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Celebrity Makeup Artists Say Adding *This* to Your Makeup Routine Is a Game-Changer

Spoiler alert: It can make you look younger

Noticed your makeup isn’t wearing quite as well as it used to? Maybe your foundation wears off easily or your blush has been flaking off… There might be a crucial, yet simple step missing from your routine: primer. What does primer do for makeup, exactly? This often-overlooked product can make a world of a difference in how your makeup goes on, looks and lasts. There are countless primers on the market for different skin types or concerns and ones that even ensure eye makeup stays put too. Considering adding it to your makeup repertoire? We asked top makeup artists to explain what it is, how it works and which ones are best.

What does primer do for makeup?

Woman applying makeup

“The magic is in the name!” says Tisha Thompson, makeup artist and founder of LYS Beauty. “Primer is a texture- or color-neutralizing complexion product that helps balance or prime the look and feel of skin before applying makeup.” By using a primer in your makeup routine, your foundation will likely stay on longer and give you a smoother finish, notes celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, founder of Jamie Makeup who has worked with stars like Judith Light and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Primer provides a barrier between makeup and the skin, and since it goes on skin before foundation, primer is often formulated to address aging skin concerns like redness, fine lines and wrinkles, enlarged pores or excess oil. “It can have smoothing, hydrating benefits as well,” adds celebrity makeup artist Emily Gray who has worked with stars like Kimberly Schalpman and LeAnn Rimes. “In other words, it creates an ideal canvas for makeup.”

Related: Celeb Makeup Artists: These Are the Best CC Creams for Even, Glowing Skin All Day

Why primer is great for women over 50

As we get older, those fine lines and wrinkles that have formed on the face can interfere with how seamlessly foundation and concealer sits on the skin, explains Thompson. To create an even canvas for your complexion products, primer works to “fill in those fine lines and wrinkles for a flawless look,” she says. “There are also many hydrating primers on the market that help bring moisture and vibrancy back into the complexion.”

Another benefit for mature skin? Primers add a natural boost of radiance for your skin, says Greenberg. “Mature skin tends to lean on the dryer side as the production of collagen slows down with age.” So adding a primer into the mix can help rehydrate skin and leave it with a youthful, lit-from-within glow.

How to use primer in your makeup routine

Step 1: Skin care first. “Start with your normal skincare routine first — serums, eye creams, moisturizers, etc. –  then go in with your primer,” advises Greenberg.

Step 2: Apply primer. How you put it on is all about personal preference. Greenberg likes using fingertips so it blends seamlessly into skin. Meanwhile, Thompson prefers to use a moistened makeup sponge to apply primer, which she says works great to help even out skin texture.

Step 3: Wait a minute. It’s important for all primer formulations to sit on the skin first before going in with foundation and concealer. This way, it can absorb into the skin and provide a clean base for application. Jo Baker, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Bakeup Beauty, says she likes to wait about 60 seconds for primer to sink into skin before applying makeup.

For more on how to use primer, watch the below video from @JustDoingMyBest on YouTube.

The best makeup primers for women over 50

Two things to consider before choosing a primer:

1. Be aware of ingredients: There are many videos on TikTok like the one below from beauty influencer Madi Prettyman that talk about how the base of your primer and foundation — if it’s water- or silicone-based — can effect how your makeup wears. That’s because water-based primers work best with water-based foundations and silicone-based primers work best with silicone-based foundations. Gray says if you apply a water-based primer and then a silicone-based foundation on top, then you run the risk of the foundation and other makeup pilling or rolling off or just not sitting on the skin. “They just do not mix well,” she says so it’s important to “be aware of the ingredients in your primers and foundations for best application.”

2. You can mix and match primers based on your skin concerns: Gray loves using different kinds of primers for different areas of the face (aka “multi-priming”). “I often use a mattifying one in the center of the face, around the nose, center of the forehead and chin,” she says, as these areas tend to be oilier. “Then, I follow that with a glowy primer on the cheekbones and top of the forehead for a glow-from-within makeup look.”

Here, the makeup artists we talked to share their picks of primers that work for mature skin.

Best gripping makeup primer

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Hydrating Makeup Primer
Milk Makeup/Sephora

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Hydrating Makeup Primer (Buy from Sephora, $38)

“When this first came out, I was confused about why it was so sticky, but it’s that stickiness that allows makeup to really grip to your face,” says Gray. “I see a huge difference is the durability of the makeup, especially if it’s a super-long day.”

Best primer for redness

Catrice Cosmetics The Corrector Anti-Redness Primer
Catrice Cosmetics/Amazon

Catrice Cosmetics The Corrector Anti-Redness Primer (Buy from Amazon, $8)

If you suffer from redness, this is Gray’s go-to. It’s formulated with cica and allantoin that sink into skin to help soothe and treat redness and irritation. “It also has green pigments to neutralize the redness,” she says. And the primer’s green tint is covered up by foundation to further camouflage redness.

Best primer for smoothing wrinkles

Tula Prime of Your Life Smoothing and Firming Treatment Primer

Tula Prime of Your Life Smoothing and Firming Treatment Primer (Buy from Tula, $25.20)

To address fine lines and wrinkles, Thompson recommends this primer that’s designed to visibly firm the look of skin. It features peptides, amino acids and hyaluronic acid that all work together to spur skin-firming collagen production so the complexion looks smoother even after makeup is removed.

Best primer for blurring pores + mattifying skin

LYS Beauty Secure Skin Gripping Primer

LYS Beauty Secure Skin Gripping Primer (Buy from Sephora, $20)

Thompson favors this primer, which is a skin-balancing formula that also has a smoothing and blurring effect to reduce the appearance of pores. It’s also packed with niacinamide, which minimizes pores and cuts down on excess oil production to ensure makeup stays put.

Best primer for hydrating skin

Catrice Cosmetics The Hydrator Plump and Fresh Primer
Catrice Cosmetics/Amazon

Catrice Cosmetics The Hydrator Plump and Fresh Primer (Buy from Amazon, $8)

Gray keeps this primer in her kit since “so many of my clients need an extra boost of hydration for their skin.” And this one fits the bill as it’s water-based and also infused with aloe vera to moisturize and plump the complexion.

Best eye makeup primer

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion
Urban Decay

Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion (Buy from Urban Decay, $27,)

This cult-favorite eyeshadow primer is one of Greenberg’s favorites. “The smooth lightweight formula erases creases in the eyelid creating a clean, blurring base for eyeshadow,” she says. And it gives eyeshadow something to hold onto so it stays in place. Tip: Just let the primer dry for one minute before sweeping on a shadow.

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