Home Makeup Tips How to Use Primer without Foundation
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How to Use Primer without Foundation

by Sandy Taylor

Foundations and primers often go hand-in-hand in a regular makeup routine. However, there may instances where you don’t have time to wear foundation or don’t want to wear foundation at all. The good news is that with the right application techniques, it’s possible to wear just use primer and skip the foundation.

To get the best tips for this topic, I connected with Professional Makeup Artists and asked them to provide for me their best advice.


Here’s How to Use Primer without Foundation

The best way to use primer without foundation is to clean your face, select a primer that works with your skin type, apply sunscreen and apply the primer with your fingers (for better control) or with a brush (for a more uniform application).

Stephanie Riley, a Los Angeles Professional Makeup Artist with over 11 years of experience, describes this process in more detail:

Step 1 – Wash and hydrate your skin with a moisturizer best for your skin type and then wait one minute to allow the moisturizer to absorbed and become one with your skin. This technique will give your primer a great base to hold on to.

Step 2 – Cover up! Apply sunscreen with SPF! Note that some primers comes with sun protection. However, the best practice is to apply sunscreen under your primer so that you’re not solely relying on your primer alone to provide the sun protection.

Step 3 – Apply the primer using a brush or clean hands starting in the center of the face and smooth primer evenly all over.

Can You Wear Primer Without Makeup?

Yes, you can just wear a face primer alone and wear primer without makeup if you’re wondering what to use instead of foundations and concealers.

Stephanie mentions that primers can serve different purposes and are not created equally. A face primer can be moisturizing, radiant, mattifying, or color correcting. Your skin type will determine which kind of primer would be best for you.

Silicone primers are great for oily skin type because silicone helps to create a barrier on your skin and lock in moisture. Hydrating primers are water-based, moisturizing, and provides a radiant look and is best on a dry skin type.

I wrote a detailed guide on water based primers, check it out if you want to learn more.

If you’re a person who doesn’t like the feeling of foundation or need a break but wants to radiate, mattify skin or smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, then wearing a primer alone is ideal.

Primers can absolutely be worn alone most primers offer skincare benefits, and you can look your best without all the rest.

Best Primers to Wear Alone

Based on Stephanie’s experience, here are the best primers that you can wear alone for each skin type.

Oily, Combination Skin TypesLaura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer – water based, texture smoothing, absorbs oil and blurs imperfections.

Dry, Combination Skin Types: Becca Backlight Primer– infused with vitamin E and gives a hydrated radiant glow

All Skin TypesSmashbox Photofinish Reduce Redness Primer – neutralizes redness/ color correcting and reduces fine line and wrinkles.

Dry to Very Dry Skin TypesNYX Bare With Me – water based gel provides up to 8 hours of hydration and diminish the looks of pores.

Combination Skin TypesTarte BB Tinted 12 hour Primer Board Spectrum SPF 30 – All in one long-wearing, tinted, hydrating, and sun protection.

Can you Use two Different Primers

If you’ve decided to just user primers, it’s OK to use different primers on your face in order to tackle different areas. Keep in mind that makeup products in general need to have the same “base” if they are to be used together.

For example, water-based primers should only be used with other water based primers and should not be mixed with silicone based primers.

To get an idea of what works and a sample routine, I connected with Andrea Claire, a Canadian Licensed Celerity Hair & Makeup Artist for advice.  Andrea has many years of experience both on-camera and behind the scenes in television. She co-starred on seven seasons of the makeover shows Canada’s Stylin’ Gypsies and So Chic and has led hair teams for Canadian Idol where she was featured on-air as the Idols’ hairstylist.

Andrea frequently use primers without foundations on herself as well as for some of her photoshoots. She thinks it’s a great way to maintain a glowing, breathable, natural, even skin look without having a heavy base.

Here’s a list of Andrea’s Favorite Primers to wear:

Becca First Light Priming Filter – gives a muted, luminous, blurring glow (this is the only one that does not work for skin darker than a deep caramel)

Charlotte Tilbury Brightening Youth Glow – gives a radiant, dewy glow

Charlotte Tilbury Wonder Glow – a soft candlelit warm glow

Shiseido Synchro Skin Tone Up Primer – smooths and blurs for a poreless feel

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Hydrating – an overall subtle glow

Here’s Andrea’s Primer Only Application Routine (a.k.a Multi-Priming):

Step 1 – Apply Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Hydrating Primer over entire face and neck

Step 2 – Use Charlotte Tilbury Brightening Youth Glow over highlight points on cheek bones, bridge of nose, arch of brow, mid-chin, bow of lip and under eyes.

Step 3 – Apply Charlotte Tilbury Wonder Glow over cheeks to provide a warm, subtle and beautiful hint of a sun-kissed look.

Step 4 – Use Becca First Light Priming Filter over eye lids as it’s sheer and muted but opens the eye with the glow

Step 5 – Apply Shiseido Synchro Skin Tone Up Primer is great for smoothing and mattifying for a poreless feel so you can dab that onto areas of the skin that has texture or shine like over scars or acne.

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