Skin envy: 10 best primers for a flawless foundation finish


Far from just another step in your beauty routine, prepping your complexion with the right primer for your skin type will not only create the most flawless foundation finish but also make sure it stays in place throughout the whole day.

A primer essentially does two main things. Firstly, it evens out the skin’s surface for a smooth base so your make-up applies evenly, and secondly, it provides grip for make-up to hang onto to extend its wear. But the latest formulations have evolved, offering extra skincare benefits too – from primers with added moisturising ingredients to help with dry skin to oil-controlling formulations at the other sides of the skincare scale and everything in-between.

You should make using a primer a priority, if you’re finding your make-up is noticeably sitting in fine lines, pores, around blemishes or imperfections and drawing attention to them. If your morning make-up is going blotchy by noon, you’ll benefit from one too.

Whatever your skin type or problem, there’s a skin-perfecting primer that’s going to work like an IRL Instagram filter for you.

How we tested

We put the latest primers to the test, layering each product as the last step in our morning skincare routine before applying our favourite foundation. All our top formulas prolonged the wear of our make-up base as standard, but also made our skin feel comfortable and provided something extra – be it hydration, radiance, or oil-control. There’s one for every skin type, so we’ve got you covered.

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The best primers for 2021 are:

Best overall – Superfluid blur primer moisturiser: £23, Best for dry or dehydrated skin – Milk Makeup hydro grip primer: £29, Best for all-in-one – Supergoop! glow screen SPF30: £32, Best for summer – Charlotte Tilbury invisible UV flawless poreless primer: £39, Best for minimising pores – Benefit the porefessional pore primer: £25.05, Best for dull skin – Sculpted by Aimee Connolly beauty base pearl: £23, Best for combination and oily skin types – The Ordinary high-adherence silicone primer: £3.90, Best for lines and wrinkles – StriVectin anti-wrinkle line blurfector instant wrinkle blurring primer: £29.50, Best for normal skin types – Laura Mercier pure canvas perfecting primer: £32, Best for blemish-prone skin – e.l.f blemish fighting putty primer: £9,

Superfluid blur primer moisturiser Best: Overall Rating: 10/10 New to the UK, Italian beauty brand Superfluid has got an attitude we can all get behind with a small line-up of beauty products inspired by real, unedited skin. This standout primer manages the difficult task of mattifying and hydrating at the same time, making it suitable for all skin types. Enriched with super-moisturiser hyaluronic acid, it has the texture of light cream that absorbs in an instant, leaving behind a semi-matte, soft complexion with an even surface ready for make-up. We found this gave our skin enough moisture when used with serum alone – making it a true and impressive moisturiser-primer hybrid. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Milk Makeup hydro grip primer Best: For dry or dehydrated skin Rating: 9/10 Much loved by beauty experts and consumers alike, this primer still remains hard to beat on performance. It’s ideal for complexions that need an extra hit of hydration (don’t we all), with its cocktail of moisturising ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, hemp-derived cannabis seed and blue agave. Your skin will drink in the cool gel-like texture instantly, but for best results, you have to leave it for a minute while the grip of the formula takes hold ready to lock in your make-up. A modern beauty classic. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Supergoop! glow screen SPF30 Best: For all-in-one Rating: 9/10 For those that like a simplified skincare routine, this is one of those superstar skincare products that does it all. First and foremost, it’s a next-generation sunscreen that will encourage you to wear it, as you should, every day – with not a white mark or greasy cast insight. But it’s also a moisturiser, boasting hydration-boosting vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, as well as an excellent primer with a dewy, pearlescent finish that makes skin look luminous. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Charlotte Tilbury invisible UV flawless poreless primer Best: For summer Rating: 8/10 New to the beauty shelves, this is another multi-tasking product made for those that take their skincare seriously and wear a high SPF50 every day. It provides a non-greasy, high protection from both UVA rays that cause visible skincare damage to the skin, and UVB rays that cause the skin to burn. As well as skin protection, it’s hydrating enough to skip moisturiser if you layer over serum, and sits under make-up well without causing it to cake or crease. It even blurs lines and pores too, making them less noticeable. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Benefit the porefessional pore primer Best: For minimising pores Rating: 9.5/10 If enlarged pores or acne scars are your skin bugbear, this bestselling primer in the prestige market needs to be under your foundation. Apply the lightweight balm sparingly and watch it instantly blur pores and even out imperfections creating an even and matte finish. We found make-up looked flawless throughout the day when layered underneath foundation, but also loved using it on its own on no make-up days. It also works a treat when used over make-up for oily or combination complexions that can’t go without topping up in the day. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Sculpted by Aimee Connolly beauty base pearl Best: For dull skin Rating: 9/10 Lacklustre complexions that need a little pick-me-up, should reach for this light-reflecting formula with pearlised pigments. A hero product from Irish make-up artist, Aimee Connolly’s cosmetic brand, shows she knows the secret behind creating glowing, radiant skin. Boasting broad spectrum SPF30 for everyday protection and hyaluronic acid and peptides for added moisture and skin-plumping, this is yet another all-in-one product for a speedy morning routine. Expect it to leave skin feeling like velvet with a beautiful natural luminous glow, and of course creating a smoother complexion for better foundation application that stays in place all day. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} The Ordinary high-adherence silicone primer Best: For combination and oily skin types Rating: 8/10 Turn to this oil-free mattifying formula if you’re looking to keep shine at bay, and soften imperfections like enlarged pores and fine lines. It makes an ideal base for complexions prone to oiliness, keeping make-up even and in place for longer. For days when you want to go make-up free, it also works well as the last step in your skincare routine, leaving skin feeling silky and looking like it’s had a soft-focus filter applied. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} StriVectin anti-wrinkle line blurfector instant wrinkle blurring primer Best: For lines and wrinkles Rating: 9/10 More mature skin types with deeper-set lines should turn to this magic formula. It’s a must for anyone that finds their foundation or concealer sits in creases or cakes throughout the day drawing attention or enlarging them. Filling lines and blurring the look of all imperfections effortlessly, it creates a smooth and even base for make-up. It also boasts skincare benefits too, with the brand’s NIA-114 complex (a form of vitamin B3) that strengthens the skin barrier. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Laura Mercier pure canvas perfecting primer Best: For normal skin types Rating: 9/10 It’s hard to pick a favourite in Laura Mercier’s line-up of primers, as there’s one that provides an ideal base for every skin type. By a whisker, the original version is our favourite for its suit-all, hard-working formula. It’s non-greasy and water-based with vitamin E for hydration, so it will work for combination and dry skin types alike. With added skin protection in the form of SPF30 and vitamin C, this primer goes the extra skincare mile as well keeping make-up immaculate all day. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} e.l.f blemish fighting putty primer Best: For blemish-prone skin Rating: 8/10 The brand’s poreless putty primer has been a huge beauty star all over TikTok, and we predict this latest putty primer launch designed for breakouts will follow in its footsteps. The formula boasts 1.8 per cent salicylic acid, known for its brilliant blemish-fighting abilities, as well as zinc to reduce inflammation and green tone to colour correct any redness. We tested it on hormonal breakouts, where it smoothed over spots effortlessly, allowing for concealer to stay in place without any touch-ups needed in the day. A must for period skin. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}}

Primer FAQs What is primer and what does it do? The main purpose of a primer is to prepare your skin for foundation, creating a smoother canvas for a flawless finish that make-up adheres to for longer. Just like using paint primer on a wall for a smoother canvas, or wearing the right underwear to perfect an outfit, what goes on underneath can perfect a look. What are the benefits of using primer? Next-generation primer formulas go beyond extending the staying power of your make-up with added skin-perfecting benefits. You’ll find pore blurring, line-filling, hydration boosting and radiance promoting formulations to pick from. Some are so good they actually make you want to skip foundation altogether. What type of primer do I need for my skin type? You’ll find game-changing primers designed to enhance every complexion. “The key is knowing your skin type and understanding the benefits promised from the primer,” says Aimee Connolly, make-up artist. “If your skin’s on the dry side, you’ll want to look for a primer with hydrating and moisturising benefits, whereas if your skin is more oily, you may need something that has built-in oil control that mattifies the skin.” The verdict: Primers For increasing make-up staying power, coupled with a hydrating formula, our best buy goes to the Superfluid blur primer moisturiser. If you’re looking to blur imperfections like a photo-editing app, you can’t beat the Benefit the porefessional pore primer. Voucher codes For the latest discounts on primers and other make-up offers, try the links below: Boots discount codes Feelunique discount codes To complete your base, look to our review of the best BB creams that give glowy, lightweight coverage

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