Tuesday Tip: Apply Moisturizer Before Your Face Primer

Published in: Face, Makeup Tips/How To

Let's get ready to moisturize and prime!

Ready to moisturize, blot and prime!

I know I say this all the time, but that’s because it’s freakin’ true! — it really does take a village, so to speak, when you’re trying to do the whole smooth/flawless skin thing, or as close as you can get to it.

Oh, my goodness, yes, it would be SO nice if it were possible to do it all in one easy step, but that hasn’t been my experience. There are lots of steps involved in getting as close as possible to perfect-looking skin for me, and it takes a lot of work, especially upfront prep work at the beginning of the process.


But here’s something that helps, and I always do it, without fail: I always apply moisturizer before my face primer.

When I do, my skin looks smoother, my makeup lasts longer, and everything I apply on top of moisturized skin just seems to work better.

I really don’t know why… Maybe the moisturizer plumps the skin and makes whatever I apply on top of it look smoother. Colors also look richer and more intense.

Here’s my basic process…

Step 1: Moisturize

First, I moisturize, and it’s the first step when I’m applying my makeup (before this, however, right after washing my face in the morning, I apply any skin serums and products with SPF).

My combination skin is more dry than oily (but it’s also oily on my forehead and around my nose and chin), so I reach for rich moisturizers, and I like ones that don’t contain SPF, in this case, to avoid the telltale white cast that can happen when you mix SPF-containing products and flash photography. I also like moisturizers that don’t pill or clump when I apply other products on top of them.

Once my face is fully moisturized, I give the moisturizer enough time to fully absorb and sink in, which is usually around five minutes. Note: this step is very, VERY important because if the moisturizer is still wet in spots, products applied on top of it won’t last as long as they should/could.

Step 2: Blot

Next, just to be safe, I’ll blot my skin with a tissue or paper towel to lift away any as yet unabsorbed moisturizer.

Step 3: Prime

Now it’s time to prime. It goes right on top of my moisturized skin, and then I also give that enough time to set (about another five minutes).


While I’m waiting, I’ll do other things, like fill in my brows, fix my hair or harass my cat. 🙂

Finally, I put on my foundation, concealer, powder and all that fun stuff.

I know it sounds like a lot work, and it is, so I don’t do it when I’m super insanely pressed for time (instead, I’ll just mist my face with Fix+ and apply primer on top), but I really do think it makes a big difference in the way my skin looks when I wear makeup.

Product recommendations

For moisturizers, I use and like…

For primers, a few of my favorites are…

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 14 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Chelsea says:

    Moisturizing and letting it sink in are so key. I know folks who say they don’t like moisturizing because it lasts longer, but dry spots with foundation look awful, like clumps of skin falling off. Also, making sure you aren’t wearing, say, an oil based moisturizer with a water based foundation, since those don’t mix.

  2. Emmy says:

    Always! Makeup never goes on smooth without my moisturiser even on my oil factory acne prone skin. During summer my skin is too oily and during winters it’s dry like the Sahara. I have so many cosmetics stocked up depending on my skin’s behaviour! When I was a newbie, I had one item each for all seasons! *sigh*
    Emmy recently posted … MOTD: Everyone Has A Dark Side!

    • Andrew says:

      I feel you on the stockpiling. I have moisturizers, cleaners, exfoliators, and masks that I haven’t even tried yet. I’m being a bit if a skincare junkie.

  3. Rachel R. says:

    I always put on moisturizer first, then sunscreen if needed, then primer. The primer will create a barrier and the moisturizer won’t sink into my skin.

  4. Andrew says:

    I’m just now in the last two months understanding how crucial it is to moisturize. My fine lines have gotten so much fainter, almost to the point of being non-existent, and my blackheads have been nowhere near as bad (a major pain in my side).

    I’ve heard people say they don’t have time to moisturize, but if you time it correctly it takes no longer than your normal routine:

    1) MOISTURIZE. T-Zone, cheeks, forehead, undereyes, nose, chin, everywhere!
    2) While it’s drying, start applying your eye makeup. I know this is weird for some, but it typically takes most people the longest; plus if you mess up or have major fallout you don’t have to worry about disturbing then fixing your base makeup.
    3) Most moisturizers will have seeped in by now, but JUST in case it hasn’t you can always take this time to exfoliate and prime your lips.
    4) Finish your routine as normal. You’ve already got your eye makeup and possibly even the first steps of lip makeup done, plus your skin is moisturized and refreshed.

    You’re adding an extra step but streamlining your routine, so it’s almost like you’re finding extra time out of thin air! No excuses to not moisturize now!

  5. Holly says:

    I always enjoy reading your tips’n’tricks! Even though I have quite oily skin & battled acne into my 20s, I also started using a moisturizer twice a day as a teenager. I’m currently using Garnier’s Moisture Rescue Refresh Gel Cream for normal/combo skin. I love it because it’s light, it sinks in quickly, & doesn’t smell weird.

    On a completely unrelated note, I splurged on a pot of BECCA’s Beach Tint Souffle in Lychee/Opal & I cannot wait to wear it tomorrow!

  6. Katherine T. says:

    In summer, I have combo skin, so I can skip the moisturizer and just use a moisturizing sunscreen (Super Goop City Serum SPF30). I let it sink in a little, blot with kleenex, then dot Algenist Sublime Defense SPF30 onto my T zone (it acts as primer and mattifies the skin) and on my cheeks (it blurs any pores). It’s labeled as a moisturizer but it’s not, and it doesn’t add any extra oil/grease. Then I dry my hair on low –the warm air blowing on my face will help dry up any unabsorbed creams. Then I apply my foundation, dust with a little powder, and my makeup will can last +12 hours.

  7. Renee says:

    I’ve always done moisturizer first. I have never met anyone who put their primer on first. With so many primers containing silicones, it just wouldn’t soak into the skin. I must say, now I’m curious, so I’m gong to start asking people, might even try primer first myself…lol 😉

  8. I didn’t even realize some people do it the other way around! lol 🙂 I’ve always done it like this.
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Make-up look | Wedding make-up (finally!) (Also: only two more days, eek!)

  9. Stephanie says:

    I’m also of the “people moisturize after primer??” camp. Huh.

    Also, I use a combo SPF moisturizer in the mornings and usually put it on right away after washing my face, then do my primer/foundation whenever I’m interested in it. I’m hugely into sun protection these days with the hope that skin cancer is the one bad health thing I can prevent. So my question is, since everyone says SPF should be one of the last steps, do you worry about putting moisturizer on top of it? What kind of SPF products are you using?

  10. Is there another way to do it? I am confused.
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … How many aspects of your personality are there? – Glasses by GlassesShop

  11. Aditi says:

    I have learned it the hard way, but since I learned it I never messed up the sequence. 😀
    Aditi recently posted … Sabudana Kheer aka Tapioca Pudding | Indian Dessert

  12. kirsten says:

    I’ve always wondered if I should wear primer with my tinted moisturizer. Sounds like I probably shouldn’t, since the tint belongs on top and the moisturizer belongs underneath. 😀

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