By now you’re probably wondering just how many different products you really need in your beauty arsenal, aren’t you? You’ve got all the moisturizers for day, night, eyes, and lips. You’ve got serums for brightening and retinol creams for sloughing off dead skin cells. You’ve got specialty face washes, micellar water, hydrating spritzers and makeup setting sprays. And now, here we are, suggesting yet another step in your daily routine – primer. Really? Yes. Really.
If you’ve been buying, and trying, all the stuff, it’s time to know exactly what that stuff does, why it’s beneficial, and how you can use it for maximum effect. Especially if you have dry, sensitive skin. Sometimes more can seem better, but honestly, it’s not. If you’re struggling with dry patches, flaking and peeling, using a combination of just a few of the right beauty products can really make a huge difference in the texture and appearance of your skin. Primer is one of those products that is definitely worth learning to use.
By now, you’re probably asking yourself “should I use primer or serum?” The answer is, unequivocally – both. Serums, which generally go on prior to your moisturizer, are amazing at helping your favorite face creams penetrate your skin deeply, hence they work more effectively. In essence, serums make your skin more receptive to receiving that big drink of hydration.
So what about primers? Primers go one important step further. Applied on top of your moisturizer, to literally hold in (and sometimes add) hydration, they also create a barrier between your freshly softened skin and your makeup. That means your cosmetics are a lot less likely to seep into your pores, and let’s face it, if you have dry skin, scrubbing to get your makeup off at the end of the day isn’t the best protocol for your skin type. For the most part, we’ve shied away from silicone or dimethicone based primers here, because they can sometimes irritate sensitive skin types, and tend to pill up under your makeup, which is never a great look.
The hydrating primers we’ve looked at are great for creating a smooth palette for your foundation and concealer. Many we’ve reviewed help to fill in fine lines and wrinkles. They’ll also increase your makeup’s staying power. So if you’re one of those people who looks like you need a complete makeup redo by afternoon, these dry skin primers can keep you looking great well into the evening. You can get primers with a touch of tint that can be a grab and go solution for your bare face days. And you can also find illuminating primers that brighten and add a touch of glimmer, to give you a more shimmery, dewy look.
If you’re game to get gorgeous, and stay that way from morning til night, without compromising on moisture for your sensitive or dry skin, these Top 10 Best Primers for Dry Skin deliver the goods, with powerful peptides, plant botanicals, antioxidant vitamins and our new beauty fave, hyaluronic acid.
1. Laura Geller New York Spackle Hydrating Primer
Formulated with natural, soothing, and hydrating ingredients such as aloe vera gel and cupuaçu seed butter, this hydrating primer leaves skin feeling smooth and nourished, making it a great primer for dry skin. A perfect base under makeup, it helps to leave skin looking more refined, helping conceal fine lines and evening out skin tone. It makes a great canvas to apply foundation for a more flawless look. It’s recommended that you apply this hydrating primer over your moisturizer. You might want to use a lighter touch with moisturizer and then add this, letting each soak into your skin prior to foundation application. Do you have super sensitive skin that’s easily irritated and red? Laura Geller New York Soothing Under Makeup Primer uses natural botanical extracts to tackle touchy skin. It’s ultra-hydrating, and is tinted with green, to minimize the appearance of redness. If you’re a lover of makeup setting sprays, Laura Geller Spackle Mist is a multi-tasking spray that acts as a lightweight moisturizing primer, that can set your makeup for longer wear, and refresh your face midday.
- Leaves skin looking healthy and hydrated
- Doesn’t pill up under makeup
- Good amount for the price
- Very lightweight formula
- Feels greasy to some users
- Can seem too watery
- Expensive compared to some
2. stila Aqua Glow Perfecting Primer
We love it when companies switch it up, and deliver a familiar product in an unexpected way. That’s what makes this stila primer a favorite. This hydrating primer comes looking more like a fat little lipstick than the traditional liquid or cream in a tube. Bonus points for that. This stick primer glides on smooth and blends easily, but what makes it especially nice, is the cool and refreshing feeling that it gives your skin. It does help to blur fine lines and wrinkles, and this formula is packed with botanicals to brighten, hydrate and soothe skin, along with lemon extract to help brighten your skin. Because it’s water-based, it doesn’t ball up under your makeup, and promises to leave your skin feeling hydrated, even after eight hours. Because lots of women (like me) prefer to use just a primer, with less foundation, in the hotter months, touch up troublesome blemishes and flaws with stila One Step Correct, that helps to smooth out uneven skin tones, but still feels as light and refreshing as their primer.
- Cooling formula feels super refreshing
- Unique, easy to use stick versus lotion
- Water based formula leaves skin feeling moisturized
- Doesn’t feel heavy
- Not a lot of product for the price
- Stick formula tends to goop up around the tube when retracted
- Can feel sticky with frequent use
- Doesn’t cover imperfections as well as some
3. Jouer Anti-Aging Moisture Primer
If you’re not yet convinced of the skin nurturing powers of argan oil and shea butter, this moisturizing, hydrating primer might make the case for you. Jouer has created a line smoothing serum that also helps to restore some of your skin’s lost elasticity. Packed with peptides, vitamins and natural extracts, we like this serum because it’s silicone free, and absorbs nicely. Non-irritating and hypoallergenic, it makes a nice base for makeup without feeling heavy or greasy on your skin. Considering it’s a high-end brand, this primer comes at a comparatively reasonable price at less than twenty bucks. If breakouts are an issue, consider a lightweight mineral tint moisturizer on top of your primer. Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint gets rave reviews for its sheer, but buildable coverage, and shimmery finish.
Price: $19.99 (33 percent off MSRP)
- Silicone free
- Hypoallergenic, paraben and fragrance free
- Leaves skin with a glowing finish
- Affordably priced compared to other luxury brands
- Not moisturizing enough for some
- Small bottle for the price
- Doesn’t seem to increase makeup wear time
- Not as wrinkle blurring as some
4. LORAC “I’m So Sensitive” Soothing Face Primer
We love that pitch their products, first, by what they don’t contain. That’s the case with this dry skin primer from LORAC. This formula is free from many ingredients that anyone who’s picky about their face wants to avoid. No silicone. No parabens. No oil. No fragrance. What this primer for dry skin does contain is a powerful blend of antioxidents, vitamins and plant extracts to soothe your skin, while it moisturizes. This lightweight primer goes on a bit tacky, but leave it to dry for a minute or two, and your makeup will go on silky smooth. This skin soothing formula gets rave reviews for not causing breakouts, but still leaving skin hydrated and feeling fresh. If you have combination skin, and don’t mind the somewhat heavier feel of a silicone based primer, LORAC POREfection Mattifying Face Primer is a great choice, especially for extending the life of your makeup.
- Larger bottle than many
- Leaves skin with a naturally smooth look
- Terrific for sensitive skin
- Paraben, silicone, oil and fragrance free
- Doesn’t provide the makeup staying power of some
- May irritate extremely sensitive skin
- Some packaging issues reported
5. PONY EFFECT Ultimate Prep Primer – Hydrate
For those of you who suffer from super sensitive, flaky dry skin, this dry skin primer had us hooked at the mention of hyaluronic acid, that miracle working moisturizer that holds up to 1,000 times its weight in moisture. It also features soothing aloe vera gel to calm and comfort irritated skin. This primer helps hold on to your makeup for a daylong flawless finish, without being heavy and goopy. If you’re a lover of Korean beauty products, this one’s a keeper. Although it doesn’t have the usual kitschy cute packaging of many K beauty items, the more glam approach is a plus in our opinion. This primer does a great job of blurring pores, along with its skin nurturing features. PONY EFFECT also has a formula for combination skin that’s popular as well. Just a spritz of PONY EFFECT Radiance Glow Hydrating Starter can be used on top of your primer for added skin pampering and creating a more glowing look.
Price: $20 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Made with moisturizing hyaluronic acid
- Helps extend makeup wear
- Affordable compared to many
- Helps to calm irritated skin
- Not silicone free
- Not as lasting as some
- Thicker formula than some
- Needs to be massaged in hands to warm and make more spreadable
6. Too Faced HangoverRX Face Primer
This dry skin primer from Too Faced absolutely wins the cuteness award for really appealing packaging, and an adorable pump bottle we love. But since it’s what’s inside that counts, we love its list of ingredients that include deliciously hydrating, and equally wonderful smelling, coconut water. Just putting it on feels like rubbing dessert into your skin. Contrary (or perhaps not) to the name, it’s not really an RX for those nights when you stayed out late and played a little too hard – it’s for everyday use to keep your skin moisturized, and nourished, but also to keep your makeup application smooth and long lasting. Vegan friendly and paraben free, it’s filled with skin revivers, probiotics and that lovely coconut water, to leave your skin feeling like it’s had a big, refreshing drink. It doesn’t leave your face feeling greasy or sticky, because this lightweight formula feels more water based to the touch. If you just don’t have time for a multi-step makeup routine, snag a bottle of the spray that does double duty – Too Faced HangoverX 3-in-1 Replenishing Primer and Setting Spray
- Smells deliciously of coconut
- Lightweight formula isn’t greasy or sticky
- Silicone free
- Leaves skin feeling refreshed and hydrated
- Pretty darned spendy
- Doesn’t increase makeup wear as well as some
- Seems more watery than many
- Some packaging problems reported
7. Laura Mercier Foundation Primer, Hydrating
Say buh-bye to tired, dehydrated skin with this dry skin primer. Laura Mercier’s hydrating formula is packed with power antioxident vitamins A, C and E, along with wrinkly plumpin sodium hyaluronate aka. hyaluronic acid. This hydrating gel glides on and dries smooth, leaving skin feeling firmer, and more hydrated, while creating a really great canvas for your foundation. It also goes the distance when it comes to staying power, meaning your morning makeup will still look awesome at the end of a hectic day. The non-greasy formula helps to fill in laugh lines, crows feet and other skin imperfections to leave you looking younger. Sweet. It also soaks in quickly, and the moisturizing barrier it provides on your skin helps to make the day’s makeup, oil and dirt easier to remove.
- Gel like formula absorbs and dries quickly
- Provides makeup staying power
- Infused with antioxidant vitamins
- Leaves skin feeling hydrated
- Quite expensive
- Contains oil and dimethicone
- Formula can separate over time
- Not as hydrating as some
8. bareMinerals Original Prime Time Foundation Primer
There’s a reason this dry skin primer gets rave reviews, and it’s natural ingredient list is a big part of it. Chock full of plant botanicals like aloe, licorice root extract, and skin calming chamomile extract, along with antioxidant vitamins C an E, and, of course, minerals, this bareMinerals primer goes on smooth, with a clear, non-greasy gel formula. It really helps to tackle those tough dry skin patches and flaking skin, all the while creating a super smooth palette for your makeup, whether you use mineral powder or traditional liquid foundation. It also extends your makeup wear. We really love that it’s free of skin irritating preservatives, and it comes in a super easy to use little pump bottle that minimizes product waste.
- Leaves skin with a smooth finish
- Adds great makeup staying power
- No irritating preservatives
- Hydrates dry and flaking skin
- Need to give it time to set and dry before applying makeup
- Not the best choice for combination or more oily skin
- Pump dispenser isn’t always reliable
- Small amount for the price
9. Honest Beauty Everything Primer
You already know we’re nuts about beauty products that contain hyaluronic acid, and this hydrating primer packs that moisturizing miracle worker, along with botanical peptides to smooth and plump your skin. With peony root extract, it helps to firm your skin and prep it for the perfect application of makeup. This luminous formula adds just enough shine, along with a bit of golden tint, to give you a pretty, dewy look. If you want to go bare faced for the day, you can prime and skip the rest of your makeup, (well, perhaps except for concealer) and have just enough sheer moisture and luminosity to feel totally confident. Do you dare? This formula is free from lots of the bad stuff you don’t want to put on your face, so be sure to check the impressive ingredient list for yourself. If you can’t bear to go without base makeup, check out the antioxidant infused Honest Beauty Everything Cream Foundation. Mix a bit of your primer with a touch of this for a bit more coverage, but with a more natural look.
Price: $24.99 (7 percent off MSRP)
- Not too slippery
- Nice tint and luminosity
- Hydrating and firming
- Lightweight formula absorbs well
- Squeeze bottle is hard to squeeze
- Can seem a bit too sparkly
- Scent is off putting to some
- On the spendy side for the quantity
10. Best Bargain Brand: e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer
As you know by now, you can spend a small fortune on dry skin primers. The question is, do you need to? At under six bucks, the e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer is far and away the cheapest of those we’ve reviewed. Why is it so wildly popular? Clearly pricing plays a role, but it has pretty luxe packaging for the price. It’s infused with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, along with hydrating grapeseed oil. And if you’re not adverse to a silicone formula, this one doesn’t feel too slippery, which others do. While it does take a little time to dry on your skin, it also helps fill in some of those fine lines and wrinkles, and adds to the staying power of your makeup. At this price point, it’s a great hydrating primer to try, especially if you’re just beginning your primer journey. This formulation helps create a barrier between your skin and your makeup, which means when you cleanse at the end of the day, you’re less likely to have clogged pores and breakouts due to makeup residue. The lightweight formula leaves your face feeling hydrated, but not greasy.
- Super cheap
- Hydrates without feeling greasy
- Makes makeup easier to remove
- Antioxidant ingredients
- Silicone formula isn’t everyone’s favorite
- Bottle looks deceptively big compared to the actual amount of product
- Scent is off putting to some
- Not as mattifying as claimed
Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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