What is Makeup Primer?

Tinted makeup primer.

Makeup primer is a cosmetic designed to smooth and hide fine lines and uneven skin texture. Much like a paint primer, it ensures that a person has a smooth, even, evenly colored surface to apply cosmetics and helps them adhere properly to the skin. It is usually made from materials such as waxes, polymers and silicone and often contains extra ingredients for SPF protection. There are a variety of primers that are specific to areas and problems: for example, one for lips can prevent lipstick from smearing and a tinted one can make a smudged complexion look better. While makeup can be fine without using these products, it usually doesn’t last as long and may not look as polished.

Formulas for different skin types

Makeup, including primer.

A lightweight silicone-based makeup primer is often the best choice for acne-prone or oily skin. It usually contains no irritating ingredients and has the consistency of a soft gel. It is usually labeled as “oil-free”. Heavier primers that contain waxes, lotions, or emollients generally work well for dry or aging skin. Emollients keep the skin supple, while waxes help retain moisture.

color options

The eyeshadow primer can be applied with a makeup brush.

There are colored and clear varieties of makeup primer. The colored type comes in a variety of colors and is used to cover up subtle age spots or discolorations on the face. People should choose hues a shade lighter than their natural skin tone, as the product can look too thick or mask-like when paired with a foundation of a similar color. Some primers feature strong colors like lavender, green, blue and yellow. When worn under foundation, yellow tones help hide blue under-eye shadows, while green tones hide red marks. Lavender and blue liven up yellow skin.

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A makeup primer with yellow undertones is best for hiding dark circles.

Clear primers don’t affect skin color as much as tinted ones, but they can improve your complexion by hydrating it and filling in wrinkles. People who like a very light layer of makeup often use clear formulas under a light layer of powder and blush for a casual look.


Users should start by prepping the skin with a mild cleanser followed by a moisturizer. After the moisturizer dries, the makeup primer can be applied with your fingers or a sponge. Many people start by gently spreading a thin layer over shiny areas like the forehead, nose, and chin, and then covering the rest of the face. Using a smooth gliding motion helps prevent large color smears and uneven application. After the primer has dried for several minutes, any other makeup, such as foundation, blush, eyeshadow, or lipstick, can be applied as normal.


Consumers who have sensitive skin can opt for a makeup primer that does not contain preservatives.

Anyone who has contact dermatitis, allergy, or milia — tiny cysts around the eyes — may not want to use makeup primer, as it can exacerbate these conditions. It can also cause breakouts in people with sensitive or acne-prone skin, especially when combined with layers of other products. This can clog pores and irritate the skin. In addition, ingredients such as silicone can cause allergic reactions in people with a latex allergy, as products that contain silicone often come into contact with latex when they are being manufactured. Those who have had an allergic reaction or severe rash should seek medical attention.

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