Primer: what's it for and do you need one?

Does your makeup ever seem to disappear throughout the day? Do enlarged pores bug you (even when you know deep down no-one notices them but you)? If so, it could be time to add a primer to your beauty routine.

I used to daydream about primers when I was younger (and probably spottier) - before such a thing existed - or at least to my knowledge. Imagine if there was a product we could layer under foundation to make our skin look smoother and more perfect I'd think. Well, now there is...

The Benefits

Some primers tick one or two boxes while others claiming to tick them all, but generally speaking, they:
  • Instantly minimise the look of pores, so that skin looks more refined
  • Help foundation apply more smoothly and evenly
  • Increase the lasting power of makeup throughout the day
I don't use primer every day. a. it's an extra step I don't always have time for and b. I have a thing about overloading my skin, so I save it for days when I want my makeup to look its best and go the distance. Primer is also a gift in extreme weather - on freezing cold days when my base seems to be whisked away with wild winds, or in scorching sunshine when it melts off in the heat.

Which one to go for?

For a long time I used Laura Mercier foundation primer (which I still rate), but have rotated the above trio in recent weeks and months.

Dermalogica Hydrablur Primer is a new release aimed at dry and dehydrated skins, very welcome in a sea of mattifying products that leave my skin looking dull and drab. A thick-ish creamy paste, it immediately blurs imperfections for a more even looking base, and that's before makeup. In fact I reckon that non makeup wearers would enjoy this too. Although aimed at dry skins, it does contain mattifiers to reduce any oily sheen on the T-zone, mushroom extract to reduce pore visibility and hydrators to maintain moisture balance. (Officially launching 1 Feb, I've spied this already at Selfridges.)

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water is one that I reach for a lot. I know it's hard to believe that something so apparently easy can work wonders, but it does. This can be sprayed on skin either to prime it before makeup, or afterwards to set it by sealing everything in. I get best results by applying it before, though have added it after when I forgot! This is such a fast, easy step that's really effective and the fine mist settles quickly on my skin. Silicone, alcohol and oil free, this is a good choice for anyone with sensitive skin - and also helps keep skin hydrated.

This Works In Transit Camera Close Up is a multi-tasking mask, moisturiser and primer in one that's especially handy when tight for time. I'm not sure about the mask element, but combining the moisture and prime effects in one product is pretty clever and it does seem to plump and smooth my skin. The pump bottle is easy and hygienic to use and I like that the integrated primer means no need to add an extra step on hectic mornings. If you have dry skin, you may need additional moisturiser underneath (I do). Like Hydrablur, this minimises the look of pores on contact, as if by magic.

In Summary

All three of these products help my makeup last longer and reduce the amount of foundation I need to use by around one third - it just glides over the top and less is absorbed into my skin. Hydrablur and In Transit both reduce the appearance of pores while Photo Finish Primer Water is more about elongating wear time and leaving skin looking dewy. I find Dermalogica the most skin refining, while In Transit and Smashbox are both great in a rush. I reach for Smashbox the most day to day as it's so darn easy and either of the others on special occasions.

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