Pretty Smart: 18 Primers that Fix Your Flaws
Get the right shade for your complexion woes with Koh Gen Do’s pore-minimizing color base with SPF 16. Hide blemishes and diffuse redness with a green base, liven up sallow skin with a lavender pink base, and even out skin tones with a yellow base.
Available at kohgendocosmetics.com, $48-$50.
“Give me SPF and a light coat of powder, and I’m golden (except for when I’m splotchy, oily, and sweaty with dark circles under my eyes),” New York editor Jordan Blumberg says. “And though I think of Dior Capture Totale as an assistant for my face, it actually does it all — smells delightful, goes on silky, evens tonal issues, provides SPF 25 — like a boss.”
Available at sephora.com, $52.
As a hot-tool addict, Web and beauty editor Jennifer Jackson takes all the style-holding help she can get. “Living Proof’s hair primer keeps my waves bouncing for about two days,” she says. “I still use hairspray, but I probably don’t need to. Plus, on days I don’t curl, it just makes my locks look good.”
Available at sephora.com, $12-$20.
“With a full night’s rest, By Terry Hyaluronic Eye Primer covered up my light under-eye circles perfectly without the aid of a concealer,” social media editor Emily Warman says. “After burning the midnight oil (watching Netflix, of course), I added concealer, and you could barely tell I went three-for-three with rom coms.”
Available at barneys.com, $47.
“The one-color-fits-all approach of Murad’s Hybrids Skin Perfecting Primer frightened me and my deathly pale skin,” Web editorial director Karen Clark confesses. “But the color really did magically blend in with my skin tone. I skipped my regular application of foundation, and the dewy finish left such a glow that I also skipped the gym.”
Available at murad.com, $35.
Style director Danielle Bufalini didn’t believe in magic until she tried a pump of Guerlain’s Meteorites light-diffusing primer. The pretty pearls burst open and transform dull skin into a bright and glowing complexion she hasn’t seen since college.
Available at saksfifthavenue.com, $71.
“Being a redhead, my skin is pale with pink undertones,” social media editor Emily Warman says. “I applied a thin layer of Alima Pure Balancing Primer Powder underneath my regular Neutrogena pressed powder, and its green undertones balanced everything perfectly. My skin was less irritated and smoother than usual.”
Available at alimapure.com, $20.
“Too Faced’s Primed & Poreless now has a permanent place in my arsenal,” executive editor Jay Blades says. “The nude putty smooths and hydrates, creating a silky foundation and locking in my makeup for the day ahead.”
Available at sephora.com, $30.
Face wash, serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, primer, foundation, powder, bronzer: Layers add up fast. La Roche-Posay’s two-in-one sunscreen combines a hefty SPF 50 UVA/UVB blocker plus a mattifying makeup primer, so you use less of everything else once it’s on.
Available at laroche-posay.us, $40.
You can layer Sunday Riley’s Effortless Breathable Tinted Primer under foundation for a finished face, but we prefer to wear it alone as a long-lasting alternative to tinted moisturizer.
Available at barneys.com, $48.
“Public transportation is my nemesis in the summer,” editorial assistant Alexandra Moncure says. “But with this Smashbox primer, I finally can be that girl who emerges from the 90-degree subway with flawless makeup intact. Plus, it controls oil and shine without leaving a heavy residue.”
Available at smashbox.com, $25.
“I wasn’t convinced I would see much of a difference in my complexion,” editorial assistant Lauren Hollaway says. “But L’Oreal’s Studio Secrets pink paste turned from a cream to a powder seamlessly, and made my face so matte I had to use a highlighter to get contour on my cheekbones.”
Available at target.com, $10.
“True to its word, Make Up Forever HD Microperfecting Primer mattifies, moisturizes, and gives your skin a subtle glow while leaving it silky to the touch,” Everywhere editor Tiffany Davis says. “I know you’re not supposed to touch your face, but I really, really wanted to keep touching my face.”
Available at sephora.com, $34.
“Honestly, I’d never used a primer before Heir Atelier Ultimate Make Up Prep, but now there’s no going back,” senior editor Lauren Lumsden says. “My makeup goes on more smoothly, my face is dewier, and my super sensitive skin soaks it up without complaint. Plus, I love that the makeup artist who created it says it’s ‘tested on models and celebrities, not on animals.’”
Available at heiratelier.com, $38.
“On my test day, I lightly applied Becca’s Lip-Priming Perfector nude gloss before topping with a deep red shade,” senior editor Lauren Berger says. “Surprisingly, the color lasted through a pack of Oreos and an entire ice cream sundae. In other news, I am a grown-up who makes responsible decisions.”
Available at sephora.com, $24.
“The dark beige hue of Cargo Blu-Ray High Definition Mattifier nearly scared me off,” production coordinator Jillian King says. “But it spread evenly on my pale, pink-tinted skin. A thin layer of foundation applied over it lasted the whole day and into happy hour. I’m not sitting under stage lights, but our office’s fluorescent lights were noticeably more forgiving.”
Available at cargocosmetics.com, $28.
“I never really understood primers until Algenist’s Pore Corrector graced my face,” advertising and commerce editor Larkin Clark admits. “Even when applied over thick moisturizer, it smooths the appearance of pores and creates a matte finish that lets me skip the powder (a major plus for warmer months). But beware: One little squeeze goes a long way. Use too much, and the stuff starts to clump with your powder or foundation.”
Available at algenist.com, $42.
Our friends at DailyCandy have found 18 primers that are the best for prepping your skin for perfection. From you hair to your lips, there's a product out there to get you ready, and DailyCandy has done the legwork in finding the best of the best.
Click through the gallery to see their picks.
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