If you have dry skin, you know how important it is that every single product you put on your skin has just the right ingredients to make it ultra-hydrating, whether it be your cleanser, your moisturizer, or your foundation. Everyone wants that glowy, dewy, youthful look – which can be hard to achieve when your skin is dry and flaking off.
Fear not: using the right primer underneath your foundation can go a long way in helping you achieve that luminous look. Not any primer will do, however; if you have dry skin, you’ll need a primer that will moisturize on top of doing all of the things that primers are supposed to do.
- What You Need to Know About a Makeup Primer
- Top 10 Best Primers for Dry Skin 2021
- 1. Best Overall NYX Cosmetics Hydra Touch Primer
- 2. Best Premium Primer Monica Ann Beauty Dual Action Face Primer
- 3. Best Budget e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer
- 4. Best Mineral Primer bareMinerals Good Hydrations Silky Face Primer
- 5. Best Priming Oil NYX Cosmetics Hydra Touch Oil Primer
- 6. Best Anti-Aging Primer Covergirl & Olay Simply Ageless Makeup Primer
- 7. Best Universal Primer Clinique Super Universal Face Primer
- 8. Best Pore Erasing Primer Benefit Cosmetics the POREfessional Pro Balm
- 9. Best Primer With SPF Protection Olay Sun Facial Sunscreen and Antioxidants
- 10. Best Probiotic Primer TULA Skincare Face Filter Blurring & Moisturizing Primer
- Your Comprehensive Guide to Primers for Dry Skin
- Choose a Primer Your Dry Skin Will Love
What You Need to Know About a Makeup Primer
Before we dive into the best primers available, let’s explore the most important info to keep in mind about what makeup primers are and how to choose the right one for you.
What Does a Makeup Primer Do?
First of all, what even is a primer, and do you really need one? Isn’t foundation enough?
We can’t tell you what you need, but primer is an important part of many people’s skincare and makeup routines for a lot of different reasons. First of all, primers help create a smooth base for your foundation to glide on top of; without it, the makeup can start settling into fine lines and pores – not an attractive look.
That brings us to the next benefit: pores. No one wants large pores ruining their perfectly made-up face, and primers smooth them out and can even erase the look of pores so that your makeup settles beautifully and you can get that flawless finish. Many primers do the same for fine lines, too, especially ones with anti-aging ingredients like the Covergirl & Olay Simply Ageless Primer.
Lastly, a primer helps your makeup to last longer. We’ve all had those days where we look in the mirror as we’re leaving work and see that our face, which was perfectly made-up in the morning, looks like we just rolled out of bed. Using the right primer can help your foundation stay flawless throughout even the most chaotic days. We can all use a little bit of that!
What to Look for in a Primer if You Have Dry Skin
For those with dry skin, everything about makeup is just a little more complicated, and that includes choosing a primer. Since many primers are designed to control shine or give your skin a matte look, they can absorb the oil that your skin is already lacking. If you have dry skin and are going to use a primer, make sure you either pair it with a moisturizer or choose a primer that has hydrating properties built in or is otherwise specifically designed for dry skin.
While you’re shopping for the best makeup primer for dry skin, look out for these factors:
Look for specific ingredients that are known to add moisture to your skin. There are too many different formulas and extracts out there to name here, but we’ll make sure to point out all of the ingredients that dry skin loves for each of the products we’ve picked out. If choosing ethical and chemical-free products matters to you, look out for products that are free from things like parabens and other toxic chemicals, and that are cruelty-free.
You also want to look out for ingredients that match the foundation you use. For example, if you use a water-based foundation, a water-based primer (like Hydra Touch Primer from NYX Cosmetics) is likely to work better underneath it; the same thing goes for an oil-based or silicone-based foundation.
If you have dry skin, you’re probably looking for one thing and one thing only in all of your skincare and makeup products: hydration. Getting as much moisture back in your skin as possible is key for dry skin sufferers, especially during the winter. Like we mentioned earlier, it’s important that your primer has extra ingredients that are specifically geared toward moisturizing your skin. Hyaluronic acid is one example of a super-hydrating ingredient, which a couple of our picks include, but there are lots of other plant-based moisturizing ingredients, too.
Try to avoid words like “mattifying” or “shine control” when you’re shopping. Instead, look for words like “hydrating”, “moisturizing” or “glow”.
If your skin is really dry, you might also consider avoiding silicone-based primers, some of which can absorb the already-lacking oil from your skin. One caveat of silicone-based primers, though, is that they have an almost magical pore-blurring and smoothing effect. Most of the options on our list do include silicones for this reason, but the ones we chose have extra moisturizing ingredients so they won’t dry out your skin (although you may need to pair some of them with your moisturizer – we’ll tell you which ones).
One of the main reasons people use primer is to help makeup stay on the face throughout the day. We all know what it feels like to have smudged, messed up makeup by the end of work or a night out, and primer can help with that. Silicone-based primers usually do this better than oil-based ones, for example, so you might have to weigh moisturizing benefits against staying power when you’re shopping.
Lastly, we know if you could buy every single primer on this list, you would. But most of the time, we’re (sadly) working within a budget. We’ll let you know whether each pick is easily affordable or a special occasion splurge.
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to let you know what our absolute favorite primers for dry skin are so you can pick the best one for you. With the perfect primer, your dry skin will be glowing in no time!
Top 10 Best Primers for Dry Skin 2021
1. Best Overall NYX Cosmetics Hydra Touch Primer
In contrast to heavier silicone-type primers that are not kind to dry skin, this hydrating water-based primer from NYX has a gel-like consistency, which glides on smoothly and is extra-moisturizing. It’s deceptively thin, but don’t be fooled: this primer goes a long way in smoothing out dry, flaky skin while still being lightweight enough to put on your whole face.
The NYX primer is packed with awesome ingredients that your dry skin will love, like Centella asiatica (tiger grass) extract, cuspidatum root extract, and licorice root extract. A lot of these ingredients have become popular in K-beauty and other Asian skin care products for their hydrating and soothing properties for dry, irritated skin. NYX Cosmetics is a cruelty-free brand and this primer is paraben-free. This product does include artificial fragrance, which most love but might be something to watch out for if you are sensitive to smells.
Because of the ingredients we just told you about plus others that are specifically designed to help the skin retain moisture, this is one of the most hydrating primers on the market. It has a watery lotion-like texture that melts smoothly into the skin, allowing you finally to say bye-bye to those dry spots that look flaky under your foundation. Even if you’ve found other primers too drying, you won’t have that problem with this NYX primer.
The NYX primer helps your makeup stay on your face as well as the most expensive high-end products. Even after those long workdays, your makeup will stay firmly in place – and best of all, it won’t look patchy or dry. It helps that it’s so lightweight, which means you can spread it on every part of your face, even your eyelids. No more runny eyeliner!
This is one of the most affordable primers on our list, only outdone by our budget pick, the e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer. If you want quality ingredients for a fraction of the price of department store brands, this is the primer for you.
- Moisturizing natural ingredients
- Doesn’t dry out skin
- Lightweight and blendable
- Super affordable
- Artificial fragrance
Although all of the primers on this list are fantastic for making sure that foundation doesn’t settle into fine lines, those with mature skin might appreciate a little something extra-luxurious for anti-aging effects. This Dual Action Face Primer from Monica Ann Beauty is the perfect thing, with ingredients that help minimize the look of fine lines and even prevent wrinkles to begin with. Plus, the company does its part to make a difference: they contribute money to breast cancer research with every purchase.
This primer boasts two key ingredients to give your skin a youthful glow. First, vitamin C brightens your skin and reduces the look of pores, which foundation can settle into. Vitamin C also protects your skin from harmful free radicals. The primer also includes hyaluronic acid in its list of its ingredients, which is known as one of the most premium anti-aging ingredients out there for its plumping and moisturizing effects.
The product is also free from all parabens, sulfates, and phthalates and is cruelty-free. We couldn’t ask for more!
The ingredients in this dual-action primer, especially the hyaluronic acid, make it luxuriously moisturizing – so much so that you’ll even start to see an improvement in your actual skin. Especially for dry mature skin that is starting to see some fine lines, this primer will be moisturizing enough to fill those lines in and give you that goddess-like glow.
This primer is so good for your skin that it serves as both moisturizer and anti-aging cream too, which means that you might want to wear it just on its own. If you do decide to pair it with foundation, you’ll find that your makeup looks flawless until the end of your workday and beyond.
This primer is a bit of a splurge, but for good reason. If it’s out of your budget but you want some of the same anti-aging benefits, check out Covergirl & Olay Simply Ageless Primer.
- Hyaluronic acid for moisturizing benefit
- Serves as an anti-aging cream and moisturizer
- Fills in fine lines and wrinkles
- Helps makeup stay on all day
3. Best Budget e.l.f. Hydrating Face Primer
This primer is the perfect choice if you’re looking for something that gives you smooth, flawless, moisturized skin without breaking the bank. It does a great job at minimizing pores, and of course makes sure that foundation does a better job at staying in place – a must for any primer. e.l.f. has a few different primers available; they’re all excellent, but their Hydrating Primer is the best for dry skin.
As a bonus point, all of e.l.f.’s products are cruelty-free and 100% vegan, which is a wonderful surprise considering its low price.
This hydrating formula includes ingredients that are rich in vitamins that give your skin some much-needed nutrition, like vitamins A, E, and C. e.l.f. boasts that their cosmetics are free from phthalates, parabens, nonylphenol ethoxylates, triclosan, triclocarban, and hydroquinone. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know that this primer is cruelty-free; vegan or not, no one wants their primer to have hurt animals.
e.l.f.’s primer is so hydrating that it makes even the driest, flakiest skin feel like buttery velvet. Its vitamin-packed formula provides so much hydration that it can even be used on its own, without a moisturizer underneath. If you have combination skin or any oily days whatsoever, this might not be the moisturizer for you.
Because this primer makes your face so soft, makeup glides on smoothly over it. It minimizes the look of pores while still helping makeup stay in place for longer than it would without it. Overall, it offers great staying power for the price, but if keeping your makeup looking flawless all day is your main concern, it might be worth it to spend a little more on Benefit’s Porefessional Primer.
This is our budget pick, so it won’t come as a surprise to you that this primer comes at a shockingly affordable price. It’s not perfect, but it’s hard to complain when it costs about the same as a cappuccino.
- Shockingly affordable price
- Minimizes look of pores
- Provides vitamins for skin
- Makeup won’t stay on all day
- May not work for combination or oily skin
4. Best Mineral Primer bareMinerals Good Hydrations Silky Face Primer
Mineral powder can be trickier to apply than regular liquid foundation, especially if you have dry skin, because powders tend to absorb oil which is something that your skin already lacks. If you’re a devoted mineral makeup fan, priming your skin will go a long way in making sure that your makeup stays in place and doesn’t dry out your skin. This option from bareMinerals is our favorite primer to go underneath mineral foundation – and best of all, the primer itself contains a fantastic mineral blend as well.
All of bareMinerals’ products contain a blend of clean minerals and is free from harmful chemicals like parabens, is mineral oil-free, and cruelty-free. These are all of the reasons why we love mineral products!
On top of those ingredients, this primer includes ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and coconut alkanes that are specifically designed to provide moisture for your skin. Even though it’s an oil-free primer, it will smooth away any dry patches and get your skin looking soft and supple.
Some primers don’t do well underneath mineral powder, but since the folks at bareEssentials are the gods of mineral makeup, it comes as no surprise that their primer helps mineral powder go on smoothly without clumping up. It does help makeup stay on for longer than it would without it, but if you need your makeup to stay on for a 10-hour shift at work, you might want to try the Clinique Super Universal Primer.
Especially considering its high-quality ingredients, it might be surprising to you that this is one of the most affordable options on our list.
- Natural mineral blend
- Pairs great with mineral foundation
- Hyaluronic acid provides lots of moisture
- Not much staying power
5. Best Priming Oil NYX Cosmetics Hydra Touch Oil Primer
If you have super dry skin, then a mattifying or oil-free primer isn’t going to work for you; you need the opposite. This priming oil, another pick from NYX Cosmetics, primes your skin for makeup while giving it a healthy, youthful glow. No dryness here! This is the only priming oil on our list, so if you’re looking for that dewy look under your makeup, give this primer a try.
The best thing about this priming oil is that it has just a few different ingredients: primarily different moisturizing oils like sweet almond oil, safflower seed oil, and jojoba oil. This ensures that your skin is basically getting an oil bath to restore its natural moisture and give you a glowy, illuminated look. Like we said earlier, NYX is a cruelty-free brand, and this product is also paraben-free.
Hydration and moisture is where this priming oil really rocks. Although you might hesitate to put oil directly on your skin, if you have dry skin it’s probably parched for it and will thank you. It might feel greasy at first but will glide on smoothly and you’ll end up with a soft, glowing, dewy (not oily) look.
This product “primes” your face in that it helps your makeup glide on smoothly and gives you a healthy glow underneath foundation, but it doesn’t do very much in terms of helping your makeup stay on throughout the day, and might even make your eyeliner look messy. If staying power is the most important thing to you, you might want to go with a primer that’s not an oil (basically, any other primer on this list).
All of NYX’s products are amazingly affordable, and this primer (plus our other pick from NYX) is no exception.
- Very few ingredients
- Based in natural oils- super moisturizing
- Paraben- and cruelty-free
- Might be too oily for some
- Can smudge makeup
6. Best Anti-Aging Primer Covergirl & Olay Simply Ageless Makeup Primer
This primer includes the holy grail of anti-aging products: hyaluronic acid. This is one of the best ingredients for anti-aging benefits and gives your skin that dewy, supple look that you’ve been trying to achieve. It also includes vitamin C which is great for brightening up your skin and protecting against free radicals. This product is not paraben-free, but it is certified cruelty-free.
Since one of the causes of wrinkles is not enough moisture in the skin, this primer’s ingredients go a long way to hydrate and moisturize to smooth away fine lines. Even if you don’t have mature skin, hyaluronic acid is fantastic for making your skin soft, supple, and packed with plenty of moisture. Although it does include silicones, it also has a high water content so it’s creamy and easy to spread.
This primer helps makeup stay on for most of the day. Not only that, but the ingredients make your skin look so good that you can absolutely wear this without any foundation over it at all! It does smooth out your skin, but doesn’t do much in terms of smoothing out pores, so you might find your foundation sinking in.
Covergirl and Olay are both drugstore brands, so this primer comes at drugstore prices; great for those on a budget. If you’re looking for similar ingredients but a more high-quality, luxurious product, check out our premium pick, the Dual Action Primer from Monica Ann Beauty.
- Hyaluronic acid and vitamin C for anti-aging benefits
- Ingredients that are great for moisturizing
- Drugstore prices
- Doesn’t smooth out pores
7. Best Universal Primer Clinique Super Universal Face Primer
Not everyone who has dry skin has dry skin all the time. If you find that your skin goes from dry to normal to oily within a week, then this face primer might be for you. It’s perfect for all skin types: it’s not too greasy for oily skin, but is hydrating enough for dry skin. We love that it’s hypoallergenic and that we can count on the Clinique standard.
All of the ingredients in this universal primer are hypoallergenic and free of parabens and phthalates – a great start. It also includes lots of natural skin-loving ingredients like different algae extracts and Green Tea Leaf extract. Clinique products are always 100% fragrance-free, so you can trust that it’s not going to cause any irritation or breakouts.
If you have super dry skin on every area of your face, then you might want to get an extra-moisturizing primer like the NYX Hydra Touch Oil Primer. If you have dry spots in patches, however, you’ll find that this primer makes your skin feel silky smooth without being overly greasy in areas like your t-zone.
This primer has incredible staying power and will help your makeup stay on flawlessly until the end of your workday and beyond. Even though it’s hydrating, it also keeps the oil down so you can look glowing but not greasy all day long.
Clinique certainly isn’t known for being cheap, so this is one of the more expensive options on our list.
- Good for combination skin
- Hydrates while also keeping oil down
- Not moisturizing enough to be used on its own
8. Best Pore Erasing Primer Benefit Cosmetics the POREfessional Pro Balm
This primer has almost reached cult-classic status for one reason: its incredible ability to erase any visible pores from your face. This leaves your skin looking and feeling baby-soft, and of course, you can say bye-bye to large pores messing up your makeup forever.
This primer contains vitamin E, which is known for reducing UV and other free radicals’ damage on your skin. It does also include a lot of silicones, but it’d be hard to get that pore-blurring effect without that. We couldn’t find anything to indicate this product is cruelty-free, so if that’s important to you, you might want to try the bareMinerals Silky Face Primer.
This is the one product on our list that’s not specifically designed for dry skin. We thought it was still worth including because it doesn’t dry skin out, which some primers can do, and its pore-erasing power is its standout feature. However, if you have really dry skin, you’ll probably want to pair this primer with a moisturizer. You can also go for another, more moisturizing primer on our list, like Monica Ann Beauty’s Dual Action Primer.
This primer is heavily silicone-based; that means although it’s not as moisturizing as some of the other options on our list, it does an amazing job at getting makeup to stick to your skin and stay there all day long.
This product isn’t one of the most expensive on our list, but it’s not the cheapest, either. However, keep in mind that you get less than 1 oz of product for the price.
- Erases the look of pores instantly
- Incredible staying power
- Contains vitamin E for skin protection
- Heavy silicones make it not as moisturizing as others
- Not cruelty-free
9. Best Primer With SPF Protection Olay Sun Facial Sunscreen and Antioxidants
Creating a smooth canvas for your foundation is important, yes, but so is protecting your skin from UV radiation. But makeup lovers know that products with SPF can often leave your face feeling heavy and greasy, messing up your foundation.
This SPF face lotion and primer from Olay is a fantastic choice to take care of your skin’s health while still getting that silky-smooth feel that a good primer provides. Olay has a similarly named product that’s for shine control, so make sure that you buy the makeup primer.
This primer does boast that it contains fewer ingredients than SPF lotions usually do so that you can’t tell that you’re wearing a primer at all, and certainly not one with sun protection. It’s non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores, and it has some added ingredients that are good for your skin like antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin B3. The SPF ingredients are not natural, so keep that in mind if you stay away from chemical sunscreens.
This product doesn’t dry you out like some other primers, and is gentle enough for dry, sensitive skin caused by conditions like rosacea. If you have really dry skin, though, you might find that you might need to pair this primer with another moisturizer to get the hydration you need. If plenty of moisture is what you’re looking for, you might want to try the NYX Hydra Touch Oil Primer.
This is a great primer on its own and will make your skin smooth under foundation. But its SPF protection is one of its main features, and SPF needs to be reapplied every few hours to work as it’s intended to, so that would obviously defeat the purpose of having your makeup stay in place all day. When just used as a simple primer, though, you’ll find that your makeup glides on smoothly and stays on.
This product costs about what you’d expect for classic drug store brand Olay and is one of the more affordable picks on this list.
- SPF protection and primer in one
- Contains antioxidants and vitamins
- SPF is useless if you don’t reapply
- Needs to be paired with a moisturizer
10. Best Probiotic Primer TULA Skincare Face Filter Blurring & Moisturizing Primer
If you’re wondering what in the world probiotic skincare is, let us explain. Just like probiotics help the good bacteria in our gut to start working well and make us feel good, the same goes for probiotics for our skin. It’s kind of gross, but our face is host to lots and lots of bacteria, which can become unbalanced and cause flare-ups and dry skin. This probiotic primer from TULA is here to save the day, helping your skin bacteria get back in balance.
Of course, the main draw of this primer is its probiotic ingredients. It not only is full of probiotics, but also includes prebiotics, ensuring that your skin bacteria is perfectly in balance. It’s also full of other skin-loving ingredients like chia, turmeric, and licorice which help your skin achieve that ever-elusive luminous glow. It also has “glow particles” which – you guessed it – add even more of a warm glow.
The probiotics and prebiotics in this primer work to lock in moisture, which makes it great for sensitive and mature skin. Despite that, though, you might need to back it up with a moisturizer during the winter or any other time when your skin is super dry. If you’re needing a lot of moisture, try the NYX Hydra Touch Oil Primer.
This primer does an excellent job at helping create a smooth canvas for your makeup and helping it stay on a lot longer than it would without it.
We’d expect a higher price for all of the probiotic ingredients that this primer includes. It’s definitely not the cheapest product on our list, but it’s still well within the range of affordable.
- Pro- and prebiotics balance out the bacteria on skin
- Other natural ingredients for glow like chia and turmeric
- Smooths skin for makeup
- Needs to be paired with a moisturizer in winter
- Not cheap
Your Comprehensive Guide to Primers for Dry Skin
Especially if you’ve never used a primer before, buying and using one for the first time can be a confusing process. You know about what to look for and the products we think are best for dry skin, but you probably still have a lot of questions. We’ve put together all the information you need about primers, specifically for dry skin, so that you can feel confident as you shop.
How Do You Apply Primer?
You’ve chosen the primer that sounds perfect for your skin, and now you want to try it out. How do you apply it? First of all, especially if you have dry skin, consider always pairing your primer with a moisturizer. Although we picked primers, like the e.l.f. Hydrating Primer that are hydrating enough to function doubly as a moisturizer too, there are others that you’ll want to use a separate moisturizer with to absolutely guarantee against any dry spots.
Primer should always be applied after moisturizer and any other skincare product (if you use facial oils or serums, for example). Think of your primer like the middle layer between your skincare and your makeup. It’s easiest and most effective to apply primer with your fingers, just as you would your moisturizer. How much to put on is up to your skin and the specific product you’re using, but in general, your dry skin will soak up more product than oily skin, so you might need to apply a little more.
Pro tip: wait at least 60 seconds after applying your primer to put on your makeup or foundation. This will allow the primer to completely dry and not get mucked up with your makeup. If you don’t let your primer dry, your makeup might pill or get patchy in places.
Does Primer Dry Skin Out?
Not all primers are created equally. That means that yes, some primers can dry your skin out – but not all of them, and certainly not the ones we chose specifically for people with dry skin. It might take a little bit of trial-and-error to find the best primer for your skin. In general, if your skin is super dry, look for water- or oil-based primers (like our two picks from NYX Cosmetics), and avoid words like “mattifying” or “shine control”.
What’s the Difference Between Moisturizer and a Primer?
If you have dry skin, surely you’re very familiar with what a moisturizer does for your skin. A moisturizer is used for exactly what it sounds like: to moisturize your skin. A primer takes it a step further, preparing your skin for makeup application by smoothing out pores and fine lines. Some primers do have special moisturizing ingredients and might be able to be used as a double-duty moisturizer/primer, including many of those on our list.
Your Other Questions About Primers for Dry Skin, Answered
Question: Is Primer Necessary for Makeup?
Answer: Like we said in the beginning, nothing is necessary, and only you can decide what’s best for your skin. However, if you’re feeling like something’s not quite right with the way your makeup is turning out – it’s settling into creases, or it’s flaking off during the day – then primer could go a long way in resolving some of those issues.
Question: What Happens if You Don’t Use Primer Before Makeup?
Answer: If you don’t use primer, your makeup could clog up your pores and make you break out. You might also be missing out on a flawless finish to your foundation, and no one wants to miss out on that! You could also find that your makeup fades away during the day when you don’t help it stay in place with some primer.
Question: Is It OK to Wear Primer Every Day?
Answer: You can absolutely use primer every day, but since it’s a bit expensive, you might want to skip it on days that you’re not layering foundation on top of it.
Question: Can I Use Primer on Its Own?
Answer: Yes, of course! Since primers help the skin have a smooth, flawless look, some people might want to wear it on its own, although it might start getting a little bit expensive if you do that. Some of the primers on our list like the Monica Ann Dual Action Primer have other benefits like anti-aging besides just priming skin for makeup, so using it on its own could give your skin lots of beneficial nutrients.
Question: Can You Mix Primer With Foundation?
Answer: Mixing primer with foundation will dilute the foundation and give you a more opaque, youthful look. Just mix it up on the back of your hand and apply as you would your foundation!
Choose a Primer Your Dry Skin Will Love
If you have dry skin, you may have felt unsure about primers in the past, knowing that many of them are meant to mattify the skin. But dry skinned people can use primer, too! Just keep your eye out for the specific factors that we’ve mentioned here, and you can get that flawless makeup finish in no time.