Here’s the kicker, though: You don’t have to use a primer alongside a foundation at all. See, functional primers create a protective layer on your skin, a barrier not just for makeup but for the world around you. For example, Exa’s Jump Start Smoothing Primer comes loaded with antioxidants—namely, CoQ10 and fatty acids from raspberry extract—to help fight free radicals and protect your skin from environmental aggressors, such as pollution and blue light.
A standalone primer can also help lock in moisture and seal in all of your skin care—a concept Chan refers to as “daytime slugging.” She notes: “I learned this technique when I lived in Asia (where some days the pollution can get really bad). A lot of girls would wear primer everyday, even on no-makeup days, to prevent breakouts, dehydrated skin, or a weakened skin barrier from pollution.”
“Blurring” continues to be a major buzzword, but today’s textures are even more swoon-worthy, as they rely on plant-based polymers to achieve a featherlight, satin finish. “Even as a professional makeup artist, I used to be skeptical of primers,” says makeup artist Alexandra Compton, product development manager at Credo. “I used to dislike them, especially the [cyclic] silicone-based primers that have that icky, almost suffocating feeling on the skin. Now, there are so many different types of primers to achieve different finishes for any skin type.” Use primer under the eyes to hydrate the delicate area and prevent creasing, apply on the T-zone to strategically absorb oil and fill fine lines, or mix it with color corrector to create the ultimate “your skin, but better,” even-toned base, she explains.
Some priming formulas are so silky, in fact, that they even function as a skin tint replacement. “Many provide mattifying and blurring benefits to hide imperfections and minimize the appearance of pores,” says Zeichner. While they aren’t complexion products per se—they don’t actually leave a tint, and thus do not have shade ranges—the calming, brightening, and mattifying botanicals help them disguise any blemishes, fine lines, or redness. In other words: They’re the ultimate skin care-makeup hybrids, perfect for days when you seek just a whisper of coverage. Chan shares the sentiment: “Our customers have noticed that they don’t need to cover up redness anymore with a skin tint to achieve an even, radiant skin tone.”