Makeup Artist Tips | How to Find Your Perfect Makeup Primer.

It can be overwhelming when shopping for ANY makeup nowadays with the huge surge in products, promises and brands. Makeup primers are kind of one of those things that when you find ‘your’ one, you will rarely want to or need to change. I must admit, although I have an oily skin, I don’t wear a primer day-to-day, for me it’s more of a special occasion thing as I am relatively lazy when it comes to applying my own makeup! However, being a makeup artist has given me huge insight into skintypes, primers and what really works so I want to share with you my knowledge on everything to do with makeup primers.


What does a Primer do?

It’s simply a product that prepares and smooths your skin for makeup application. By smoothing the skin (pores, fine lines etc) it ensures foundation is easier to apply, looks better AND will stay on your face for longer. Do you need one? Not necessarily, no. I would only suggest you look into a primer if you have either end of the spectrum skin : by that I mean dry/dehydrated or combo/oily/open pores. If your skin is normal, you have no fine lines, open pores and you don’t have problems with makeup staying on your face, then don’t fix something that isn’t broke! Skip the primer, you may not actually need one.

Types of Primer & Formulas.

When I started working in makeup around 14 years ago, there was only really a handful of makeup primers to choose from. Most brands, if they did a primer at all, would only have one that would usually be in a cream formula. Fast forward to now and we are unindated with different primers & formulas that cater for different skintypes, which is great, but can make it confusing when choosing which one is right for you. There are 5 main types of primer : Cream/Gel being the most common that we all know but we can also get them in the form of a balm, spray, powder and oil/serum.

Application / Best Way to apply.

Use a primer AFTER your skincare and BEFORE makeup. Simple. I tend to apply in just the areas that I need it (my t-zone, anywhere I can see open-pores) and I will usually apply with a buffing brush. Fingertips is fine, it’s just whatever you feel comfortable with. The only thing I would suggest you DON’T do is apply too much, particularly if it is heavy on the silicone as if combined with a water-based foundation, it could cause it to have that dreaded peeling effect that we all know and DO NOT LOVE.

My Favourite Primers in my Pro Kit.

I can promise you this: A LOT of makeup artists won’t even use primer, and instead use just great skincare or a multi-purpose cream such as the cult favourite Embryolisse to prep & prime a client’s skin. Also spray formulas , tonics and hydration sprays are also readily used by makeup artist’s instead of or as a primer,  as it it quick/fuss-free and prepares the skin really well for makeup, one of my favourite’s being the Institut Esthederm Eau Cellulaire Spray



(1) Too Faced Hangover Primer: Lightweight, breathable and a great primer for people with dull and dry/lacklustre skin. (2) Sunday Riley Effortless Breathable Tinted Primer: This come in three slightly tinted shades and is very nourishing, almost serum-like. I love this on my mature clients. (3) Institut Esthederm Eau Cellulaire Spray: I pretty much use this on everyone, primer or no primer. For model’s with great skin, this gives just a light burst of hydration and skin prep before makeup. (4) Hourglass The Veil Mineral Primer: Probably my no.1 that I seem to use the most ; particulary good for combination skin as it leaves a semi-matte finish, and is the best I have used in terms of increasing the wear of ANY makeup you apply over it. (5) Stila One Step Correct: Great for those who have high colouring or uneven skintones and this will just calm it all down and uniform the tones before makeup.  (6) Embryolisse : A makeup artist’s secret weapon! There’s probably not one professional kit without a tube of this knocking around. Not only does it remove makeup, cleanse and moisturise but it also preps the skin perfectly, imparting a wonderful, glossy finish. Great for all, except oily skins.

Silicone-based primers VS non-silicone.

Silicone is usually the KEY ingredient in makeup primers (ahem and a lot of skincare) as it’s primary function is to smooth and act like a filler, hence why you get that wonderful smooth skin and appearance once it’s applied onto the skin. You can usually feel if a product has silicone in it by the way that it feels….almost velvety. Some people choose not to opt for silicone-based primers as it can clog the pores, cause breakouts and be reactive…..on SOME skin! Don’t be afraid of silicone as it can work really well for the majority.


Wanna know if your primer/foundation or skincare contains silicone? Then look at the ingredients list, if there is anything ending in ‘cone’, ‘methicone’, ‘siloxane’ will usually indicate silicone. 

Some of my favourite silicone-free primers include : 

Too Faced Hangover Primer, BECCA Ever-matte Poreless Primer (what I am using in the below photo) , Laura Mercier Radiance Primer. I found it pretty hard to find a budget primer that doesn’t contain silicone.



Finding Your Ultimate Primer.

Firstly, and most importantly it’s about your skin type. If you are dry/dehydrated and you opt for a really mattifying primer, it will end up making your foundation look worse! Select a primer that is formulated for your skin type and also gives you the finish that you want. Budget is also another key factor and fortunately the high street have caught up so you can get a decent primer from around £5.

Spoilt for choice in the hunt for your ultimate primer? I’ve created this handy table that splits primers up into budget and skin type so it makes choosing a little bit easier.

I hope you find this guide helpful, if you didn’t catch my Ultimate Foundation Guide you can have a read by clicking on the link. Also, please comment below if you have any great makeup primer recommendations that I haven’t mentioned here.