Nothing says “high maintenance” like a face primer. But then again, there’s nothing that says “Hot damn, your skin looks good” as quickly, either. And the case for revisiting this often neglected makeup step just got a lot stronger. The newest types of primers don’t just smooth skin, keep makeup in place, and blur pores to near invisibility; they also brighten, fight aging, target acne, and add tons of hydration. Some can even prime a face mask. Smaller, lighter, better, faster—welcome to the new generation of face primers.
If a primer and a moisturizer had a baby, it would be a primer balm. At least that’s what we’re calling it. The thick, buttery formulas of Giorgio Armani Prima Glow-On Moisturizing Balm and La Mer The Perfecting Treatment combine heavy-duty moisture with a soft-focus finish. Put one on right before makeup and it acts like a serum, moisturizer, and primer all in one, leaving skin instantly bright and silky. But be warned: The rich, balmy texture means you can’t use it as liberally as you would your regular moisturizer. Warm up a pea-size dab in your fingers and press it only over the areas of your face that need the most evening or smoothing. Then move right on to foundation—or not. (Yes, your skin will look that good.)
Primer water sounds awesome in theory: A few spritzes on your face and—voilà!—you’re ready for your close-up. Not exactly. This isn’t the formula you reach for when you want your makeup to survive a sweaty workout or even a brisk walk. It smooths the skin the way a face mist would but won’t make it a makeup magnet. What it will do: make your foundation look smooth and dewy again when you spritz the water on in the midafternoon. We like Physicians Formula Argan Oil With Coconut Water Primer, a mix of lightweight moisturizers with a touch of quick-drying alcohol that softens skin right away.
If you’re the overachieving type, you’ll love this: There’s a new pre-mask primer made specifically for application right before you apply any of your favorite face masks. Origins Maskimizer Skin-Optimizing Mask Primer is infused with the company’s special formula of “marine algae extract” and softens skin so it can better absorb a mask’s active ingredients.
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