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Forget Everything You Think You Know About Primers—These Launches Don’t Feel a Thing Like Makeup

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosJanuary 10, 2020

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A makeup primer, much like a setting spray, has always felt to me like a superfluous step in a makeup routine. And as someone who doesn’t love the feel of a caked-on face, I usually skip it altogether. But with so many major cosmetics brands now introducing new lines of primers spiked with good-for-your-skin ingredients, it’s enough to convince even naysayers like me that the product category can upgrade your entire look.

The basic purpose of a primer is to create a smooth canvas for the rest of your makeup application. “Primers support the application of makeup to perform better by avoiding creasing or fade throughout the day, and aids in promoting a buttery glow,” says makeup artist Alexandria Gilleo, who points out that in the past, primer formulations weren’t the healthiest for your complexion. “A good amount of ‘older’ primer formulas contain a lot of heavy ingredients, such as silicones,” she says. “Silicones and other harsh ingredients can get into your pores, which can lead to clogged skin and sometimes breakouts.”

Photo: Laura Mercier

The new generation of primers, though, is taking a nod from the unstoppable rise of skin care with skin-boosting ingredients and more targeted formulas. “Brands are waking up to the idea of adding skin-loving ingredients into their makeup products, and it’s basically a match in skin-care heaven,” says Gilleo. Plus, now the shelves are stacked with primers that are broken down by skin concern or skin type. Laura Mercier launched a line of (six!) Pure Canvas Primers this month, ranging from a ‘Hydrating’ option (with glycerin and olive extract) to a ‘Protecting‘ one, which has SPF for an extra shield that protects your skin. “Not only is it in our DNA to bring the best, most iconic skin products to the marketplace, but also to evolve with the most cutting-edge ingredients,” says Alexandra Papazian, president at Laura Mercier. “We’re thrilled to relaunch our primer franchise with a more modern look and feel while offering a multitasking blend of skin-care benefits.”

Being able to choose a primer based on your skin type is actually key. According to Gilleo, your primer’s formula can either help with your dryness, breakouts, redness, or oiliness, which is why these primers 2.0 are a godsend for your skin. “For instance, the Laura Mercier Illuminating Primer contains pearls, which brighten complexions, and is ideal for someone with dull skin who wants to add to their skin’s luminosity,” she says. Makeup brand Bite Beauty is releasing its Skin Optimizing Primer ($38) this month for two different skin concerns. The normal to dry formulation contains hyaluronic acid and olive oil to deliver extra moisture, while the normal to oily option uses willow bark powder to control shine. Cult-fave face mask brand Glamglow is launching  Supermattify ($42) later this month, which is a specialized primer that combines chemical exfoliants and charcoal to keep acne-prone pores clear.

Even drugstore staple brand Neutrogena is in on the trend, having just introduced (also this month!) three primer-serum hybrids to its makeup line. There’s the Hydro Boost Glow Primer + Serum ($17), spiked with hyaluronic acid; Healthy Skin Radiant Primer + Serum ($17), infused with peptides and pearls for a more even skin texture; and Shine Control Matte Booster Face Primer + Serum ($17), a formula for oily skin that’s packed with rice protein to absorb excess oil. So, yeah: Expect to see the primer category blow up this year, as it’s no longer a makeup product to be ignored.

Also helpful for your look are these makeup artist-approved tricks on how to apply foundation to flaky skin. And be sure to finish your look with a hydrating lip-oil gloss

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