obsessive tester

The 11 Best Primers for Shine-Free Skin

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers

Who doesn’t love a little shine? Inner or outer, we all want a little glimmer. However, while appealing, we don’t want our face to look like Edward Cullen in Volterra, Italy. As you prepare to perfect your makeup routine, we can all agree that you should battle with unflinching rigor that other sort of shine that can often come from using a primer. Although primers are best known for allowing makeup to last longer, they are also the first step to keeping your face from glistening like a vampire and a vital part of your makeup routine.

What is a primer?

A primer is a substance used a preparatory coat. In this case, for the canvas that is your face. However, just like the beauty industry is saturated with tons of different moisturizers, you guessed it, there are just as many primers.

How do I use primer?

“Is your skin oily, and makeup tends to separate or look blotchy throughout the day? Pick a mattifying primer. Is your skin dry and flaky, and makeup only seems to emphasize the dry patches? Use a highly moisturizing primer,” says makeup artist Sandy Ganzer. Depending on your skin concern, Carly Loundenberg, a Bobbi Brown National Makeup Artist, recommends you address it before moving onto applying your makeup.

What should I consider when choosing a primer?

Makeup artist Katie Mellinger explains that if you’re using a silicone-based foundation, then you should use a silicone-based primer and vice versa. Same goes if your foundation is water based. “Usually a thicker, silicone-based primer is a better choice for full coverage looks as it helps to smooth out the skin’s texture, while a lighter and more fluid primer is better for more natural, sheer, or glowy makeup looks,” says makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran.

So don’t skip over reading the ingredients! We’ve all gone through finishing a perfect makeup look only for it to be ruined the second you place your phone on your cheek.

How often should I use primer?

You don’t have to always use a primer, but there is definitely no harm in using one everyday — even if you’re going for a natural-makeup look. If you’re just using concealer, primer can help it blend better on the skin. Plus “primers can do wonders for mattifying or boosting hydration to your skin,” explains Ganzer. And according to Adam Breuchaud, “one of the best reasons to use a primer is because it acts as a thin barrier that helps stop your makeup from seeping into your skin. Because of this, I use primer under every makeup I do.”

After speaking to celebrity makeup artists and conducting an in-depth search and testing, we’ve rounded up the best primers on the market for all skin types and concerns.

For the fast moving

If you’re the kind of person who likes to get ready at warp speed, then this nifty primer from Paula’s Choice is your best bet. Almost as soon as you spread a pea-size amount over your shiny spots, the silicone formula dries to a matte finish. It won’t bead or flake under makeup, and it keeps even the brightest forehead shine-free for at least six hours.

For a silky finish

Of course Armani would make a silky primer that spreads as smoothly as butter over skin. The gelatinous concoction acts like a cushion between your face and makeup, smothering oil and grease for the better part of a day. It plays well with any form of foundation — liquid, powder, or cream — but also works nicely on its own as a fancy guard against shine and is one of Ganzer’s favorite primers.

For the blemish prone

$13
Photo: Cover FX

If you’re shiny and tend to break out, here’s a primer that gets your whole vibe. A combination of one percent salicylic acid and silicone clears clogged pores and mattifies skin. The formula is so light and thin that it absorbs into skin like a moisturizer, rather than sitting on top of it. You’ll feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.

For the truly shine averse

If you really hate silicone, consider this mattifying primer from Make Up For Ever, which eschews silicone for silica (a derivative of silicone and a more breathable ingredient, according to some). The opaque white formula feels like a creamy gel, and under any kind of makeup, it was the most impressive in stopping shine — for a full 12 hours.

For the TikTok obsessed

This viral primer is known for it’s firm hold that leaves makeup looking perfect all day long. It has a sticky, siliconelike (though it’s silicone free) texture that achieves that dewy look you might be striving for.

For everyday use

For Breuchaud, who uses primer every day, his go-to is this illuminating primer from Chanel. Formulated with hyaluronic acid and blue microalgae, it visibly plumps skin and keeps it moisturized throughout the whole day. It feels light on the face and works to blur the look of fine lines.

For the luxury obsessed

If you’re all about luxury, Tom Ford’s Illuminating Primer is your answer. The radiance this adds to any makeup look is unmatched and is one of Loudenburg’s beloved products in her makeup bag.

An under-$25 option

The Black-owned beauty brand LYS offers makeup products that feature skin-care benefits, and their primer is no exception. For Mellinger, this is one of her favorite primers for longevity. “It’s a gripping formula that also contains niacinamide, which is awesome for improving skin texture and controlling shine,” she says.

For extra SPF coverage

Adding more SPF to your routine is never a bad idea. Makeup artists including Angela Levin love this primer, which offers SPF 50 and hyaluronic acid for the most hydrated and protected skin out there, especially if you’re doing a light-makeup look.

For the best blank canvas

“This product does something to the skin that makes me scream,” says Amy Chin. “The hydration ingredients are super-beneficial and help draw moisture in and give you a beautiful canvas.” For Chin and other artists, the versatilely of this primer is unmatched. It blurs, protects, and enhances the skin all at once.

The drugstore option

When you’re in a pinch for time, a solid drugstore option is a great answer. The Master Prime Blur + Pore Minimizer from Maybelline is under $10 and offers lightweight coverage that manages to blur pores and even skin tones.

Our experts

The 11 Best Primers for Shine-Free Skin