I can be superrrr lazy when it comes to my beauty routine. Seriously, if I’m extra tired (or, fine, kinda buzzed), all I do at night is wipe off my makeup and rub on some moisturizer. So it makes sense that I was really resistant to makeup primers for so long—like, I couldn’t decide if they were worth the extra time in my routine, or if they were just an unnecessary step. But after finally using one for the first time, I can assure you that they are definitely worth it.
Hear me out: Primers help turn your face into a silky-smooth canvas, keeping your foundation, concealer, eyeshadow, blush, and contour in place all damn day, regardless of the temp. The best part? They don’t have to be super pricey—some of the best drugstore primers mattify, hydrate, brighten, and smooth out the look of your pores just as well (if not better) than the luxury ones. Now do you see why they’re worth the hype? Ahead, the best 13 drugstore primers to help you level up your routine.
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Best Lightweight Drugstore Primer
EveryHue Beauty PoreFect Primer
PSA: One of the side effects of this drugstore primer is short-term memory loss—legit seconds after you apply it, you’ll forget that it’s even there. Lightweight and oil-free, this primer dries down to a smooth and sheer finish that meshes with your makeup (and skin) seamlessly.
Best Drugstore Primer with SPF
Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum
Okay, so this one technically isn’t a drugstore primer, but it is a drugstore sunscreen that cosplays as a primer. It’s full of soothing ingredients (think: avocado oil and sunflower oil) that won’t leave a sticky finish. The end result is a hydrating base for your skin that’s clear, even, and protected from the sun.
Best Drugstore Primer for Combination Skin
Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser
If your skin can’t decide if it’s dry, oily, or both, you’re going to love this drugstore primer (like, prepare for it to become your new go-to). The matte-finish formula won’t dry your skin out, but it still stops your oil production from taking center stage on your face. It also acts like Photoshop, blurring over your pores to make them look teeny-tiny.
Best Drugstore Primer for Dry Skin
Milani Prime Perfection Hydrating + Pore-Minimizing Face Primer
So many primers are formulated to mattify your face and keep your oily T-zone at bay—aka the exact opposite of what your dry skin needs. Packed with glycerin and hyaluronic acid (which both help lock in moisture), this primer is like a tall glass of water for your thirsty-AF skin.
Best Pore-Blurring Drugstore Primer
Wet n Wild Photo Focus Face Primer
Sorry to break it to you, but you can’t shrink your pores—their size is determined by genetics (shout-out to mom and dad!). But thanks to the silicone in this formula, you can change their appearance. Smooth this drugstore primer over your skin, and it creates a blurring effect, kind of like a Snapchat filter, which helps your pores look noticeably smaller.
Best Drugstore Primer for Redness
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Prep + Correct Primer for Redness
If you wake up to red, splotchy skin, this drugstore primer *needs* to be a part of your routine. Remember that color wheel from elementary school? This foundation is green (opposite of red on the color wheel), which means it neutralizes rosy tones.
Best Drugstore Primer for Acne-Prone Skin
E.L.F. Blemish Control Primer
And for proof that some formulas really do it all, look no further than this super-cheap option. With salicylic acid to stop breakouts before they even arrive and vitamin E and tea tree to soothe and hydrate your skin, this primer will fight zits and set your makeup.
Best Brightening Drugstore Primer
Flower Supernova Celestial Skin Elixir
This gel-to-oil primer is infused with tiny shimmery particles that leave your skin with a perfectly dewy finish every time you slather it on. In the long-term, though, the formula’s antioxidants (camellia and sunflower seed oils, and vitamins C and E) work to brighten the overall appearance of your skin (even when you aren’t wearing it).
Best Mattifying Drugstore Primer
Nyx Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Matte Primer
If you have oily skin, you know the struggle of an hourly blotting sesh. But the mattifying effect of this primer might let you toss those blotting sheets for good, since a mix of clay and minerals help absorb any excess oil you produce throughout the day.
Best Multi-Use Drugstore Primer
Revlon PhotoReady Prep Set, Refresh Mist
This bottle is what every jam-packed makeup bag dreams of: an all-in-one primer, midday refresher, and setting spray. Mist it over your face before foundation to give the pigments something to cling to, then use it to lock in your base. You can also spritz it throughout the day when your skin could use a little pick-me-up.
Best Color-Correcting Drugstore Primer
L.A. Girl Pro Prep HD Color Correcting Face Primer
If your idea of color-correcting usually means caking on your foundation, this drugstore primer is about to make your life way easier. This yellow-tinted formula works to brighten dark, dull spots, but it also comes in green (to minimize redness), light pink (to illuminate), and orange (to conceal dark circles).
Best Illuminating Drugstore Primer
CoverGirl Vitalist Go Glow Glotion
Think of this formula as a primer and luminizer in one. The light hydrating lotion will instantly plump and moisturize skin (you can thank vitamins E, B3, and B5 for that!), and light-reflecting pigments will leave your skin dewy as hell. The best part? When you layer your base on top, you’ll get the most realistic, lit-from-within glow.
Best Drugstore Eyeshadow Primer
Milani Eyeshadow Primer
Most facial primers are silicone- or water-based, which gives your skin that smooth, mattified finish. With a lid primer, though, you want a formula that has some grip to it so your eyeshadow has something to stick to. This nude primer dries down clear and keeps your eyeshadow from sliding off your lids by lunch.
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