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So, what does a primer do – and do I really need one?

Every makeup brand seems to be launching a primer these days… but what does a primer do? And do you really need one? Let’s not even get started on picking the perfect primer it’s all a tad confusing, even to a self-confessed beauty addict like me!

Up until very recently I hardly ever used a primer, except on very rare occasions (say, for example, a doesn’t-happen-often-enough date night or a really fancy beauty event). I just didn’t see the point of them. Sure, they create an even base for your foundation, but I barely have time to apply eyeliner, let alone add an extra step to my beauty routine! Is using a primer really worth it? 

My beauty desk has been bombarded with some amazing primers from great brands over the last couple of months – primers that promise to do everything from blur fine lines, minimise pores and wipe away imperfections, so I decided it was about time I did a little research and put these babies to the test.

But first thing’s first: I wanted to start out my little experiment by digging deep to find out what exactly primers were designed to do. In a nutshell? Primers are typically applied to freshly cleansed and moisturised skin, before applying your foundation. They’re designed specifically to help your foundation last – most primers contain silicone, which creates an adhesive surface to help your base stay put. Recently, however, makeup brands have gone the extra mile to make sure that primers offer even more benefits;  from absorbing excess oil (to ensure that your foundation doesn’t smudge or smear), to filling in pores and blurring fine lines and wrinkles, there’s bound to be a primer to tackle your specific concern.

Another great reason to add a primer to your beauty line up? A primer creates a protective layer on the surface of your skin to prevent clogged pores and breakouts as a result of your foundation. This layer acts as a barrier to help ‘lock in’ your moisturiser and any other skincare products you may have applied to your skin before applying the primer so, in theory, a primer should boost the efficacy of your skincare products to boot.

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Sounds good, right? Well, after testing a selection of primers for a good couple of months, I’ve whittled my list of must-have pore perfecters down to five of the best (in my opinion) – and I’ve found that these beauties have become a staple in my daily beauty routine. There are days that I skip foundation altogether, but I rarely go a day without a primer – they’re just that good.

IQ UltraRich ProOptic Skin Perfector

This little beauty includes a good dose of antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, making it ideal for those with drier skins (or for those who’d like to erase the signs of ageing). Unlike other primers, this one is applied over your usual foundation and it minimises the appearance of fine lines instantly. I apply a dab or two of this primer to my forehead, nose and chin, then gently press it into my skin (as opposed to rubbing) to fill in pores and fine lines.

GOSH Primer Plus Hydration

This primer is a real treat for those with dry skin types, like mine. It simply melts into my skin, leaving it feeling instantly more moisturised and soft-to-the-touch. My foundation glides on smoothly and evenly, and dry patches are a thing of the past. I also noticed that my foundation lasts a whole lot longer when applied over the top of this. Although I noticed no change in the size of my pores when using this, the fine lines on my forehead were definitely less noticeable.

L’Oreal Infallible Primer

Oily, blemish-prone skin? Then you’ll want to get your hands on L’Oreal Infallible Primer. The silky formula instantly mattifies your skin, blurring imperfections and filling enlarged pores at the same time. What struck me most was the fact that, despite it’s mattifying powers, it doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry in the slightest. In fact, my skin feels hydrated and my foundation glides on easily over the top of this, for a velvety soft finish. I have large, open pores on my nose, and I absolutely love using this primer to help disguise the appearance of them. It’s also great for popping in your handbag for touch ups throughout the day – simply dab a teeny amount on any shiny areas (yep, over your makeup) to instantly mop up excess oil as and when you need it.

Benefit The POREfessional

Ah, the holy grail of all primers: Benefit’s The POREfessional. This primer does exactly what it says on the tube: it minimises the look of enlarged pores, mattifies my skin leaving it feeling velvety soft and smooth, and makes my foundation go the distance. Although it has an instantly mattifying effect, I do find that this shine-free look wears off after a couple of hours, so I like to slip this into my handbag so that I can add a little dab or two to shiny areas (over my foundation) when needed.

Kiehl’s Micro-Blur Skin Perfector

Kiehl’s has launched some amazing products during the past year (watch this space for my review on the most glorious face oil from Kiehl’s, coming soon!), which has seen the brand become one of my favourite skincare brands – and definitely one to be watched! One of their most recent launches, the Kiehl’s Micro-Blur Skin Perfector, has fast become one of my favourite beauty products. The lightweight formula feels utterly divine on my skin and instantly improves the overall appearance of my skin, making it look a whole lot healthier while filling in those pesky pores to boot! It has a slight tint to it that helps to even out my skin tone, and I often wear this on it’s own, without foundation. It’s also said to have long-lasting skincare benefits, but I haven’t used it for long enough to report back on those – watch this space!

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  • Janet Watson Perry

    I’ve always wondered what a primer is/does and what they hype is all about so thank you for this great article! I now know!! Do you have an idea of pricing for the products you mention? Would a primer also help with dark circles under the eyes?

  • This is such an informative post!!! I have been using a primer everyday I find with eyelid ones it makes a huge difference

  • I don’t like using a foundation and mainly use a BB cream and compressed powder. Would a primer be recommended when ‘skipping’ the foundation part?

  • Caley Rosenberg

    Yes please!!! This is what I have always wondered – now I need to find a good Primer? x