Makeup primers may seem superfluous, but they actually may revolutionize both your makeup and skin care routines. To prove that this is not hyperbole, take a peek at the best hydrating primers featured below. Not only do they do what a primer does best — create a smooth, even canvas for your makeup to cling to — but they also have (almost) the same moisturizing powers as an actual moisturizer, so your skin will feel thoroughly plumped and quenched.
These primers are the best choice for people with dry or dehydrated skin, since they’re all packed with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, panthenol, and glycerin. But primers are inherently lightweight, so they’ll feel comfortable on combination skin, too. Plus, all the primers on this list happen to be oil-free (barring the one that’s literally all oils), and many are formulated to be safe on reactive and acne-prone skin as well.
In short? There’s a primer that can do virtually everything for virtually everyone. Scroll on to shop seven of the best hydrating primers you can get on Amazon, depending on your preferred consistency, finish, and budget.
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1. Best Moisturizer
Is this First Aid Beauty primer a moisturizer that also primes, or a primer that also moisturizes? I’m inclined to believe the former. The consistency feels a lot like Tatcha Water Cream — pillowy, juicy, slightly cooling — and it has some good slip, so it glides and blends seamlessly into your skin. Hyaluronic acid keeps your skin from feeling either parched or tacky, while a pinch of dimethicone keeps your makeup in place for hours. And if your skin is looking a little dull, as is often the case with dry skin, then you’ll like the light-reflecting micro-pearls in here. Instant glow, tons of moisture, no makeup slippage — nothing not to like with this hybrid.
2. Best Oil
Speaking of dullness: Slathering your face with oil before you do your makeup is the best way to get rid of it, in my sun-deprived, dehydrated-skinned opinion. On the downside, using a straight-up oil can make your base a little streaky and reluctant to blend. This NYX oil primer is a better option. It’s essentially an oil blend (this contains sweet almond, safflower, and jojoba oils) with vitamin E and a few emollient preservatives to give it a smoother texture. Reviewers say it helps their makeup blend and settle more evenly, and makes their skin feel comfortable and nourished. You’ll look sweaty-in-a-good-way, without a single streak to be found.
3. Best Serum
For something that feels a little less obviously there, try this Neutrogena primer/serum hybrid. It’s water-based, so the consistency is more “fluid” than “viscous" or "sticky,” while hyaluronic acid imparts tons of moisture with no added weight. Hyaluronic acid happens to be an excellent primer on its own (or, more likely, in serum form), since it immediately plumps, firms, and silk-ifies your skin. But at $15, this drugstore primer is a lot less expensive than most hyaluronic acid serums on the market — and for the purposes of smoothing your makeup while quenching your skin, it gets the job done just as well.
4. Best Jelly
Think of this Dermablend primer as a leash for your wily, skittish makeup: It’s a sticky jelly that creates an adherent surface, so your makeup couldn’t run if it tried. Amazingly, it does that without the use of silicones, which can feel a bit heavy on dry skin in higher concentrations. Instead, it’s formulated with humectants like glycerin, cork oak extract, and panthenol, which both moisturize your skin and create that grippable surface. That all helps tighten up your skin, too, so this is a good choice if you want to minimize the appearance of your pores (sans dimethicone). Also, don’t be intimidated by the stickiness — it dries down within 30 seconds, and then it’ll feel like nothing.
5. Best Mousse
Exactly as its name says, this Cover FX primer feels like a fluffy cloud full of water. A cumulonimbus cloud, if you will. It has a delicious, mousse-y texture that blends to a soft-focus finish, while marigold and calendula extracts in the formula help hydrate and calm redness. Plus, plankton extract helps protect your skin from blue light — the stuff that emits from your phone and computer screens, and is silently destroying your collagen — so go ahead and put it on every day, whether you’re wearing makeup over the top or not.
6. Best Budget
A list of the best hydrating primers would not be complete without this entry from e.l.f.. It’s one of the most popular primers on Amazon, it comes in a cute, pack-able package, and — best part — it only costs $6. Dimethicone is the first ingredient in here, so this is a good choice if you’re after a “flawless" matte finish and blurred pores. But antioxidant-rich grape seed oil and vitamin E counteract any drying effects, and provide a blendable, silky consistency. Much to gain, very little to lose here.
7. Best Splurge
Yes, $45 is a lot to spend on a makeup primer. But if it’s any consolation, this genuinely doubles as skin care, as the ingredients list reads suspiciously like that of a serum. Some standouts: Probiotics and alpha-glucans help bolster your moisture barrier, hyaluronic acid plumps, and agave extract softens. This contains a bit of added fragrance, but reviewers with sensitive, reactive skin still love it (and I personally swear by REN’s products for my own, sensitive-and-reactive skin).