A Guide To Choosing The Right Primer When You Have Combination Skin

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If you're reading this, you probably already know that primers deserve a place in your everyday makeup routine. Finding one that works for combination skin isn't as hard as you might think — it just requires a bit of research. Or, you can simply choose from this list of the the best primers for combination skin, as they've already been pre-vetted by editors to work for this finicky, but extremely common skin type.

When you’re looking for a primer for combination skin, choose a non-comedogenic formula to keep your oily areas clear of acne-causing bacteria. Non-comedogenic formulas also tend to be more breathable, so they’ll feel comfortable on dry skin — a welcome change from hardcore mattifying primers, whose heavy formulations can make your skin feel a little claustrophobic.

But using a primer effectively on combination skin mostly comes down to being mindful about what you want your primer to do, and tailoring the rest of your skin care routine around it. If you’re prepping your skin for makeup, concentrate a lightweight primer on your oil-prone T-zone, then use a very light touch on your drier cheeks and chin. Alternatively, you can target-treat your skin by applying a mattifying or pore-filling primer only where it’s needed. And always precede your primer with a double-dose of hydration on your dry areas. As someone with combination skin, I like using a balancing facial oil all over my face, then following it up with a moisturizer for combination skin wherever it feels extra dry.

With that primer in mind (sorry, I had to), take a look at five of the best primers for combination skin, ahead.

The Overall Best Primer For Combination Skin

This Rimmel Stay Matte Primer is incredibly effective for sopping up shine on oily skin. It's not exactly hydrating, but thanks to its super light, mousse-like texture, people with combination skin can use it all over their faces, even on drier areas, and not feel like the Crypt Keeper. Also, this is the only mattifying primer I’ve used that doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin — pretty incredible, considering that just a pea-sized amount packs enough punch to keep me shine-free (and my makeup firmly on) the whole day or night. And you only have about $6 to lose by picking up a tube and giving it a shot. So why not try it out for yourself!

The Best Pore-Filling Primer For Combination Skin

At their highest-performing, primers should both blot out oil and seal over inconsistencies in your skin's texture to create a smooth, even-looking canvas. So get yourself a primer that can do both. It doesn’t get much better than the DHC Clarifying Pore Cover Base, the pore-spackling iteration of the brand's cult-favorite Velvet Skin Finish. Artichoke leaf extract is the magic ingredient at work here, which improves your skin’s elasticity to tighten up pores. Hyaluronic acid keeps the formula from becoming overly drying, but I’d still recommend only using this concentrated primer on your more oily areas.

The Best Primer & Serum In One

Another high performer for your consideration. This Neutrogena Matte Primer + Serum Shine Control can either prep your skin for even, long-lasting makeup application (i.e., as a primer), or you can use it on its own for its shine-absorbing and skin-strengthening effects (i.e., as a serum). In the formula, rice protein works double duty to mattify and smooth your skin on the surface, while also enhancing your skin’s ability to lock in moisture, which leads to better elasticity in the long term.

The Best Korean Primer For Combination Skin

This Banila Co Prime Primer Matte is a good choice for people with combination skin that errs more on the dry than oily side. According to reviewers, it’s not quite as mattifying as some of the other primers on this list. Instead, where this primer really shines (but not literally) is in depositing an even, feather-light base for makeup to stick to all day long. Depending on whom you ask, that’s earned Banila Co’s matte primer dupe status for the Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer — but where Hourglass’s luxury primer would set you back $54, this best-selling Korean primer clocks in at just about $20.

The Best Primer For Acne-Prone Combination Skin

If you’re prone to acne, it can be kind of scary to layer on more potentially irritating products than is strictly necessary, and primers may fall into the “unnecessary” category. But the e.l.f. Blemish Control Face Primer might change your mind. This vegan primer contains salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and vitamin E —the holy trinity of acne-fighting ingredients — to keep pores clear of acne-causing bacteria. It has the consistency of a lotion, which feels soothing and refreshing on skin. Other than not breaking you out, it’ll prevent pilling and patchiness in your foundation. A win-win.

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