Whether it's due to oily skin or sweaty temps, makeup has a tendency to slip and slide throughout the day. That's why a good makeup primer is truly necessary if you want your foundation, concealer, blush and eyeshadow to stay put for hours, according to professional makeup artists. Primers contain "smoothing ingredients that create a silky-feeling canvas for makeup, helping it to go on evenly," explains Birnur Aral, Ph.D., director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab. But that's not all drugstore primers can do — today's most affordable formulas can also brighten, hydrate, smooth fine lines, minimize pores, mattify and and so much more. Plus, applying primer is easy: Just use your fingers to apply a pea-size amount and blend it on.
Based on GH Beauty Lab testing and reviews vetted by the GH beauty editors, here are the best drugstore primers for long-lasting makeup, including the best face primers for oily skin, dry skin, combination skin and more:
This Good Housekeeping Seal holder from scored well across a few categories in GH Beauty Lab primer testing, including leaving skin looking healthier and smoother. Many users also agreed with the claim that it softened the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles just after five days of use.
- Testers reported seeing improved skin texture
- Good for all skin types, including mature
Online reviewers and bloggers rave about this inexpensive primer from Maybelline, claiming it really does leave your face feeling baby-smooth. A majority of reviewers also agree that it helps minimize pores. "I was amazed at how it minimizes the size of my large pores and how incredibly silky smooth it glides on my face," an Amazon reviewer reported. "I have now replaced using expensive primers."
- Smooths skin
- Reduces the appearance of pores
- Bargain price
- Not as long-wearing as other primers
Several reviewers compare this Maybelline primer to more high-end versions, saying it makes the skin feel "soft and silky" and doesn't feel tacky or heavy. The formula feels more like a lotion and works to blur imperfections like pores, fine lines and redness. "This one actually covers my large pores and smooths them over," a reviewer enthused. "The effect and finish is beautiful! I will be buying this again and again."
- Smooths the appearance of even large pores
- Light lotion-like texture
- Great value
Reviewers say this Revlon primer is also excellent at reducing the appearance of pores while keeping your makeup in place. Users like that it's not too drying and can be used on any skin type."This primer keeps my concealer or foundation or powder on all day... even after 10 hours," a fan marveled. "My pores are basically hidden when I wear it." Note that some reviewers complain that the pump mechanism won't dispense the last bits of the product.
- Long-wear formula
- Blurs pores
- Pump makes it difficult to finish the entire bottle
Sheriff's favorite drugstore primer is this unique formula by NYX Professional Makeup. "This one works amazing for a fraction of the price of higher end brands, and helps to control oil and keep makeup locked on," she says. The brand also claims that the anti-shine matte primer creates a barrier from outside pollutants.
- Minimizes shine
- Holds makeup in place
- May be drying on dry skin
- Black tint goes on clear
GH Beauty Lab testers loved Aveeno's hybrid formula so much that it won a GH Beauty Award for giving the skin a "luminous" look. It's a serum and primer in one, softening skin with natural oils, vitamins and kiwifruit water. It's a good choice for those looking for a dewy finish.
- Gives skin a glow
- Made with skincare ingredients
- Watery texture can feel "messy"
Rimmel's bargain primer, which has thousands of rave reviews on Amazon, is perfect for mattifying oily spots on combination skin. The brand claims the primer is oil-free and keeps your makeup on for up to eight hours. Those with acne-prone skin say they didn't notice any breakouts from the product. "This actually works!" a reviewer noted. "It does a fantastic job at keeping my face matte and I have a super oily T-zone."
- Lightweight feel
- Controls shine on oily areas
- Bargain price
- May appear ashy on some skin tones
The light primer from CoverGirl claims to fight signs of aging, plus hydrate your skin to make it appear younger, and has more than 15,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. Reviewers describe the formula as creamy, easy on the skin, and feeling almost like moisturizer. "I am in my late 50s and I've had people tell me they think I am in my late 30s since using this!" a reviewer marveled.
- Gives a natural-looking, dewy finish
- Anti-aging effects
- Won't mattify oily skin
Don't let the color intimidate you — the sheer green hue of this e.l.f. primer helps to even skin's tone and minimize redness. (Don't worry, the green disappears on skin!). One reviewer says the formula "applies like liquid silk and dries to an almost powdery finish." Note that some reviewers wished the bottle included more product.
- A little goes a long way
- Green tint neutralizes skin redness
- Small amount of product
Black Opal claims that this gel primer is so lightweight that it can be worn both under and over makeup. Reviewers agree, saying that this "invisible" primer doesn't feel (or look) like anything on skin, so it's foolproof for any skin tone. The primer dries immediately into a matte finish, so it's best for those with oily skin.
- Gel formula goes on clear
- Best on oily skin
Neutrogena's glow-enhancing primer is formulated without silicone, which can be pore-clogging for some complexions. "This has a slight hint of neutral gleam that leaves skin looking luminous," says GH Beauty Director April Franzino. "I also like that it contains skincare ingredients like peptides and vitamin E for skincare benefits."
- Gives skin a glow
- Made without silicone
- Contains skincare ingredients
- May be too luminous for oily skin
Made with natural oils and waxes, this primer for eyelids from Burt's Bees helps smooth the area, keep eyeshadow in place, and even skin tone for truer color. "Goes on smoothly and keeps eye shadow from creasing," one reviewer reported.
- Preps eyelids for eyeshadow
- Some found the formula to be hard
There are primers created especially for lashes, too, like CoverGirl's, from the GH Beauty Lab top-tested Lash Blast collection, made to be applied before mascara for an even bigger boost. "Makes a HUGE difference in your eyelashes' length... I can never use mascara alone again," an Amazon reviewer said.
- Enhances the effects of mascara
- Bargain price
Makeup artists and GH Beauty Lab experts recommend shopping for a makeup primer according to your skin type:
•If you have oily, combination or acne-prone skin, celebrity makeup artist Ashunta Sheriff suggests looking for mattifying primers. "They help to slow oil production by keeping the skin matte and dry," she says. These products will usually contain oil-absorbing elements and leave your skin with a more powdery feel, Aral adds.
•If you have dry skin, make sure the product labels include words like "hydrating," "moisturizing" or "nourishing." The last thing you want is your makeup to flake in the middle of the day, and the softening ingredients in these formulas will keep your skin hydrated while holding makeup in place.
GH Beauty Lab scientists test hundreds of makeup products from foundation to concealer and beyond each year, including makeup primers, to find the most effective formulas. Primers are evaluated both with consumer testers and in-Lab tests on factors including pore blurring and skin smoothing, product texture on the skin, ease of use and application and overall user satisfaction.