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Ask Setareh

Do You Need Makeup Primer?

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Dear Natalie,

I don’t have any primer left, and even though I take care of my skin, my foundation doesn’t look as smooth as it could. What alternatives can I use or DIYs should I make that can substitute for primer? By the way, I have been blessed with normal/combination skin; I don’t break out much at all and my skin retains moisture very well. I usually use a liquid or pasty foundation type, and I attempt to not layer or “cake” it on.


Dear Kai,

Thanks for trusting me to answer your beauty question!

First of all, I have to say that it’s amazing that you have such great skin. Good skin really is the base to a solid and gorgeous makeup! So you are already ahead of the game. (If you are curious about your skin type, here’s a great article I wrote to help you determine what yours is). 

Honestly, if you love your skin care routine and you feel like your skin feels smooth and well-moisturized before applying your makeup, I would really encourage you to swap out your foundation formula first before you go back to adding an additional (and unnecessary) layer of product.

Woman Looking in a Mirror Practicing Skin Care

The Right Primer For Your Skin Type

If you have combination normal/dry skin, you will want to look for oil-based or water-based foundations. If you are combo normal/oily, you may want to use an oil-free or “mattefying” foundation (either a cream or powder foundation) in the center of your face and blend it really well out onto the drier areas.

However, if you are a diehard primer user and feel like you need it, my favorite primer for fair – medium skin complexions has to be Hourglass Veil Primer. I would recommend using it in your T-zone only.  It’s extremely light-weight, light-reflecting, oil free, and I have personally seen it perform beautifully on people of all ages. If you have more medium to deep skin complexion, I like Becca’s Velvet Blurring Primer (sadly, discontinued)

Start With Skin Prep

If you want your foundation to look as smooth as possible on your skin, then I encourage you to start with skin care. Skin Prep vs. Skin Care is a great article to read when you have a few minutes, but basically the bottom line is, if you have amazing skin care (and skin prep), 99% of the time you will not need a primer. Most professional makeup artists do not use primers — they focus on skin prep (and of course, with good skin care, this is easy!)

Should You DIY Your Skin Care?

Skincare: The ultimate no-nonsense guide

In your question, you mention DIY alternatives to traditional primers. This is something I tread carefully with, just because you never know what your skin is going to respond to and there’s so much misinformation out there.

Wild Beauty is probably the only book I can recommend when it comes to DIY’ing beauty products. Not only is it educational but it’s also super gorgeous and portable! I also recently read Caroline Hiron’s book skinCARE which is super easy to understand and if you’re looking to understand your skin better and learn how to take care of it, I highly highly recommend it. This book is a staple in my makeup book library now.

Lastly (and forgive me for the shameless plug), my book Be Your Own Makeup Artist goes over almost all of this information, too. In it, you’ll learn how to identify your skin type (undertone, face shape, etc.) and you’ll get a break down of the different types of primers out there, why you’d want to use one over the other, and of course when you want to use them. Of course, I break down every product for the face, not just primers, but I also explain why it all starts with your skin type.

Best of luck in your beauty game, and please keep me posted.

Stay Healthy & Stay Beautiful!


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P.S. If you asked me a beauty question, if I don't immediately know the answer, I must thoroughly research every question I receive, and sometimes do not have an immediate answer or I need clarity on unlisted ingredients in certain beauty products, sometimes getting a clear answer takes up to 3 weeks... have patience, it'll be worth it!

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Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.

kevyn aucoin