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Primers vs. Moisturizers: Do You Really Need Both?

Layering makeup on top of your skincare adds a whole new belly to the beast, especially if you struggle with finding products that complement each other, not clash. If you put your products on in the wrong order, your skin can feel heavy, greasy, or just plain gross. For many people, less is more, or less is best. Moisturizers and primers are probably two products you apply in the morning, either separately or together. What’s the difference between them? Do you really need both? We’ve got answers!

Understanding Moisturizers

We cannot overstate the importance of moisturizing your skin! After all, your skin is the largest organ in your body, and while your body does a pretty good job creating natural lubricant and healing itself, your skin can use some help protecting itself! Using a moisturizer doesn’t just hydrate your skin, it protects and nourishes this organ thanks to a combination of powerful ingredients.

The top layers of your skin, called the epidermis and the stratum corneum, are where moisture regulation happens. When they’re dehydrated, your skin cannot properly function. In other words, it becomes prone to dryness, toxins and bacteria, leaving you looking dry, flaky and less than your best. Even though your body will eventually realize when your skin is feeling dehydrated (and drinking lots of water can help) applying a moisturizer is an added bonus to keep you looking refreshed and hydrated.

The word moisturizer can encompass everything from heavy creams to oils to lightweight mists and gels — anything that adds moisture and hydration to your skin, and helps your body maintain those ingredients, plus its own moisture.

Understanding Makeup Primers

Whether you’re going all in with a full coverage foundation or keeping it simple with a BB or CC cream, using a makeup primer can be a game changer when it comes to achieving flawless makeup application that lasts all day. While your moisturizer hydrates your skin, a primer is literally priming your skin for the makeup that’s going on top of it, and locks that makeup in place all day.

Just like with a moisturizer, the type of primer that works best to not only hold your foundation in place all day and leave your skin able to breathe (and not feeling so heavy!) will depend on your skin type. You’ll find that silicone is a common ingredient in makeup primers, and this is because silicone acts like a layer of spackle on your skin, allowing makeup to glide over easily.

Different primers have different finishes — there are matte options (no shine, perfect for oily skin types), natural formulas (breathable, typically “better” for your skin) and radiant ones (a little shimmer never hurts). You can also use primers for additional color-correcting if you have any lingering dark spots, active breakouts or darkness to conceal. They even come in different formulas, from gel, to lotion and cream consistency!

So, should I be using a moisturizer or a primer?

You should probably be using both! Everyone’s skin is different, so we’re not going to say you should absolutely be using a certain type of moisturizer and a specific primer, but it is important to know that primers and moisturizers serve different purposes and you usually want to use both. Of course, if you don’t wear makeup there’s no need to put a primer on — stick to just your moisturizer.

There are plenty of moisturizers that claim to be “perfect under makeup” or “ideal primers” because they do contain ingredients that help prime your skin for foundation.

While there can be primers on the market that tout also being a moisturizer, using an actual moisturizer is an essential part of your skincare routine, so don’t skip out. And regardless of which moisturizer and/or primer you use, don’t ever forget your sunscreen! Our favorite moisturizers and primers have SPF built in, to protect you and prep your skin for makeup.

How do I know which primer or moisturizer is best for my skin type?

Depending on your skin type, you may not need a heavy cream or lotion, a facial oil or serum might be all you need for daytime. Test out to see what your skin likes best during the day and what leaves you the most hydrated! Sometimes, it’s just a matter of trial or error.

Generally speaking when it comes to moisturizers, people with dryer skin typically do best with heavier lotions and creams. Different types of oils can benefit different skin types, whereas lighter serums and hydrator gels can be better for oilier, acne-prone skin.

As for primers, there are plenty that are branded to explain which skin types they’re ideal for. If you’re really unsure, find a consultant at Sephora or a beauty counter who can assess your complexion and determine which brand and formula will work best for your skin.

Happy priming!

1 Comment
  1. This article is all over the place and barely explains anything… you just said “there’s lots of different kinds, figure it out”
    Which primers are best for which types of skin? Who benefits from facial oils and who should use serums? What pairings work best?
    Gimme the goods

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