A Pro Makeup Artist’s Guide to Primers: What Are They & Which You Need

This is the celebrity red carpet beauty trick we've all been wondering about.

Primers have had a best-supporting role in pretty much every red carpet event in the history of red carpet events—and for good reason. “Using a primer is like creating a blank canvas on your skin,” says celebrity and editorial makeup artist AND Priv pro Sasha Borax, who’s worked behind the scenes at fashion week, and prepped stars like Louise Roe and Shanina Shaik for premieres and shoots. “When I get my clients ready for a red carpet or event, we have to start early in the day, so using primer is an essential step,” she says, since it creates a barrier between the skin and makeup that prevents caking while keeping everything affixed for hours.

There are three main primer types—for face, eyes and lashes—and each possesses its own special talents. Ahead, Borax shares her pro favorites for every beauty worry.

Best for Blurring Pores: Dermalogica Hydrablur Primer

Why Sasha loves it: “It creates an incredibly smooth surface for makeup to glide right on and minimizes the appearance of pores and unevenness. Warm into clean fingertips and apply all over skin’s surface.”
BUY FROM: Amazon, $33

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Blemish-less


Why Sasha loves it: “For those that feel that primer causes breakouts, this primer has salicylic acid to combat blemishes as you wear it and aloe to soothe redness and irritations.”
BUY FROM: Nordstrom, $38

Why Sasha loves it: “This all-natural primer brightens while evening out skin tone and texture. I love using this on my pregnant clients who have switched to natural products or are experiencing new changes in their skin. It brings dull skin back to life instantly!”
BUY FROM: Dermstore, $36

Best for Redness and Rosacea: Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Color Adjust

Why Sasha loves it: “This is one of the first primer brands I ever tried and I am still in love. It’s super smoothing and soothing, combating redness with a green tone that (I promise!) blends in and disappears. Apply with fingers or clean foundation brush (to prevent irritation) in problem areas.”
BUY FROM: Sephora, $39

Best for a Quick Fix: Urban Decay B6 Vitamin Infused Complexion Prep Priming Spray

Why Sasha loves it: “Who doesn’t love the ease of a spray bottle? I love this quick applying primer that acts as a B6 shot for your skin. You can also spray throughout the day to refresh makeup and control shine.”
BUY FROM: Nordstrom, $32

Best for Sensitive Skin: Glossier Priming Moisturizer

Why Sasha loves it: “This 2-in-1 primer and moisturizer is amazing for prepping sensitive skin and is packed with antioxidants and skin plumping ingredients. Plus when you order from Glossier you get the cutest pink packaging and some fun stickers, who doesn’t love that? Apply with clean fingertips all over skin after cleansing.”
BUY FROM: Glossier, $25

Best for Shadow and Liner Prep: Nars Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base

Why Sasha loves it: “Eyeshadow primer is a makeup artist’s best friend. Nars’s mineral powder blend formulation creates a ready-to-work canvas on the eye. Eye shadow powder glides right on without any resistance. One of my favorite pro tips: Take a tiny bit of the primer with a pointed liner brush, and lightly glide along the lower lashes. This acts as a barrier for eyeliner in the waterline and prevents it from running.”
BUY FROM: Sephora, $26

Best for Dark Lids and Puffiness: Sephora Collection Tinted & Cooling Eye Primer

Why Sasha loves it: “This primer is great for neutralizing dark eyelids to brighten and open up the eyes. It also has a cooling effect that helps to combat puffiness. Apply a dot with applicator to each eye and blend with clean fingertip.”
BUY FROM: Sephora, $14

Best for Shadow Prep at a Bargain: NYX, Proof It Eyeshadow Primer Transparent

Why Sasha loves it: “It is super affordable and gets the job done! Creates a canvas for eyeshadow and keeps everything in place. Apply a small dot on each eye with applicator and blend with clean fingertip.”
BUY FROM: Target, $7

Best for Priming Lashes: Tarte Opening Act Lash Primer

Why Sasha loves it: “I love using lash primers on my clients with shorter and fewer lashes. This lash primer conditions the lashes while providing a base for mascara to really do its job: Pump the volume and create lashes for days. Apply one to two coats and immediately follow with mascara, trying not to let the primer dry too much in between. Less is more with eyeshadow primer, if you use too much it can cause the eyeshadow to stick to the base and you won’t be able to blend and make your look seamless.”
BUY FROM: Dermstore, $22
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