The best primers for a flawless make-up finish

By Fiona Embleton


Often overlooked, primer is the make-up equivalent of the Paris filter for oily, dry, dull and even redness-prone skin

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Softly camouflaging fine lines. Smoothing large pores into submission. Mattifying oily T-Zones. Keeping foundation in place. These are just a few of the transformative properties of a great primer. "For me, a primer maintains an airbrushed finish all day," explains founder Carisa Janes, founder and CEO of Hourglass Cosmetics. "It evens out texture, provides oil control without drying and both enhances and extends foundation wear."

Marina Andersson, make-up artist for YSL Beauté in Denmark, seconds this. “A great primer creates a smooth surface to work on. It's essential for prolonging the wear and longevity of a look.” Primer is especially important for her celebrity clients, she adds, whether they’re walking the red carpet or performing on stage.

How to find the right primer for you

To choose the right formula, you first need to identify your skin type and concerns. Among the year’s most exciting new offerings is Hourglass’ Vanish Airbrush Primer, which uses microspherical powders to create a soft-focus, translucent glow. Janes describe it as a "gamechanger" for meeting the needs of oily skin. “The translucent gel cream formula provides a stronger blurring effect so enlarged pores and imperfections are less visible. It controls shine without leaving skin looking flat.”

Andersson is a fan of using a colour-correcting primer with a hint of green to counteract redness in the skin. “Dull, sallow skin, on the other hand, benefits from formulas containing light-diffusing particles for added radiance," she says. "These can even double up as highlighter over the top of make-up.”

Some primers even moonlight as skincare. Layered under foundation, REN Perfect Canvas Clean Primer leans on probiotics to help bolster the skin barrier. If all-over brightening is your goal, look no further than Ole Henriksen’s Banana Bright Primer with vitamin C. A cast of Arctic spring water, cloudberry and organic Nordic birch sap hydrate, brighten and smooth in Lumene Natural Glow Moisturizing & Illuminating Primer.

For me, a primer maintains an airbrushed finish all day. It evens out texture, provides oil control without drying and both enhances and extends foundation wear

Carisa Janes, founder and CEO of Hourglass Cosmetics

Others are free of silicones such as dimethicone and cyclopentasiloxane, which traditionally impart a slippery texture over the skin. If you prefer a softly hydrating sheen, look no further than fan-favourite Laura Mercier Hydrating Pure Canvas Primer. Also good is the cultish Milk Hydro Grip Primer. The brand credits its soothing properties to hemp-derived cannabis and its canvas-like finish to blue agave extract.

Andersson’s go-to primer is the YSL Touche Eclat Blur Primer (“it’s a hydrating oil-infused gel with illuminated golden flecks”), applied to moisturised skin with a flat foundation brush or fingertips. “Always start with the T-zone and blend the primer out and up towards the cheeks and hairline,” she adds. Janes swears by an innovative ‘zoning’ technique involving two primers, one on the cheeks (“Veil Mineral Primer for evening skin tone and reducing redness”) and a mattifying formula down the T-Zone to control shine. Either way, you're looking at complexion perfection.

Best primers for staying power

Vanish Airbrush Primer


Perfect Canvas Clean Primer

Ren Clean Skincare

Banana Bright Primer

Ole Henriksen

Natural Glow Moisturizing & Illuminating Primer


Wonderglow Primer

Charlotte Tilbury

Hydrating Pure Canvas Primer

Laura Mercier

Hydro Grip Primer

Milk Makeup

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Blur Primer.jpg
Touche Éclat Blur Primer

Yves Saint Laurent