What is Makeup Primer and Do I Even Need It?

Silas & Grace

A photo of a white cream, rubbed on three different spots on a creamy orange colored surface. The cream is supposed to represent makeup primer.

For quite awhile, I wondered, “What is makeup primer?” 

But I was also too lazy to do my own research, and just kept on hearing people talk about it in their makeup process.

I mean, I know what it is now after having finally looked it up, but I still didn’t know how to apply it the right way, so I kind of just held off on it.

But recently, I started using an oil as a primer and it has completely changed my makeup-game.

And it happened by accident.

I’ll go into that more later and what I’m using, but I do want to say that I am so glad this accident happened.

I always felt irritated whenever I would put on a full face of makeup, it looked incredible, and then an hour or two later, things would look messy and dry. 

And if you’ve ever been there, then you understand, and you probably want to know what makeup primer is and how it can work for you too.

So let’s get into that. 🙂

Related: 12 SUPER Helpful Tips I’ve Learned in My Skincare Journey

What is Makeup Primer and What Does it Do?

A bright peach surface with a pink candle and other beauty products lying across it.
Golubovy via Getty Images

If you’re wondering, “What is primer for makeup,” then here’s your answer.

To put it simply, makeup primer is a base layer of an oil or cream that you put on your skin to prep it for makeup.

It’s the smoothing affect your skin and makeup needs, so think of it like a filter or photoshop.

I’m not saying it will make you look completely flawless, but it will get you there as close as possible.

And depending on your skin and what type of primer you choose, it’s the corrector you need to make sure that your makeup looks great before heading out.

Here are the things different makeup primers can help with:

  • Keeping things smooth and looking fresh.
  • Covering up pores.
  • Sun protection.
  • Helping makeup stay on longer.
  • Helping with oily or dry skin.
  • Skin color correction.
  • Improving fine lines.
  • There are also primers for eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick.

Basically, think of primer as good friend who wants to make sure you look as good as possible. 👍 

Oh also, if you need any other reason to use facial primer, this study shows that some primers have been able to help with mild to moderate hyperpigmentation and fine lines. Pretty cool right?

Do You Need Makeup Primer?

An image of a woman applying a white cream to her face while looking into a small mirror and sitting on her bed.
Julia Amaral via Getty Images

Technically, no.

Don’t feel like you need to drop a lot of money just because a ton of makeup influencers are telling you that you need primer.

However, I would highly recommend it!

For me personally, I see it as an essential part of the makeup process. It’s what keeps my makeup staying on longer and looking incredible, hours after I’ve applied my foundation and powder.

If applied right, it basically does for me what makeup foundation commercials say they will do for you.

So you know how in makeup commercials or on makeup bottles, they’ll say, “Lasts for hours!” But you know it’s most likely a lie?

Yeah, primer is a great way to actually make it last for hours and not have to reapply. 🤷‍♀️

Related: 10 Skincare Products That Have Actually Changed My Skin 

How Do You Apply Primer?

A woman's hand holding up a Neutrogena primer bottle.
A primer my friend has used. I haven’t used it myself, so can’t personally recommend! 🙂

Alright, but how do you apply makeup primer? What are the steps behind this?

How do you make sure that you’re actually doing it right?

Well, I’m here to help you out and make it simple. 🙂

Side Note: Check out the 90+ page Daily Self-Care Journal. You might like it! 😊

1. How to Apply Face Primer

Now that you know what makeup primer is and what it’s used for, here’s how to best apply it on your skin. Because if not put on correctly, it can completely mess up your makeup look.

Trust me, I would know. 😬 

  1. Only use a small amount and make sure it’s rubbed into your facial skin very well. I use an oil as my primer (which I’ll discuss down below), and I find that if I just use a bit and rub it all over my face and neck really well, my makeup goes on and stays on great. 👍 Of course, you can also just test the amount you put on and see what works for your skin, but just make sure to start off small. 🙂
  2. Apply it with your fingers in circular motions. You want to make sure you’re using your fingers instead of makeup sponges to apply primer since a makeup sponge will just rub it around instead of applying it thoroughly.
  3. Wait a couple of minutes for your makeup primer to set before applying makeup. This allows it to set and dry and not just rub off.
  4. And that’s it! Pretty simple. 🙂

Related: 12 SUPER helpful tips I’ve learned in My Skincare Journey

2. How to Apply Lip Primer

If you’re wanting your lipstick to last longer, than applying a lip primer is pretty simple!

  1. Put on the lip primer you bought.
  2. Apply lip liner.
  3. Then finish off with your lipstick.
  4. Done!

3. How to Apply Eyelash Primer

Apparently lash primer can make your lashes look longer and fuller, so if that’s an affect you want, then here are the simple steps.

  1. Apply the lash primer to your lashes, starting at the base and going upwards.
  2. Once you feel that you have a good amount on, wait just a few minutes for it to dry.
  3. When the primer has dried, apply your mascara thoroughly.
  4. And you’re finished. 🙂

4. How to Apply Eyeshadow Primer

If you love doing eyeshadow looks, then here’s a quick guide on how to apply eyeshadow primer so that it stays for a whole lot longer.

  1. Use a small amount of eyeshadow primer and apply it carefully in the area that you will use eyeshadow on. 
  2. Let it dry completely, then apply your eyeshadow.
  3. That’s it, pretty easy!

Related: 8 Beyond Easy 5 Minute Hairstyles for Those Crazy Busy Mornings

How to Pick the Best Primer for Your Skin

An image of a woman's hand holding a small bottle of oil used as a makeup primer.
What I’m using for my makeup primer.

Now I know that makeup primer really does sound pretty helpful by now, but let’s make sure you’re actually taken care of.

And to begin, here are two ways to make sure that you actually grab the right primer in the makeup aisle.

1. Make sure to know your skin type and your biggest skin concerns before getting a primer.

This will help you make sure that you’re not wasting money and getting something that will make your skin look too dry (as an example).

So here are some things to consider before you buy a primer:

  • Is your skin oily?
  • Is it dry?
  • Do you have combination skin?
  • Are there wrinkles and creases you want to reduce?
  • Do you have an uneven skin tone?
  • Do you want sun protection?
  • Do you have pores you want to cover up?

All of these things are important to think about before you spend any money!

Side Note: If you’re wondering if you can use more than one primer, then I talk more about it down below!

2. Look over this list of different primers and see what might work best for you.

Blurring: I think this is kind of the one we all want. 😂 Blurring primers help with covering up pores and rough textures, so if this is your skin concern, then I would give this type a try!

Hydrating: If you have dry skin or live in a dry area, then a hydrating primer is a great way to give yourself that fresh look, and keep your makeup from creasing.

Mattifying: This type of primer is great for oily skin. If you deal with constantly needing to reapply powder every so often, then grabbing a mattifying primer should be a good option for you.

Illuminating: Basically, this is a primer you put on that has light-reflecting particles in it. It gives you that pretty glowing look that you might want. But I’ve also read that you don’t really want to put makeup over it, otherwise the glowing look gets canceled out.

Color-Corrector: If you have skin that’s uneven in tone, then finding the right type of color-correcting primer is a helpful way in fixing this. Green (I know that sounds weird) helps correct red skin tones, peach helps with dark spots, and blue helps with yellow and sallow skin tones.

Anti-Aging: If you’re wanting a bit of help with your creases and other aging concerns, then an anti-aging primer might be a good idea! They also contain ingredients which MAY help with making your skin look youthful, but I’m not going to make any certified beauty claims. I’d just test them out for yourself and see what they do for you. 🙂

3. Make sure the primer works with your makeup.

Once you understand what type of primer would be best for your skin and skin needs, it best to also make sure it’s going to work with the makeup you already have.

And a great way to do this is to just take your foundation with you to the store and test it out with a primer before buying.

If you apply the primer correctly, then put on your makeup on and if it works well, then you’re all set and not wasting money!

Related: 8 Beyond Genius Ways to Store Your Beauty Products

What I Use for My Makeup Primer

A woman's hand holding up an makeup primer against a leaf covered wall background.

Disclosure: The Bio-Oil Amazon link down below is an affiliate link. This just means that if you click through my special Amazon affiliate link and make a purchase, I will get commission at no extra cost to you. Also, just know that I didn’t originally use the product with the intention of getting a commission.

So I started using Bio-Oil back in December (I didn’t even realize it was trending, I just needed something for my skin 😂), and I REALLY love it.

Now I could go into a whole post on how this oil is the first facial skin product I’ve used where I’ve seen BIG differences, but for now I’m going to talk about why I use this as my primer.

It was kind of (totally) by accident.

I had put some on not long before I was about to put makeup on and go out. My mind was completely on autopilot and was thinking about something entirely different. Then when I realized I had made the mistake, I decided to just go with it.

And I feel like that was the first time I felt really confident in how my makeup looked on my skin and how it lasted.

Here’s how it made me look:

– It gave my skin this kind of dewy skin look where it wasn’t oily, but it just made me look so pretty and fresh!

– My makeup lasted the entire night and still looked great. After going out to eat with friends, hanging out for hours, hopping over to a gelato shop, and getting stuck in traffic, I was honestly so amazed with how my skin looked by the time I got home. 

So if you have dry skin like me or live in a dry area, then this is a great oil to use as a primer. 👌 

Makeup Primer FAQ

1. Can You Use More Than One Primer?


But you also don’t have to. I’ll explain.

According to E, if you have multiple skin concerns, than you can definitely layer your primers.

Now, I’m a very careful person, so I’d only recommend going for two at a time.

But,there are primers that can help with more than one thing. So you might be able to fix your skin problems with just one primer.

In the end, you can do you research or just ask an employee at a makeup store to help you with this. 🙂

2. Do You Put Primer or Moisturizer On First?

Moisturizer goes on first! 

Let that moisturizer sit for a a few minutes and soak into your skin, and then go ahead and apply your primer.

Also, applying moisturizer with your primer can most likely help with keeping your skin looking supple and fresh. 🙂

3. Do You Apply Primer All Over Your Face?

If you plan on putting foundation all over your entire face, then yes, apply it everywhere.

This way you’re not left with uneven areas and with some of your makeup coming off while the spots with primer stay on.

You want to have a flawless look everywhere!

4. How Long Do I Wait Between Moisturizer and Primer?

If you do want to use moisturizer before your primer, then I’d suggest in being safe and waiting at least 2-3 minutes before applying makeup primer.

I’ve read that you just need to wait for one minute, but sometimes you’re better safe than sorry, and no wasting your primer.

Also, a good way to test and see if you’re applying it too soon is to see if your primer starts to pill on your face. So maybe just apply a little bit in a small area and see if it sticks. If it does, you should be all good to go!

5. Can I Wear Primer Alone?


Makeup primers really do help with correcting certain skin problems, so if you just want to apply some primer (and maybe some face powder) on before you head out, then that’s totally fine!

6. Is a Primer the Same as a Foundation?

No, I primer is not the same as a foundation.

A foundation is meant to be your skin’s color tone, and completely cover over any blemishes or marks.

But a primer is not always skin-colored, or meant to have complete coverage.

It is normally meant to accompany your foundation, and have it apply more smoothly, or stay on longer, as an example.

7. What Happens if You Put Primer Over Foundation?

It honestly depends on the type of primer, as some aren’t meant for putting over foundation and will rub it off your skin.

However, after a bit of research, I found that there are primers, that when put on over foundation, it can apparently help give the skin a blurred effect and set the makeup.

But again, this is just research, and I haven’t personally tried primers like this.

So just make sure to look up a few online, and read the reviews before making a purchase.

I hope these simple tips made understanding what makeup primer is, and how to use it, a whole lot easier.

 I know that I used to wonder why everyone was talking about primer, but now I completely understand!

Also, if you have any questions, just let me know in the comments down below so that I can help you out. 😊 

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Silas & Grace

Chasing Foxes was started in 2016 as a way for Grace and her husband, Silas, to start traveling. However, they started to realize that they had a passion for improving themselves, and wanted to help others level up their lives as well. So whether it's with cooking, travel, or staying healthy, they want to help you better your life bit by bit, as they do the same.

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