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.

Makeup Artist Tips | How to Find Your Perfect Foundation

FOUNDATION ; It’s that one makeup product that I probably invest the most money into and I am forever finding new formulas and brands that I love and use. Fortunately as consumers we are pretty spoilt for choice with foundations with innovative formulas constantly coming out trying to entice us in. I don’t know about you, but I have probably around 4 that I consistently use, depending on how my skin is, what finish and coverage I like and also how tanned my skin is.

If you are struggling to find something that works for you then here are some tips and tricks to finding ‘THE ONE’ ; that holy grail foundation, which can be quite a time-consuming and arduos task, not to mention heavy on the purse strings!


There are 4,00000,000000 foundations to choose from and we all haven’t got a lifetime to go through them all ; ask yourself these questions that will help whittle down the options and help you find your perfect match.

1) Budget Find your comfortable price-point. Not everyone wants to spend £30 on a foundation every 6 months and there are some fantastic budget options.

2) Coverage Don’t straight away think you need a full-coverage! How is your skin without makeup? Unless you have heavy blemishes/ scarring and high redness, it’s unlikely you need a full coverage, although SO many people think they do. Your skin will looks it’s best with the lighest foundation your skin needs with strategic & clever concealing…as opposed to using your foundation as a concealer.

3) Skintype This will dictate how a foundation sits and wears on your skin. Dry skins will prefer a more dewy and hydrating foundation wheras oily skins will prefer a semi-matte and perhaps oil-free finish.

There are also many different formulas of foundation which may effect your choice ; cream, powder, fluid & stick foundations being the most common. You may prefer makeup to be quick easy and compact, in that case you may want a powder with a sponge or brush in the compact.


Not on the back of your hand, but on your ACTUAL face. If shopping in a store then usually you will be able to get a sales assistant to apply it & match your skintone for you, so you can wear it around for a bit to see how it wears and sits on your skin. Also a good way to see if it actually IS the right colour when you walk about outside as sometimes store lighting is not great, particulary if there is no natural light. How many times have you purchased a foundation after swiping it on your hand for it to look terrible on your face later @ home?! 

Drugstores are a little trickier, as sometimes you are lucky enough to even have a foundation tester, let alone anyone to help you! Take along a small compact mirror, and hunt down the foundation tester you want to try on your skin and match is as reccomended below.


Yes, you can be yellow (warm), neutral or pink (cool) toned in your skin. If you can’t see any obvious tones in your skin and can’t work it out….go for neutral

Some brands such as Bobbi Brown are very yellow-based but most brands have a reasonable selection of pink and yellow tones. MAC offer their infamous NC (Neutral Cool) vs NW (Neutral Warm) shades with C actually being yellow and W more pink. Another brand which I am loving for their ease of tone selection is Cover FX and their custom drops which are split into Pink, Neutral & Gold.

When I am matching a client for foundation, yes I will look at the colour on the neck but often this IS paler than the face anyway as the sun does not catch it as much, so DON’T get matched just on your neck ; try the neck, forehead and chin if you just want a quick match & get the one that is adaptable to all areas of your face and a happy medium between all the areas. Often a colour that is perfect on the neck will be 2 shades too pale on the forehead. 

Are you using fake tan? Will you be going paler or much darker anytime soon? Take that into consideration. I always have my winter VS summer foundations, so don’t expect 1 colour will suit all year round, you will have to switch it up or get some form of liquid bronze you can add into your foundation to make it warmer. I love the NARS liquid laguna and the The Body Shop shade adjusting drops to add depth to my foundation.



Application is also important to get the most out of your foundation and to get it looking perfectly polished. Your foundation formula will dictate what the best way to apply it will be and get advice on how is best to apply. In general :

+ Cream/Fluids work best with brushes or sponges

+ Powders work best with brushes or sponges
+ Don’t feel comfortable with a brush = use your fingertips!

 If you like a heavier coverage, try a sponge. Beauty Blender is the most well-known and does live up to the hype although there are plenty of dupes out there now if you are on a budget. I prefer a buffing brush as I just think it works so much better at working the product into the skin, with this one from Crownbrush being one of my favourites. Foundation brushes have advanced so much in the last 10 years ; before the ‘paddle’ foundation brush was the main option , but now there are lots of different styles and types so there will always be one that works for you. 

I’ve collated a few of my favourite foundations below so it may make it easier to find your perfect foundation based on your skin type, coverage you want and the all-important budget:

Have you found your perfect foundation yet? What do you like for both budget and high end? Would love to hear your suggestions.