Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve written before about the best makeup to buy online — including the best mascaras, the best under-eye concealers, and the best SPF moisturizers — here we’ve rounded up the best drugstore primers, as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Ulta.com.
Best-rated drugstore primer
The NYX Professional Makeup Honey Dew Me Up Primer is beloved by Ulta reviewers for its glow-giving properties. “This is the most hydrating primer ever; it gave my skin a healthy natural glow and made me feel so hydrated and glowy,” writes one. Another adds, “True to the name, it is a little thicker in texture, like honey, but it smells nice and is SO hydrating!” A third writes, “I use it before I put makeup on after I clean my face. The little application stick takes getting used to. The consistency is nice, and my skin feels refreshed when I let it soak in.”
Many other reviewers write that the primer leaves skin feeling smooth and even for makeup application. “It goes on so nicely. I’ve heard some people complain that it feels tacky on the skin after applying, but I can’t say that I have that problem,” says one reviewer who uses it as the first step of a makeup routine. “My skin feels smooth after massaging it in.”
Best-rated (less expensive) drugstore primer
Shoppers love that this already-affordable product has many uses and can be deployed as a primer as well as a setting spray and makeup refresher. “This stuff makes my face look like a baby’s butt even after a whole day of wear. Just spritz some on, and BAM, fresh new baby face,” enthuses one reviewer. “So I’ve been using this product for some time now, and it’s absolutely the best. Even after a hard, long day, my makeup is still as good as it looked after I first put it on,” adds another. Several reviewers also note that the spray smells great: “I love the sprayer, and it smells good. I use it before I apply and when I’m done. Big fan!” Another writes, “This is a great setting spray! I like it every bit as much as the Urban Decay All-Nighter, and I think it smells better.” In fact, several reviewers said they prefer the Catrice primer to luxury brands: “This is a hidden gem. I usually buy the higher-end brands, and I am now stuck on this.”
And now some micro-picks for every type of drugstore primer you might be looking for.
Best drugstore primer for mature skin
A reviewer who calls this her “holy-grail primer” writes, “It feels so great on the skin; it makes your foundation last all day long. Which says a lot for me … I work as a professional spotlight operator, so I’m used to my foundation being melted off by the end of my shift thanks to the hot light.” Several reviewers with mature skin rave about it: “Pores and lines are less visible without feeling greasy like other primers I’ve tried. I’ve used this about a year and love the way my skin looks.” Another writes, “I am 36, and I don’t get peels or do much except wash, exfoliate, moisturize. I do my normal face routine and then, before makeup, I push two pumps or so into my palm and smooth over my face. It evens out my uneven skin texture.”
Best drugstore primer for dry skin
If you’re looking for a suitable primer for dry skin, reviewers think this one has ideal hydrating properties. “Holy moly, is this an amazing and beautiful primer. I truly LOVE this primer for my normal skin. I would imagine that my dry-skin sisters would love it even more!” writes one reviewer, who adds that the primer gives skin a “luminous lit-from-within” look. Another explains, “I use this product as part of my nightly skincare routine for intense hydration.” Another shopper, who notes how much she likes the scent, says, “My skin is super-dry since my hysterectomy, and this has made a noticeable difference. It makes me so glowy!”
Best drugstore primer for oily skin
Many reviews note that this primer is “long-lasting” and ideal for those with oily skin. One shopper who simply titled the review “I’m in LOVE!” writes, “It really sets my makeup, and I’ve found it still looks fresh after an 8-hour workday. I have really oily skin, and this spray really helps keep the oil at bay.” Another reviewer with oily skin writes, “I’ve tried Mac, Urban Decay, Too Faced, pretty much any big-name brand you can think of, plus drugstore brands like NYX, and I couldn’t find THE ONE. I picked this one up because it was on sale, and this is the best spray out there, in my opinion.” Reviewers are also pleased that this product can be used as a primer and a setting spray: “I bought this on a whim, a little tired of paying for the MAC spray I usually use. I’ve tried it as a primer and as a setting spray and it really does wonders on my face!”
Best drugstore primer with SPF
Reviewers rave about this primer’s nongreasy formula and SPF benefits. “Loved that this contained SPF but wasn’t greasy at all. Definitely has a sunscreen feel and scent to it, but again NOT greasy. My foundation smoothed over so wonderfully and lasted all day,” writes one shopper, who especially recommends it to those looking for a non-silicone primer. “I have been looking for a great tinted primer at a great price, and this covered ALL the bases. I love that it offers SPF protection as well. This is a permanent staple in my daily makeup regimen!” writes another happy reviewer.
Best mattifying drugstore primer
“I have very oily skin and have tried a million different primers, powders, cleansers, and foundations to combat my extreme shine. Nothing has worked as well as this primer at keeping my face matte all day,” writes one reviewer. Dozens of others note that this primer is their top choice for keeping shine and oil away. “I love this product! I apply this for my 8-hour workday and I stay matte ALL day. Holy grail primer for oily skin. I will repurchase again and again,” says a happy shopper. Another raves, “I’ve tried all kinds of primers, drugstore to higher end, and NOTHING kept my makeup in place. I would be a grease ball. But I picked up this primer and it actually does what it says it will. It keeps my foundation in place and keeps the shine away all day. It’s lightweight and easy to apply. Doesn’t make you feel greasy at all.”
Best drugstore primer spray
Most reviewers agree that the NYX Professional Makeup First Base Primer Spray is easy to apply. One shopper, who calls this a “go-to,” says, “I don’t like touching my face when putting on my makeup, so the cream primers are a no-go for me. The spray helps me to take care of my first base with just a couple of pumps, let it set in my skin, and then apply my makeup.” Another reviewer writes, “It is so easy to apply and makes my skin feel nice and refreshed! It also helps my makeup last for hours and not budge no matter how hot it is or if it is raining!”
Best illuminating drugstore primer
Reviewers rave about the illuminating qualities of this one: “I’ve used this product for years under my foundation application, and it gives it a glowy, long-lasting look.” A second shopper writes, “Love it, makes me glow and shine!” A third writes, “It is legit one of the best primers I have tried (including high-end primers). I’m a full-coverage foundation and powder kind of girl, so I was afraid the primer wouldn’t show up much … but it does! It gives my face such a beautiful, healthy glow.”
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