The Best Primers to Make Your Skin Look Flawless

Wouldn't we all like to know.

I'm telling you, 2010 is the year of the primer.

On the heels of my post about 7 ways to stop shine on your face, I got an email from a reader—we'll call her R.—wondering if I could recommend a primer specifically for flawless-looking skin.

Here's an abridged version of our convo:

I was wondering if you might be able to help me find a good face primer.

What I want is what everyone wants: to look flawless. My main concern is hiding visible pores, but at the same time not clogging them up so I can avoid break outs—I don't have a problem with acne, but I do get the occasional nuisance. I also have a bit of a problem with oil slicks in my T-zone, primarily my chin, so I need something that won't add to the problem.

I’ve been using Benefit’s That Gal and I’ve been happy with it, but I just ran out and thought maybe there was something better out there. I use a powder foundation (Benefit’s Hello Flawless) if that makes any difference in picking a primer. I’m not looking to spend a ton of money on it; something close to the price of the Benefit product is great, which I think is a little under $40 CDN. A few names have come up already: Bare Escentuals, Smashbox, and Too Faced. Any advice? Other products are welcome!!

And here's what I think:

R., you are in luck because I JUST did a feature story in Glow magazine on this very subject (how to make your skin look flawless)! I think it's still on newsstands so definitely check it out!

Anyway, I know you asked about primers specifically, but just quickly—before we get to those—I wanted to touch on skincare. I'm not sure what you're using now, but in my research for the story I discovered that many brands are coming out with skincare products specifically aimed at giving you flawless skin. We gave it the name "high-definition skincare": products that address little imperfections like large pores, dullness, redness and uneven skin tone. (And the large pore thing is particularly cool, because until now we've really only seen this problem addressed from the perspective of acne.)

A few cool new skincare products to try

Biotherm Aquasource Skin Perfection High-Definition Perfecting Care Moisturizer

L’Oréal Paris Skin Genesis Pore Minimizer

Vichy LiftActiv CxP Total

Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner Blackhead and Oil Remover

The other thing about large pores is that while their size is mostly determined by genetics, if they get clogged with dead skin cells, sebum, sunscreen, dirt and makeup, they can LOOK larger. The derm I spoke to recommended exfoliating once a week (more often during the summer). New exfoliating products to try: StriVectin Overnight Resurfacing Serum or NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 2.

Okay! Now we can talk about primers.

As R. mentioned, she uses Benefit That Gal. While I've never used the product myself (I'm sure if must be buried somewhere in my beauty bins), there are lots of positive reviews online. But R.? I think you can do better. Why? Because That Gal is a brightening primer, so it's mostly going to perk up dull skin—but not address your main concerns, large pores and shine, as well as some of the other options out there.

What you want to look for is an oil-free primer with two things:

A) oil-controlling or shine-absorbing properties, and

B) the ability to blur imperfections like large pores

Here are a few primers that do both

Make Up For Ever All Mat

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Light

Cover FX Clear Prep FX Matte Foundation Primer and Anti-Acne Treatment

Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer SPF 15

Personally, I LOVE the Hourglass one and so far it's been the one that's delivered the most flawless and long-lasting finish. It feels quite silicone-y going on, so you'd definitely want to use foundation over top, but it doesn't make you greasy or shiny AT ALL.

I'd put Cover FX's one in a close second—even though it says it's for acne, I don't find it overly drying and it seems to keep shine at bay for a long time.

Lots of people love Smashbox's primer, but I'm a bit on the fence about it. I didn't find that the oil-control lasted as long on me and it felt even more silicone-y than the Hourglass primer. I haven't tried the primers from Bare Escentuals or Too Faced.

Last thing: if you're really married to your Benefit primer, you COULD layer in a mattifier instead. The difference between a primer and a mattifier is that mattifiers are specifically for oil control, whereas primers can address a range of different concerns (such as brightening, firming, hydrating or yes, oil-control). You wouldn't use a mattifier with an oil-control primer—that would be overkill—but you could use a mattifier with a primer that does something else, like That Gal, for example. While primers are meant to go underneath your makeup, mattifiers can usually go under or over top of makeup.

Mattifiers to try: NeoStrata Oil-Free Mattifying Fluid; Nuxe Aroma Perfection Anti-Shine Fluid

If you do get shiny during the day, blot with one of those blotting papers or a translucent (not coloured) powder (it won't make you cakey). I LOVE Alison Raffaele Transparent Finish Powder.

I hope that helps! Anyone else got any primer recommendations for R.? What have YOU tried? What worked, what didn't?

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