3 Primers That Actually Work On My Dry, Red Skin

I used to think that primers weren't for me. Turns out I just needed to find the right ones.
Publish date:
March 21, 2014
primers, clinique, dry skin, Smashbox, redness, pixi

I was a late bloomer when it comes to beauty. I'm not just talking about my awkward, frumpy stage in high school. I mean that it took me until after graduating college to find out about things like cuticles, makeup brushes, and primer.

For a while there, I was just using foundation without primer. I wasn't sure why it was necessary. Then I heard that it helps your makeup go on better and stay on longer, so I decided I needed to get myself some primer. (Drinking game: swig every time I say the word "primer" in this article.)

I tried two or three different primers. I even tried Monistat Chafing Gel after I saw people recommending it online as an unusual but effective primer. Unfortunately, none of them really seemed to be helping my makeup go on any better. Sometimes my dry, flaky patches of skin would seem even worse after using primer. I eventually came to the conclusion that primer simply isn't for those with dry skin.

Within the past month, however, I found three primers that made me change my tune.

The first is Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Foundation Primer. This singlehandedly made me reconsider primers.

I was at Sephora a few weeks ago, looking for a new foundation, when the salesperson asked if I would like some primer, too.

"Oh, no," I told her. "I don't really use primer because it doesn't work very well on my dry skin."

She grinned and said she knew just the thing for me, and a second later she came back back from the Smashbox section holding this blue tube.

"It's super-hydrating," she said as she rubbed some onto my hand to show me. Turns out she was right and they weren't lying when they decided to stick "hydrating" in the name.

It's a blue, silky gel that feels like a light moisturizer. It does look a bit wet or shiny at first, but it absorbs quickly, and then you're all set to apply the rest of your makeup.

This made my makeup go on so smoothly. Using this (in addition to regular moisturizing and exfoliating of course) means no more clumpy foundation on my dry spots.

When I was lamenting to the Sephora salesgirl that Smashbox is a bit pricey for me, she told me that they have a mini travel size near the checkout for $10. Now that I can do.

My other big problem besides dryness is redness, so when I discovered that there are color-correcting primers for exactly that, I had to see if they were any good. I've tried a few, and so far, my favorite one is Clinique Superprimer Face Primer Color Corrects Redness.

It's not hydrating like the Smashbox primer, but it does do a really good job of correcting redness, so I go back and forth between these two depending on which I need more that day. Here's what my skin looks like before using the primer:

I had a big glass of wine the night before and was on my second cup of coffee when I took this picture, so it was definitely a day for redness correction. Here's my skin after using the primer. Brace yourself for a very subtle change.

As you can see, my skin is still pretty pink (it's a primer, not foundation, after all) but it's evened out overall.

My final favorite primer isn't particularly for redness OR dry skin, but I like it because it's great for giving skin a radiant glow, which helps with both of those issues. It's the Pixi Flawless Beauty Primer, and it arrived in my Ipsy beauty subscription bag this month.

I love the idea of a primer that's also a highlighter. Nothing distracts from redness and dryness better than a pretty glow, and it feels really hydrating as well.

I promise, it's a very subtle effect once blended into your skin. Here's a closeup of it blended around my brow and cheekbone:

It's not very obvious from far away. It's enough that you could wear it to work with some BB cream and people will say you look less tired or pregnant or whatever your well-meaning but annoying coworkers tend to say.

What are your favorite primers? Primer, primer, primer. Are you totally wasted now?