Opinions vary when it comes to whether primers are essential to a makeup routine. We've written about the debate before. Some people sit in the "yes" camp, while others might think it's "just a waste of a product." Either way, there's no denying that primers can be helpful in the quest for flawless makeup. They set the stage, so to speak, for your products and can help your makeup last throughout the day. Some can even hydrate if you've got dry skin, while others can get your oily skin under control.
"Primer is not necessary, in my opinion, for day-to-day wear, but for that completely perfect makeup look," says celebrity makeup artist Maud Laceppe, whose clients include Vanessa Paradis and Julianne Moore. "It will give more of a photoshopped finish. Primer will definitely make your makeup last longer. It smoothes the fine lines, evens out the skin tone, and reduces the size of your pores."
But not all primers are created equally, just like everyone's skin is not the same. "There are primers for all different skin types, so choose one that best suits your skin," recommends celebrity makeup artist and groomer Georgie Eisdell, who has worked with Gwyneth Paltrow and Sophie Turner. "So if you have oily skin, you might want to use a primer that is oil-free so it can help keep your base looking fresh but not too shiny. If you have drier skin, then locate more hydrating primers or pruning oil to help get a nice glow to the skin."
And when you have mature skin, you might have other concerns, like fine lines and dryness. Some primers can help with those—and the same rule for choosing one applies here. "No matter your age, you should always choose a primer that addresses your skin type and feels good on your face. Every face is different!" says Christine Cherbonnier, Yoko Ono's personal makeup artist. "If you have concerns about fine lines, I suggest trying a primer with a lighter weight. Typically those sit best on mature skin without accentuating what you're trying to smooth out. I know it may seem like you should add extra coverage as your skin ages, but try to resist the urge if you can. Mature skin is beautiful and can really benefit from a lighter touch."
Across the board, though, most of the makeup artists I spoke to for this story said women over 40 should look for a hydrating primer. "The older you get, the drier your skin starts becoming," says Carissa Ferreri, whose clients include Annette Bening and Gina Rodriguez. "Someone younger usually has oilier or acne-prone skin. I would apply a mattifying primer for a younger client and focus on the T-zone. For mature skin, I like to use a primer that imparts illumination and brightening, such as Lancôme's Prep and Hydrate Primer ($35)."
When it comes to applying primer, Eisdell says you should put it on after applying moisturizer but before you put your base on. And Cherbonnier adds, "I recommend applying primer with your fingers as if applying moisturizer. Your body heat will melt the primer into the skin, creating a perfect canvas for makeup application. Be sure to focus on any redness, fine lines, or other areas that could use a little extra attention."
Ready to choose one? Take a look at our list of best primers for mature skin below.
Best Overall: Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Illuminating
Eisdell recommends Laura Mercier's illuminating primer because it gives the skin a nice glow. She also gives another recommendation when choosing a primer, saying, "I would not use oil-free or matte primers on more mature skin, as you want as much hydration and glow to the skin to keep it looking youthful and dewy. Matte primers are not going to give you that finish, and oil-free ones tend to matte the skin too." But if you have mature skin and oily or acne-prone skin, she says you can opt for the oil-free primers.
Victoria Beckham by Augustinus Bader Cell Rejuvenating Priming Moisturizer
Celebrity makeup artist Vincent Oquendo, whose clients include Janelle Monáe and Bella Hadid, says he's not really a "primer subscriber" but has a different suggestion. "What I like to do is I use a serum as a primer," he says. "I look for something that's really hydrating, and I look for something with hyaluronic acid in it because it tends to be really good for mature skin. It creates a barrier without weighing the skin down and prevents the makeup from getting cakey." One of our favorites is SkinCeuticals' Hydrating B5 Gel.
"If you have normal to dry mature skin and just want to feel fresh and hydrated without the usual shimmery additives, which can sit in fine lines, I recommend the Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer," suggests Cherbonnier.
"If you are concerned about sun protection (something women of all ages should be thinking about!), I recommend the Glow Screen SPF 40 Primer. Its name says it all—it creates a glowing canvas for your makeup application while adding extra mineral sun protection," saysCherbonnier.
"Supergoop!'s Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 is a miracle for more mature skin. It's an instant pore eraser that creates a velvety smooth texture ideal for makeup application. There is a flip side! This product has dimethicone in it, which looks great on most mature skin but can cause breakouts in younger, more oily skin," says Cherbonnier.
Lancôme UV Expert Aquagel Defense Primer & Moisturizer SPF 50
"On mature skin, I like to use a primer such as Lancôme's UV Expert Sunscreen that focuses on hydration and antioxidant-rich skincare ingredients," says Ferrero. "Protecting skin against sun damage and pollutants is extremely important, and antioxidants will help combat early signs of aging. This is your all-in-one that can be used as a moisturizer, primer, and sunscreen."