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11 Primers with a Purpose

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Beauty quiz: With so many foundations, powders, and concealers on the market, do you really need to add a step to your regimen? You don’t have to, but if you take your makeup from work to the gym to drinks, a primer may help.

“Primers primarily smooth the skin, filling in lines and crevices and keep makeup looking fresher longer,” says celebrity makeup artist Kim Bower. “And some have hyaluronic acids that add more moisture to the skin.”

Now, before you hop on the primer bandwagon, realize there are good and bad priming products. “A good primer doesn't make you look dry or show fine lines, but improves your glow and overall look,” says celebrity make-up artist Marni Burton. “A good one also allows you to blend makeup easily—whereas some formulas hold makeup in place so much that it’s impossible to blend, which will create streaking if you try.”

Obviously, those are the ones to avoid. But there are also a few lash, lip, and shadow primers you don’t want to miss out on, says Bower. We broke down exactly which ones to spend your hard-earned dough on. (Then, learn How to Apply Makeup, According to a Makeup Artist.)

For Oily Skin
Too Faced Primed and Poreless Primer ($30; is Bower’s go-to for skin prone to shine. “This has a slight tint, and it’s great for oil absorption,” she says.

For Dry Skin
A primer can just be an extra step in the drying process if you already battle flaking—except if you choose a product specifically formulated to boost moisture. “I love Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch ($36; for dry skin types that need soothing and hydration,” she says.

For Sensitive Skin
If your skin is dry or notably sensitive, Laura Mercier’s prodcuts are light and hydrating, says Bower, while still packing some crazy lumination and staying powder. Try Radiance (34;, which will provide that lit-from-within glow.

For Uneven Skin
Primers might be most important for women with wrinkling and blemishes, since they’re formulated to smooth skin underneath make-up. Burton is obsessed with Sunday Riley Effortless Breathable Tinted Primer ($48; for ladies with problem-prone skin. “Love this one,” she declares. (No matter if you have oily skin, dry skin, or uneven pores, we have The Best Face Masks for Every Skin Condition.)

For the Busy Woman
Have no time? (Like, literally one extra step in your regimen is almost too much.) Then take five extra seconds and use: “Dior Airflash CC Primer ($50; for a quick radiance boost,” says Burton. Could not be prettier or faster.

For Pores
Burton loves NARS Pore-Refining Primer ($34; for women who want to shrink this particular skin concern. It goes on smooth, and controls oil in the T-zone area.

For the Everywoman
If you’re not sure what your biggest skin concern is, or which formulation would work best for your staying-power needs, you can’t go wrong with Smashbox Photo Finish primer ($36; Burton calls this one her “one-size-fits-all.”

For Lashes
Mascara primers like Diorshow Maximizer Lash-Plumping Serum ($28; can be real gems for helping keep lashes healthy, and helping them appear longer and more voluminous. However, says Bower, “Lash primers can cause a bit more smudging, which is why I don’t recommend them for those with oily skins.”

For Lids
Shadow primers are tailored to prevent that oh-so-common creasing with longwear, and keep the shadow true to its color. “I stick to Too Faced Shadow Insurance ($20;,” says Bower.

For Lips
Like eyelid primers, lip primers similarly help to keep lipsticks and stains true to the color in the tube—and help them stay on for day-to-night wearability. Again, Too Faced reigns supreme with its Lip Insurance Primer ($20;, says Burton. (Pair this with one of our favorite 10 Lipsticks that Stay on All Day.)

For Hair
Don’t be afraid to add a heat-protecting, frizz-fighting product to your regimen. Toni & Guy Heat Protection Mist ($15; smoothes, eliminates static and prevents damage at temperatures up to 440 degrees Fahrenheit.


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