies.

  55. I totally just did a post about this http://angelaluvnlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/spackle-for-your-face/ but I absolutely love the silicone based foundation primers. Mac photo finish is awesome kind of pricey Mary Kay’s foundation primer is awesome and I have oily skin so I thought it would make me oily but it actually has oil absorbers in it. Anyway love it! Great Post and Great Questions πŸ™‚

  56. Ok so I LOVE foundation primer and eye primers!! I did a post about them too http://angelaluvnlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/spackle-for-your-face/ I actually love the Mary Kay foundation primer it has spf 15 partially because it is silicone based it makes your face so silky smooth and it also helps with oil control. I did a makeover on a girl the other day and she said she liked it better than the #1 selling smashbox foundation primer photo finish. I personally don’t care if it is equal or better it is like 1/3 of the cost and you get more!! LOVE it!! You should definitely try it. Love hearing about new ones though

  57. Lorilee says:

    I have recently read about Vagisil Chafing Gel as a primer comparable to Smashbox. Has anyone tried? Sounds yuck, but has great reviews!

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