Picking the right primer can help noticeably reduce the blemishes, redness, and swelling that comes with acne prone skin. As most people know, the majority of makeup products contain pore clogging ingredients, which makes picking out the right primer a necessity if you want to keep your skin protected. To avoid clogging your pores and help your skin heal in the process, you need a good barrier between clogging foundations and your skin. The right primer will do exactly that.
For those unfamiliar a primer is a barrier between your skin and makeup. A high quality primer will also protect your skin from irritation and improve the longevity of your makeup.
Like most skincare products, primers often come with a set of their issues, too, as many are made with pore clogging ingredients.
In this article our team has rounded up the ten best primers for acne-prone skin based on skin type, finish, and other specific features you’d want the product to have. Whether you have oily, dry, or combination skin we have a primer that will allow you to wear makeup without worrying about waking up with clogged pores the next morning.
Below we have provided a brief overview on how our team reviewed and ranked the primers included in this list.
How I Reviewed Each Product
To come up with this list of the best primers for acne-prone skin, I looked at various factors.
First, I looked at the ingredients in each product.
For acne-prone skin, it’s important to avoid products with pore-clogging ingredients like oils, butters, heavy emollients, and petrolatum.
While examining the ingredients of each product, I was also looking for acne-fighting components, such as niacinamide, witch hazel, as well as oil-absorbing agents that would help prevent the skin from becoming excessively greasy throughout the day.
Next, I considered the texture of each product.
For acne-prone skin, it’s often best to avoid thick, creamy products that can clog pores and instead opt for lighter, oil-free formulas.
Lastly, I went through reviews on multiple sites written by users who are dealing with excessive oiliness and acne-prone skin to see what they thought of the products in terms of how well they worked and how they felt on the skin.
With all of that in mind, here are the ten best primers for acne-prone skin.
Best Primer for Oily Acne-Prone Skin:
Make Up Forever – Step 1 Primer Shine Control
Ideal for oily, combination, and sensitive skin
Reduces Skin Imprefections
Lightweight tint that helps blur redness, texture, and imperfections.
Contains pore-tightening ingredients such as ginseng and lactic acid.
Can be used with or without foundation
The Make Up Forever Step 1 Primer Shine Control is an excellent product for those with acne-prone who are also dealing with excessively oily skin.
The key ingredients in this product include lactic acid, which helps to lightly exfoliate and hydrate the skin, alongside ginseng, an ingredient that’s praised for its toning and pore-tightening properties.
Now, we all know that wearing makeup for that long is not advised, especially if you are struggling with acne; however, a primer that provides such long wear is usually tough and resistant enough against all woes that tend to break down makeup easily, such as oil, sweat, and humidity.
Lastly, the primer comes in one universal shade that adapts to your natural skin tone and can even be worn on its own if you prefer a more natural makeup application.
Make Up Forever – Step 1 Primer Shine Control Pros:
- Mattifying and humidity-resistant.
- Prolongs makeup wear for up to 24 hours.
- Pore-tightening ingredients work to blur imperfections.
Make Up Forever – Step 1 Primer Shine Control Cons:
Best On a Budget:
The Ordinary – High-Spreadability Fluid Primer
Easy Consistency & Spreadability
The Ordinary is a high-spreadability primer
The Ordinary’s primer offers good coverage with little product used.
Safe for acne-prone and sensitive skin.
Works best with a non-matte foundation.
The Ordinary’s High Spreadability Fluid Primer is a silicone-based primer that aims to smooth out skin imperfections and create the perfect base for complexion products.
The product has a lightweight formula and spreads on the skin with ease, with only 3-4 drops usually being enough for the entire face.
Once applied, the product does an excellent job of blurring skin texture, mask enlarged pores, and even creating a lightweight veil to hide discoloration and uneven skin tone.
However, one thing to note about this primer is that it doesn’t play well with heavy and matte foundations, so consider trying out a lightweight product with a natural or velvety finish.
Using it with a matte foundation can, in some instances, lead to cracking and even exacerbating texture, fine lines, and pores.
Therefore, if you still want to try out this primer but your skin gets super oily throughout the day, it’s best to tackle this issue with blotting papers or fix your makeup with a translucent powder.
But with all that said, The Ordinary’s High Spreadability Fluid Primer is an excellent product for those with acne-prone skin who are looking for a budget-friendly option that will help control shine and oil throughout the day.
The Ordinary – High-Spreadability Fluid Primer Pros:
- Helps other complexion products spread on the skin with ease.
- Matte finish.
- Excellent at blurring texture and skin imperfections.
The Ordinary – High-Spreadability Fluid Primer Cons:
- Doesn’t play well with matte foundations.
Best Primer For Acne Scars:
NYX – Studio Perfect Color Correcting Primer in Green
Easy Consistency & Spreadability
Runny consistency that spreads well on the skin
Blurs blemishes and discolored imperfections.
NYX keeps makeup fresh all day long and does not bubble, crack, or run off.
Works great for oily and acne-prone skin.
The NYX Studio Perfect Primer in Green is a color-correcting primer that covers skin imperfections such as redness, post-inflammatory marks left from acne, broken capillaries visible on the skin’s surface, and active pimples.
Once applied to the skin, it spreads across with ease without leaving a sticky or silky feeling behind.
Instead, it leaves a velvety, skin-like texture that works well with all types of foundations, including heavier, creamy foundations as well as those with a matte finish.
But what the Studio Perfect Primer does best is covering pigmentary irregularities on the skin with the green tint that primarily cancels out redness and discoloration.
Which is why this product is an excellent and affordable option for those who are looking for a simple product with a specific function.
NYX – Studio Perfect Color Correcting Primer Pros:
- Excellent for those who are dealing with skin redness.
- Great for covering up active pimples.
NYX – Studio Perfect Color Correcting Primer Cons:
Best Glowy Primer for Acne-Prone Skin:
NYX – Bare With Me Aloe & Cucumber Extract Hydrating Jelly Primer
Easy Consistency & Spreadability
Has the consistency of a runny jelly and spreads across the skin with ease.
Grips complexion products and prolongs makeup wear for the entire day.
Prevents Sweat From Showing
Can also be used on the eyes to prevent sweaty eyelids.
Works great with all types of foundation finishes.
The primer itself is a translucent gel infused with aloe and cucumber extract, two ingredients known for their hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and instantly soothing properties.
The consistency of the primer is quite runny; however, a little goes a long way with this product, and a pea-sized amount is enough to cover the entire face.
Once applied, the primer dries down quickly, and while it’s marketed as a product that doesn’t leave a tacky finish, this isn’t always the case.
However, in the product’s defense, I can tell that how tacky the finish is actually depends on the products you are using under the primer.
Therefore, when I use it over a super-hydrating moisturizer, it tends to be less tacky than when I use it over a gel moisturizer, so changing your base is definitely something to keep in mind if you experience that annoying sticky finish.
Other than that, the product falls within the affordable range, considering that it will last you quite a while with a regular application, as little goes a very long way.
In fact, the less you use – the better because you will also have smaller chances of experiencing the dreaded tacky feeling with less product.
NYX – Bare With Me Aloe & Cucumber Extract Hydrating Jelly Primer Pros:
- Gives a beautifully glowy complexion base.
- Blurs imperfections.
- Affordable and will last you a long time.
NYX – Bare With Me Aloe & Cucumber Extract Hydrating Jelly Primer Cons:
- Can be tacky if a lot of product is used over a gel moisturizer.
Best Matte Primer for Acne-Prone Skin:
Makeup Revolution – Mattify Primer
The Makeup Revolution Mattify Matte & Fix Primer is a clear gel primer formulated to control shine and give your complexion a matte finish that will last you all day long. The primer itself is quite runny, however, the texture allows it to spread on the skin with ease and create a smooth base for your foundation.
Works on oily, combination, and sensitive skin
Made with only five ingredients, which means less potential of irritation.
Works great for oily and acne-prone skin that’s dealing with enlarged pores.
Keeps makeup fresh for the entire day.
One thing I noticed about this primer is that it doesn’t have an overpowering scent, which is definitely a great thing as this can sometimes be an issue with some high-end primers that aim to provide a luxury experience.
The Makeup Revolution Mattify Primer is also quite affordable and contains only five ingredients, from which most are silicones with the addition of Tocopheryl Acetate, an antioxidant with skin-conditioning properties.
However, the best thing about this primer is that it lasts all day long and beats many oil-free primers with a higher price tag, including one of the most popular ones out there – Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer.
Therefore, if you are on a tight budget and are looking for an efficient primer that will control oil and won’t let your makeup fall apart in the middle of the day, the Makeup Revolution Mattify Primer can be a great option to check out.
Makeup Revolution – Mattify Primer Pros:
- Controls shine and gives a matte finish.
- Non-greasy formula.
- A little goes a long way and lasts all day.
Makeup Revolution – Mattify Primer Cons:
Best Vegan Primer for Acne-Prone Skin:
e.l.f Cosmetics – Oil Control Primer Mist
Easy To Use
Comes in a spray bottle for easy use.
Can be used as both primer and setting spray.
Vegan, cruelty-free, and clean.
e.l.f. Cosmetics is reasonably priced and widely accessible to most shoppers.
e.l.f Cosmetics Oil Control Primer Mist comes in a small plastic bottle with a spray pump, making it easy to apply to the skin.
This is why the product can be used both as a primer before makeup application and as a setting spray after makeup application.
When it comes to consistency, the mist itself is very fine and feels refreshing when applied to the face.
But besides the pleasant feeling it provides, the mist-primer also contains hydrating and skin-soothing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, cucumber extract, sodium chloride, and brightening and pore-tightening niacinamide, which makes it an excellent option for acne-prone skin.
Overall, the e.l.f Cosmetics Oil Control Primer Mist is an excellent product for those looking for a clean, vegan product that is versatile, multitasking, and excellent for sensitive and inflamed skin.
e.l.f Cosmetics – Oil Control Primer Mist Pros:
- Multi-use product.
- Contains skin-soothing and acne-fighting ingredients.
- Mattifies the skin and makeup.
e.l.f Cosmetics – Oil Control Primer Mist Cons:
Best Natural Primer For Acne-Prone Skin:
bareMinerals – Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer
The bareMinerals Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer is a tinted primer that comes in a small glass jar with a pump dispenser. The consistency of the primer is on the thicker side, which is understandable given that it’s a two-in-one type of product.
bareMinerals contains aloe vera leaf extract and chamomile extract which helps reduce inflammation and burning from acne
Improves Skin Tone
Helps provide natural, healthy color to skin
Vitamins C and E provide excellent antioxidant activity and protect against free-radical damage.
Vegan, cruelty-free, and made with clean, non-irritating ingredients.
Once applied to the skin, bareMinerals Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer glides across the surface like a dream and melts into the skin to give a natural, glowy finish and create a smooth canvas that looks just like skin but better.
The Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer also contains skin-loving ingredients, including vitamins C and E, two excellent antioxidants that defend against environmental aggressors.
Additionally, the product also contains soothing and nourishing ingredients, including aloe vera leaf extract, chamomile extract, and ultra-moisturizing licorice root extract to help visibly soothe, soften, and condition the skin while neutralizing redness and relieving irritation.
Furthermore, the bareMinerals Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer, like all bareMinerals products, is vegan and cruelty-free, as well as free of parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, mineral oil, coal tar, and microbeads that are notorious for creating microscopic wounds in the skin and exacerbating inflammation.
Lastly, the product is formulated without synthetic fragrance and other potential allergens such as gluten, PEGs, or tree nuts.
bareMinerals – Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer Pros:
- Vegan and cruelty-free.
- Free of potential skin irritants.
- Contains skin-loving ingredients.
bareMinerals – Prime Time Brightening Foundation Primer Cons:
- The tinted shade might not suit everyone.
Best Primer For Large Pores:
One/Size by Patrick Starr – Secure the Blur Makeup Magnet Primer
The One/Size Secure the Blur Makeup Magnet Primer is also infused with skin-loving ingredients such as hydrating glycerin, pore-tightening witch hazel, as well as brightening niacinamide that also has the ability to control oil production and reduce shine.
The best pore-tightening primer on the market.
Helps blur imperfections, smooth out skin texture, and cover irregularities.
Contains ingredients such as witch hazel and niacinamide to tighten enlarged pores.
Provides great hydration for oily skin without leaving a greasy layer behind.
The One/Size Secure the Blur Makeup Magnet Primer is a product created by makeup artist and beauty influencer Patrick Starr.
And because Patrick also deals with oily and acne-prone skin, as well as skin concerns such as uneven texture and large pores, I didn’t doubt that he knew exactly what he was doing with this product.
The primer comes in a 1.2 fl. oz. tube that dispenses a milky consistency of blurring goodness to instantly erase the appearance of pores and fine lines while mattifying the skin to prevent shine and oil buildup throughout the day.
Lastly, the primer also contains softening and skin-conditioning propanediol, which allows the texture to glide across the skin’s surface with ease and to work great with all types of foundation finishes.
One/Size by Patrick Starr – Secure the Blur Makeup Magnet Primer Pros:
- Blurs the appearance of pores and fine lines.
- Contains skin-loving ingredients.
- Controls oil and shine.
- Works with all types of foundation finishes.
One/Size by Patrick Starr – Secure the Blur Makeup Magnet Primer Cons:
Best Primer With SPF For Acne Prone Skin:
Paula’s Choice – Smoothing Primer Serum SPF 30
Paula’s Choice Smoothing Primer Serum SPF 30 is a lightweight gel made with soothing and hydrating ingredients such as green tea extract, chamomile extract, apple fruit extract, as well as antioxidants such as bisabolol and licorice root extract that protect against UV damage and environmental aggressors.
Contains soothing ingredients to calm inflammation on the skin.
Contains hydrating ingredients that soften and replenish the skin’s moisture barrier.
Adds Glowy Hue
Leaves a beautiful glow once it sets into the skin.
Great for all skin types, including oily and acne-prone skin.
I often talk about how protecting your skin from UV damage, especially when dealing with acne, is important.
This is because the UV rays cause degradation of skin cells, and when your skin cells are damaged, they have a hard time repairing, and this also means that the skin will have an even harder time dealing with active inflammation such as acne breakouts.
Additionally, if you are experiencing some sort of discoloration after a pimple has healed, whether hyperpigmentation or post-inflammatory redness, these issues will only be made worse with sun exposure.
This is why using a product that contains SPF protection like Paula’s Choice is super important if you want to have healthy and glowy skin.
However, many people avoid wearing sunscreens because they are greasy and leave a white cast.
Which is understandable and also the reason why I’m mentioning the following product.
But the best thing about this primer-serum is that it doesn’t leave a white cast or an excessively greasy layer behind.
All it does is protect the skin from harmful UV rays while leaving a healthy glow behind and a beautiful surface for other complexion products.
This is why it’s not a surprise that it’s a favorite among those dealing with oily, acne-prone skin and those who have particularly reactive skin to harsh ingredients in primers such as alcohol and fragrance.
Paula’s Choice – Smoothing Primer Serum SPF 30 Pros:
- Lightweight gel formula.
- Soothing and hydrating ingredients.
- Protects against UV damage.
- Doesn’t leave a white cast or an excessively greasy layer behind.
Paula’s Choice – Smoothing Primer Serum SPF 30 Cons:
Guerlain – L’Essentiel Lightweight and Skin Soothing Primer
Guerlain’s is specifically formulated to create a super smooth base for complexion products to be applied over, the primer helps them spread better so that you would need much less than what you’re usually using to achieve great coverage.
Made from 97% natural ingredients
Works best for oily and acne-prone skin.
Helps refine the look of enlarged pores and texture.
100% Non-comedogenic and prolongs makeup wear.
Guerlain’s L’Essentiel is a lightweight primer that not only preps your skin for makeup but also soothes acne-prone skin with every use.
The product is made from 97% naturally-derived ingredients, such as avocado extract to help absorb excess sebum, white cocoa bean to help refine the look of enlarged pores, and prebiotics to help support the skin’s moisture barrier.
Furthermore, the product is excellent for those with super oily and acne-prone skin, as it doesn’t contain any ingredients that could potentially clog the pores, and it sets into a matte finish.
It also has a great hold throughout the day, meaning your makeup is guaranteed to stay in place even during the hot summer days.
Guerlain – L’Essentiel Lightweight and Skin Soothing Primer Pros:
- Comes in a beautiful glass bottle and a dropper.
- Has a faint fresh scent to it.
- Creates a long-lasting matte base for complexion products.
- Contains ingredients that help nourish and protect the skin.
Guerlain – L’Essentiel Lightweight and Skin Soothing Primer Cons:
- Contains alcohol.
Most cosmetic products (including primers) contain ingredients that can clog pores and trigger inflammation, resulting in acne breakouts. Guerlain’s L’Essentiel Lightweight and Skin Soothing Primer, however, is formulated with natural ingredients and specifically designed to be non-comedogenic, ensuring that it doesn’t exacerbate acne. This primer offers a gentle, sensitive-skin friendly option for anyone who needs a makeup base that is safe for oily, acne-prone skin.Dr. Anna Chacon
Best Primer Ingredients For Acne Prone Skin
Those with acne-prone skin want to pay extra special attention to the ingredient list when choosing a primer, as some ingredients can exacerbate acne while others can not only protect your skin but also help reduce this inflammatory condition.
Therefore, here are five best primer ingredients for acne-prone skin:
A master humectant capable of holding x1000 its weight in water, hyaluronic acid is a component that does a great job at pulling moisture toward the skin surface and making the skin look plump, poreless, and wrinkle-less.
Non-comedogenic, lightweight, and easily absorbed, hyaluronic acid in primers can help hydrate the skin and minimize excess oil production, making it excellent for those with oily and acne-prone skin.
Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble ingredient that dissolves excess oil accumulated on the skin’s surface and inside the pores, causing the pore lining to constrict and making enlarged pores less visible.
Additionally, an excellent anti-inflammatory component, salicylic acid can soothe redness and skin irritation caused by acne, and it can also help treat existing breakouts, making it a useful component in primers for acne-prone skin.
Niacinamide is an antioxidant with hydrating and skin-brightening properties that helps protect the skin from environmental damage and improve its overall texture, reducing the appearance of enlarged pores, discoloration, and scarring.
Additionally, niacinamide can improve the skin’s protective barrier by stimulating ceramide production, which are components that strengthen the skin barrier and relieve inflammatory conditions such as acne.
Vitamin C is another potent antioxidant with brightening and skin-smoothing properties that helps stimulate collagen production and reduce the appearance of acne scars, fine lines, and wrinkles.
However, when added to primers that create a barrier on the skin’s surface, the antioxidant activity of vitamin C will protect the skin against environmental damage as well as fight against potentially harmful components found in makeup products to prevent skin irritation and breakouts.
Witch hazel is a botanical component frequently found in toners, serums, and makeup primers for oily and acne-prone skin due to its ability to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores and minimize redness and irritation caused by breakouts.
Worst Primer Ingredients For Acne Prone Skin
Comedogenic and irritating primer ingredients can often contribute to even more breakouts or irritate existing ones.
Therefore, here are the worst primer ingredients for acne-prone skin you should avoid:
While oils can offer many benefits in primers, including softening the skin, evening out uneven skin texture, and providing a seamless finish for complexion products to glide over, they can be problematic for those with acne-prone skin due to their comedogenic potential.
Some heavy oils found in primers, such as palm, soybean, and almond oil, can block pores and cause breakouts, so it’s definitely best to avoid them if you have acne-prone skin.
Stearates are fatty acids commonly used as thickeners that give primers a soft, creamy feel.
They can be beneficial to those with dry, cracked, and itchy skin as they are super efficient in creating a layer on the skin’s surface that locks in moisture and prevents dryness.
However, those with acne-prone skin should avoid these components as they are highly comedogenic and can trigger or exacerbate acne.
Some common stearates in cosmetic products include isopropyl myristate, isostearyl isostearare, and stearic acid.
Ingredients such as lanolin, beeswax, and Candelilla wax are used in primers to add body, texture, and hold, but these waxy particles can clog the pores and trap dirt and oils in them.
This can lead to more congested pores and inflammation, so it is best to avoid these in primers if you have acne-prone skin.
Primers pretty much rely on silicones to create a smooth, even canvas on the skin, but unfortunately, some of these can be an issue for those with acne-prone skin.
While generally not problematic, large molecular weight silicones such as cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, and cetearyl methicone can get stuck inside the pores, preventing the natural oil from traveling through the pores and causing congestion and breakouts.
Potential Side Effects of Comedogenic Primers
The main side effect of comedogenic primers is the potential for inflammatory conditions such as bacterial and fungal acne, which can appear on the skin with symptoms of redness, irritation, and itchiness.
This happens because comedogenic or pore-clogging ingredients can create an occlusive layer on the skin’s surface and prevent the natural skin oil from flowing freely through the pores.
Additionally, some comedogenic ingredients in primers, like silicones, are notoriously difficult to wash off, which can cause them to become burrowed inside the pores, creating a stiff plug that can appear on the skin as an open comedone or blackhead, and become an inflamed pimple that can be more difficult to get rid of and can also leave a scar behind.
Therefore, while fully eliminating comedogenic ingredients from your beauty routine is almost impossible, try to make sure the products you use don’t contain as many comedogenic ingredients, and choose primers specifically designed for acne-prone skin to avoid these potential side effects.
Should Any Other Type of Makeup be Used With Primers?
Primers are products that should always be applied before makeup. They usually contain components that will even the skin texture, blur visible pores, and reduce redness, making skin imperfections less visible.
Primers will also create a protective layer on the skin that will settle complexion products and help makeup look fresh and last longer.
Therefore, any other type of makeup (foundation, powder, concealer, etc.) should be used after you apply your primer. It’s best to wait a few minutes after applying the primer before applying other products so that the primer settles and offers maximum benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, many of the most popular primers on the market contain oils, silicones, butters, and other harsh chemicals that can trigger acne breakouts. If you are looking for a primer this page contains 10 primers specifically designed to be safe for acne-prone skin.
Yes, silicone primer can clog the pores and trigger acne breakouts. For best results with oily skin try using a primer made with natural, non-comedogenic ingredients.
In general, you should wear makeup in short durations whenever possible. As soon as you no longer need to wear makeup, you should use sensitive skin-friendly makeup remover to clean out your pores.
If you use makeup every day, applying a primer before your complexion products is the best way to put a barrier between potentially clogging ingredients in foundations and concealers and protect your skin from being directly exposed to irritation and makeup-induced breakouts.
Mattifying primers are the best option for excessively oily skin as they contain ingredients that will absorb excess oil and neutralize shine while helping makeup look fresh for longer.
Primers that contain SPF of 30 and higher can protect the skin from sun damage and prevent issues such as sun spots, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and premature signs of aging.
Besides going through the ingredients list and making sure that the primer doesn’t contain irritating or pore-clogging components, you can also pick the right primer for your skin based on its consistency and finish.
For example, if you have normal to dry skin, you should pick a primer that has a creamier and more nourishing consistency that won’t dry out your skin and cause your makeup to look cakey.
On the other hand, if you have oily and acne-prone skin, picking a primer with a more lightweight and watery consistency that will help makeup stay on the skin for longer without becoming greasy and sliding off your face is the best option.
Water-based primers are excellent for acne-prone skin as they are lightweight and won’t exacerbate excess oiliness that could eventually lead to clogged pores and acne.