Primers are a necessarily evil in the standard beauty routine. They're necessary because they lock in your base, help with oil control, and provide a smooth, crease-free finish. But sometimes, they can clog your pores — which leads to breakouts, especially when you have sensitive skin. That's why primers with acne-fighting ingredients are optimal for prevention. “A primer is a thin moisturizing serum that is the first step in a skincare routine,” Ellen Marmur, M.D., president and founder of Marmur Medical, explains, recommending water-based formulas. “Always look for hyaluronic acid and glycerin to moisturize and heal the skin without clogging pores." According to Heidi Waldorf, M.D. of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics, those ingredients "act like a sponge to pull moisture into the skin and hold it, and will hydrate the skin and reduce scale without aggravating your skin."
Aside from soothing, your primer should also work in tandem with your skincare products, too. “The ideal product should encourage exfoliation in the pores while hydrating the skin, and will not be too irritating,” Adebola Dele-Michael, M.D., Medical Director of Radiant Skin Dermatology and Laser in New York City. Anything with an AHA, like glycolic acid, works for the skin because they don't cause too much irritation, Dr. Dele-Michael continues... which is ideal, since makeup is meant to enhance, not inflame.
Ahead, see more primers with dermatologist-approved ingredients to help reveal your best skin (and look) yet.
"This primer has willowbark extract, which naturally contains salicylic acid. The acid provides gentle exfoliation to clarify the skin and reduce sebum buildup, and supports the body’s natural cell renewal process," Dr. Dele-Michael notes. "The ancient African tree bark extract assists with minimizing pore size, shine, sebum, and inflammatory acne."
This one's a personal favorite: I was a non-primer user until this product. I struggled with horrible hormonal acne and needed a primer because my skin was dry and my foundation looked cracked and cakey. This product never irritated my skin or accentuated my blemishes. The texture is light, non-greasy, and you can't even feel it on your skin.