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In a fully stocked makeup bag, it can be hard to remember the order that all your favorite products go on your face. The biggest question? Whether we should put on moisturizer or primer first.
Ask any beauty expert, and they’ll probably tell you that moisturizer is number one. But things aren’t always that black and white when makeup is concerned. To clear things up, we’re here to get the final answer on the moisturizer or primer first debate and show you how to choose a routine and products that work for you.
Moisturizer & Primer: The Basics
Before settling the great debate, we need better insight into what these products actually do. Often confused —particularly around their order — moisturizers and primers are completely separate products with unique purposes, applications, and benefits.
What is Moisturizer?
Moisturizer is a skincare cream applied daily (and at night). This skincare staple’s benefits include hydration, dryness prevention, reducing the signs of ageing, and protection against UV damage, among other concerns. Want one that can do it all? Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect is a triple-action product that protects against the sun, boosts hydration, and reduces wrinkles, so it’s the perfect pick for building any makeup look on.
A standard moisturizer includes humectants that lock in moisture, emollients to soften, and occlusives to prevent water loss, doing many vital jobs in one simple product.
What is Primer?
Primers are also applied to the skin, but usually as a preparation for other makeup. They can be used all over or made specifically for the face, lips, eyes, and other areas. M.A.C Cosmetics Pro Longwear Paint Pot is a cult classic for the eye lids, giving you a buildable base for eye makeup and keeping your shadows and liners on all night.
A primer base layer smooths the skin surface, improves coverage, and lengthens the life of makeup applications. It’s used as part of a makeup routine but not typically an everyday skincare product (unless you want it to be).
We recommend The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer for beginners, showing you the magic possible when you prep your face.
Applying Moisturizer First
Not one to stray against the pack, you like to put your moisturizer on first. And most beauty insiders will probably tell you this is the best approach. If you prefer this order for your makeup routine, here’s a little more you need to know.
Moisturizer Before Primer: The Pros:
- Keeps skin hydrated and less prone to caking.
- Protects against damage to the skin.
- Ensures the primer comes into contact with foundation.
- Longer-lasting makeup application.
- Prevents dry skin texture from appearing under the makeup.
Do’s and Don’ts for Applying Moisturizer before Primer
- Do make sure you’ve matched your primer ingredients to your moisturizer, and any other makeup products (ex: water-based foundation with water-based moisturizer).
- Do cleanse and dry your skin before moisturizing.
- Do apply a moisturizer and primer with your fingers or a liquid paddle brush.
- Don’t put the primer on right away, wait at least one minute for the next step.
- Don’t forget to add sunscreen if your moisturizer doesn’t offer SPF protection.
Applying Primer First
Sure, you might like to do things a little differently, but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. If you think your skin (and glam) will benefit best from priming first, you should be armed with the facts.
Primer Before Moisturizer: The Pros:
- Softer skin after makeup is applied.
- Absorbs oil better.
- Helps seal pores and reduce their appearance.
Do’s and Don’ts for Applying Primer before Moisturizer
- Do blot your face after priming to get rid of excess oil.
- Do choose a clean-based primer rather than a silicone-based one so you benefit from the extra hydration, healthy ingredients, and less-clogged pores.
- Don’t put primer on first if you have dry skin, as it can cause caking and further dryness.
- Don’t apply to a dirty face — primer can seal the pores and trap dirt.
The Answer: Moisturizer or Primer First?
So, does primer go on before or after moisturizer? According to most experts, moisturizers should always go first.
They provide a beautiful base, whether for makeup or a fresh face, and actively protect, hydrate, and smooth the skin. Adding a primer is a cherry on top (but only sometimes essential), so think about your makeup goals before you do.
As with any good makeup and skincare routine, it’s up to the individual. Ask yourself these questions to determine the best order and whether you need a primer in your lineup.
- Do I want to prime my whole face or just a specific area like lips or eyes?
- What’s my skin type, and how might this affect the order? (hint: read below)
- Am I wearing just a little makeup or doing a full beat?
- How long do I need my makeup to stay in place?
- Do I need a primer, or am I already wearing primed makeup products?
- Have I had issues with doughy textures or pilling after applying a primer with my moisturizer?
What’s the Best Order for my Skin Type?
No matter what the beauty pros tell you, it’s essential to consider your skin type when deciding where to place moisturizer and primer in your routine.
Those with oily skin will likely benefit more from applying a primer first. This gives a smooth surface and keeps a lid on oil production. Combination skin types can go either way, so experiment to see what’s best. For all other skin types, including normal and dry, moisturizing first is usually best.
Combination Moisturizer-Primer Products
Still trying to decide about applying moisturizer or primer first? What about both at the same time? Some a-ma-zing combo products out there give the best of both worlds and save you precious time in your makeup routine. Our favourite is the Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base Primer Moisturizer, a rich, dewy moisturizer that doubles as a makeup primer. Hallelujah.
Tips & Tricks for Better Coverage
Adding a good moisturizer and primer to your skincare and makeup routine is a no-brainer. But how can you get the most out of these must-have products? Check out these quick tips.
- Timing is everything How long to wait between moisturizer and primer? Around one minute, we say, but longer is better. This gives time for the product to sink into the skin and prevents pilling once you apply the primer.
- Less is more We’re so used to pumping tons of product directly onto the face or into our hands, it’s easy to forget how little formula we need of these amazing, high-quality products! Start off with a pea size first, then if you need more product, apply a tiny bit more to the skin to prevent pilling, poor performance, and cakey makeup.
- Consider the rest of your routine Should you use primer before or after sunscreen? Are there other products in your routine you need to consider? Start with sunscreen —as you would a moisturizer —and follow up with your primer.
- Tint and glow A tinted primer can add some brightness to your skin and give you a better base to work on. Charlotte Tilbury’s Wonderglow Face Primer is a blurring, soft-focus primer that adds a touch of colour and a lot of luminosity.
Moisturizer or primer first? A few exceptions aside, moisturizer has our vote. With this order, you’ll get the biggest benefits from each product and ensure a smooth, flawless canvas on which to work your makeup magic.
How long to wait between moisturizer and primer?
Wait at least one minute between applying moisturizer and primer. Otherwise, it can create pilling on the skin or a doughy texture and should be reapplied.