I’ve got a checkered history with primers; a love/hate relationship if you will and will go months without using them and then have periods of time where I can’t do my makeup without dipping into my primer stash. Even when I’m in a ‘can’t be arsed’ phase, I can see the value and importance of primers and why they’re a good investment; they undoubtedly help to even out skin tone and prepare your skin for complexion products, enable you to use less foundation/product and ultimately give your makeup more longevity. And I think that for dry and oilier complexions, so those at the more extreme ends of the scale, they’re a necessary step before makeup to help you tackle the challenges that your skin type presents. But for us more normal to combination kids, I’d be as bold as to say that we can get away without them if we use the right moisturiser but that’s just my opinion and I appreciate that you might like to incorporate them anyhoo. You do you!
So, to help you navigate the vast array of primers on offer and to decide which primer is best for you, here are those that I rate, use and would recommend:
These are for when you’re feeling a little flat and dull or want a bit of oomph to make your skin juicy before putting on your makeup for a night out.
Mecca Cosmetica Multi-Purpose Plumping Balm $42.00
This is a more recent discovery and I’m enjoying it. It’s a bit of an allrounder and a lovely lightweight balm that has been designed to be used as a day moisturiser, a primer or as a radiance-boosting mask so loving its versatility; with its shea butter, soy protein and avocado oil, it’s lovely and nourishing and can be used in a thicker layer as a skin smoothing, 10 minute mask treatment which leaves the skin glowing, plump and hydrated.
Clarins Beauty Flash $65.00
The OG and holy grail of beauty boosting balms, I’ve used this for years and it’s still one of the bests! Formulated with olive extract and witch hazel to tighten while bisabolol softens, and algae extract revitalizes, this balm delivers immediate radiance and brightens and tightens the skin, leaving you looking just a bit more rested and relaxed! Again, you can use it as a smoothing primer before a busy day or big night out or apply a thicker layer as more of a mask. It’s fab!
And these are for when you need to inject some life into your skin and need all the radiance!
Mecca Cosmetica Lit From Within Primer $38.00
This is one of Mecca’s biggest sellers, and the primer has proven to be so popular that the brand has gone on to produce an illuminating powder, balm, drops and sheet masks, such is its popularity. Spruiked as beauty sleep in a bottle, it has ultra-fine light diffusing particles to give you visible radiance and basically a whole load of glow! As a combo skinned and more mature kind of gaI, I go up and down with this one as some days I feel that it gives me a subtle luminescence that works well whereas other days I’ve applied it and felt more like a disco ball and that it’s emphasised texture on my skin. Think it’s definitely for you if you’re more on the drier side.
Becca Backlight Priming Filter $65.00
A similar vein to the Mecca offering but is a wee bit subtler so I would probably reach for this one in the daytime and the Mecca for an evening out. Its backlit magic is created by the infusion of three unique luminescent pearls, each one apparently adding a different drop of diffused light. It’s lightweight, almost whipped in texture and acts as an instant filter, while the vitamin E helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It essentially gives you a pretty, lit-from-within, healthy-looking glow and I really like this one.
M.A.C Cosmetics Strobe Cream $56.00
The original illuminating primer, this bad boy has had a bit of a revival with the addition of a couple of extra shades to the range. It’s loaded with botanicals and vitamins and a cheeky bit of green tea and brightens, smoothes and hydrates so is a cracking all-rounder. I love the versatility of this one as you can throw it on as a ‘no makeup’ skin perfector or pre-foundation as a primer. And I LOVE the fact that you can now get it as a cute little chubby mini from Mecca so the perfect size for a weekend away!
And these are for when you’re feeling like a desiccated prune and want another layer of moisture pre-makeup.
TOO FACED Hangover Primer $46.00
I am loving this one at the moment and reckon it’s my current fave. The texture is light and silky but not silicone-y, smells lovely and fresh and is a pleasure to apply. It’s infused with coconut water so is super hydrating, and essentially nourishes and brightens your skin leaving it dewy and healthy, but not too shiny, so that your make up goes on nicely and hangs around for the whole day. I live in humid Sydney, where this year we have has the summer that never ends, so most formulations – primer or no primer – are really put to the test and what I’ve noticed is that if I wear it under a full face of makeup – when I have a full day of meetings or am working at a client site – come the end of the day whereas typically I’d have a shiny nose and will have powdered or touched up at some point, I’m still looking good. So, it gets a thumbs up from me and I’m enjoying it muchily!
Smashbox Photo Finish Primerizer $61.00
Now this one is definitely having its time in the sun as most of the beauty YouTubers that I follow can’t stop gushing about it. Smashbox know how to create a good primer so I was expecting great things and it’s good but a bit too much for me. It’s kind of a moisturiser/primer combo that delivers a hit of hydration whilst also sticking to your foundation to lock it in for the day. And I can see again how the drier skinned gals will love this as it’s almost wet on application but then dries down instantly, but for me I prefer the Too Faced Hangover formulation. I’ve heard such great things about it though that I want to persevere a bit more and see if I can work out what all the fuss is about. Maybe I should save it for the mornings after the night before when my skin needs a hefty wallop of moisture before I even thinking of putting on foundation. I’ll report back.
These are for those of you with an oilier skin that need a bit of help in the mattifying and longevity department.
Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer $79.00
This is a strange one, in that texturally it’s unlike anything else in my collection and it’s taken some getting used to over the years. It’s got a satin finish and almost slippy feel; it’s an oil-free mineral primer with SPF 15 (from naturally derived titanium oxide and zinc oxide) which is great but because of that I find that it has a slight white cast on me which I’m not a fan of. It’s won award after award and is one of Hourglass’ cult products for good reason though in that it creates a smooth base for your foundation, minimises your pores, reduces shine and gives longevity to your makeup wear time. And as a mineral product, it’s great for sensitive skins. All that being said, as somebody who prefers a glowy complexion, I find that applying this all over my face is too much for me and I keep it to the central portion of my face where I have a bit of shine – and more pores – and that works best. And as a general tip, and as somebody with combination skin, zoning primers like this is something that I like to do as I have different needs for different parts of my face and it works well.
Benefit POREfessional $53.00
And again on the mattifying front, this cult favourite is a lightweight balm that quickly minimizes the appearance of fine lines for smoother-than-smooth skin. It mattifies shine and minimises the appearance of pores when worn alone or under makeup and creates a silky surface. Again, not for me on a daily basis but I would recommend this one in a similar vein to the Hourglass offering; to help pare back the shine on an oiler skin or to smooth out larger pores in preparation for your base product.
AND FINALLY..A WORD ON SUNSCREEN
Now sometimes, when I’m in a ‘no makeup makeup’ mood, SPF is enough, and I use it almost as a primer with a bit of concealer and bronzer and I’m done; my favourites here are both from the Mecca Cosmetica eponymous brand, which I think nails this category.
Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF 30+ $38.00
A bestseller since its launch and for good reason, I love this one because it’s formulated for the face and is lightweight, hydrating but not greasy and sits beautifully under makeup. Containing hyaluronic acid, pomegranate extract and Vitamin E, it’s billed as giving a hydrating matte finish but on my combination skin, it has a satin finish and doesn’t compromise the finish of my base which I love.
Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF 30 Mineral Gel $38.00
This one’s a newer discovery and I’m loving it; I reach for it on my running late for school drop off/can’t be arsed days when I want SPF and my complexion evening out. Just a little something so that I’m making a teeny bit of effort. It’s again lightweight and whilst billed as a gel cream, feels almost moussy or whipped to the touch and glides on leaving my complexion nice and hydrated and glowing. I love that it’s fragrance and paraben free as I’ve got the ‘delightfully’ sensitive skin that typically comes with being a redhead, and as it’s enriched with colloidal oatmeal, it balances and soothes the skin. It’s also formulated with a slight peach tint which is universally flattering and again gives you the look of being pulled together and having made a bit of effort. As with the previous option, it doesn’t leave a white cast as many SPFs do so sits well under makeup.
Wow, I didn’t realise that I’d have so much to say about primers! Who knew?! I hope that this is helpful if you’re in the market for a primer and want to know a little bit about what you’ll be getting in each category. Which is your favourite?