Woman applying something to her face.

What is Makeup Primer & Do I Need It?

Last Updated: April 7, 2022

If you want flawless makeup and skin like an Instagram filter, you need a primer. We’ve got the info you need to pick the right natural primer and apply it like a pro.

You’ve probably heard of primers. These mysterious tubes of liquid beauty promise flawless makeup and skin that looks like an Instagram filter IRL, but what exactly is primer, and do you need it?

These makeup staples have caused lots of confusion since they entered the world of beauty over a decade ago. We’re here to put an end to the madness and give you all the info you need to choose the right natural primer with no mystery ingredients for your skin — and apply it like a pro.

First, what is makeup primer?

Face illustration

Primers are the photoshop of the makeup world. They’re used underneath eyeshadow, foundation, tinted moisturizer, and mascara to create a smoothing effect that enhances makeup coverage and helps your makeup stay on longer — all while targeting concerns like oily or dry skin. Some products are silicone-based primers, which can irritate your skin based on the harsh ingredients. Opt for more natural primers that include ingredients you know when you read to ensure you’re putting the best products on your face.

Almost all of them blur out large pores, smooth unwanted texture, and correct discoloration. They even improve fine lines and hyperpigmentation from sun exposure. Sounds pretty magical.

Still not sure if you need one? If you’ve got a little extra shine in your t-zone, or your makeup always looks a bit messy by the end of the day, a primer could be just the thing you’re missing in your makeup routine.

How do you apply face primer?

Wash your face, apply moisturizer and sunscreen (you are using sunscreen, right?), and once they’re absorbed, go in with the primer.

  • Rub it onto your skin in circular motions
  • Then wait a couple minutes for it to sink in before you put on makeup

  • That’s it!

    Grove’s hot tip: It’s best to apply cream primers with your fingers instead of a brush. The warmth of your fingers helps melt it into your skin, which makes for easier application and better absorption.

Grove Tip

Can you use primer without makeup?

You can absolutely use a primer without makeup! They are fantastic for that “I’m not wearing any makeup” makeup look. They offer a smooth complexion without the heaviness of foundation, and they neutralize redness from acne and irritation.

If you’re into minimalist beauty — or you want to put an end to the mountain of products threatening to fall out of your medicine cabinet — consider one that doubles as a moisturizer.

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How to pick the right primer for your skin

There are more primers than you can shake a stick at, so how do you know which one is right for you?

Start by identifying what your needs are, and narrow your search from there.


The best for oily skin is a mattifying primer.

Mattifying primers balance out excess oil to reduce shine and create a smooth base for your makeup so it won’t slide off come high noon.


Hydrating primers are excellent for dry skin, because they contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid that give dehydrated skin a much-needed moisture boost.


Color-correcting primers even out skin tone for a clearer complexion.

Green counteracts red skin, while blue corrects yellow or sallow tones. Peach-colored neutralizes dark spots that result from aging or sun exposure.


Blurring primers hide large pores and rough textures to create a smooth, supple surface that’s prepped and ready for makeup application. Think of them as the ultimate prepped canvas.


Got a favorite eyeshadow that doesn’t want to stay put? There’s a primer for that.

Eye primer prevents the skin’s oils from breaking down makeup and makes your lids smooth and evenly textured — the ideal surface for shadow and eyeliner application.


Mascara primers nourish your lashes and help ‘em hold a curl. Apply it to your lashes before you remove waterproof mascara — it’ll keep your lashes from falling out.

Want more tips on how to get the most out of your makeup primer? Watch this video:

What are some of the best natural primers?

The best natural products use botanical ingredients instead of potentially toxic chemicals to prep and nourish your skin. Here are a few of our favorites for color-correcting, enhancing eye makeup, and for daily wear.

Vapour Beauty Essential Daily Primer

For a lightweight facial primer that hits all the marks, there’s Vapour Beauty’s daily primer. It enhances makeup application using nourishing macadamia and jojoba oils, cranberry water to clarify, and ginger water for an even skin tone and improved elasticity.

The best part? You just smooth it on with your fingertips — no tools needed.

Grove member Samantha K. says about this product, “I love, love, love this primer. It seems to keep my makeup in place and even last through days when I have to keep my mask on.”

PYT Beauty Baby Got Base Eye Primer

PYT Beauty’s eye primer is a sheer nude cream made with antioxidant-rich pomegranate extract, calming green tea, and moisturizing ginseng. It preps your lids to extend the wear of your eyeshadow without creasing, caking, or fading and works on a wide range of skin tones.

Plus it comes in a cute cherry red tube that’ll look great on your vanity.

Alima Pure Color Balancing Primer Powder

This vegan primer powder by Alima Pure is made from just two ingredients: mica powder and mineral pigment. It’s ideal for days when you don’t feel like wearing a full face of makeup but still want light coverage.

It works wonders for reducing redness caused by skin sensitivities, sunburn, and rosacea because of a green-based pigment that counters discoloration.

Grove member Molly B. wrote “I love this neutral tone powder as it is super fine and blends into your pores perfectly without having any dangerous chemicals or irritants in it. it is perfect for blending on the forehead and over highlighted and lighter areas, under the eyes, as well as your whole face. Keeper!”

Need a brush for your powder? Check out our top ten makeup brushes, and treat yourself to a fresh set!

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