In my early days of skincare enthusiasm, I went through tons of different moisturizers before I discovered the perfect match.

As a makeup gal, I had thought about using a primer as a substitute, which made me research the topic in detail.

Then again, some people consider primer and moisturizer the same thing.

In today’s post, I take a closer look at whether you can substitute your moisturizer with a simple primer, and yes, of course you can. But should you?

What is a primer used for?

Primers are facial bases that are used in the pre-make-up preparation phase. They’re applied before makeup with the purpose of evening out the complexion of the skin, filling up any enlarged pores, and making the skin texture look nice and even – sort of like a plain canvas for an artist.

By applying a high-quality primer, you can enjoy a smooth make-up application and extended durability of foundation, eyeshadow, and other makeup.

Additionally, the product acts as a barrier between the skin and any other products that you apply after, and as a protectant against the elements.

There are also specifically designed primers that offer a mattifying effect or moisturize the skin, depending on what your skin needs or what look you’re going for.

Although it can sometimes hydrate the skin, a primer and a moisturizer are two fundamentally different things.

What is the difference between primer and moisturizer?

Can primer be used as moisturizer?

Although some people wrongfully assume that primers and moisturizing creams offer the same or similar benefits, this is far from the truth.

Both product types have their unique effects on the skin and cannot be mutually substituted.

Primers are designed to achieve the following:

  • Offer your skin protection from makeup products;
  • Smooth out the skin texture;
  • Fill in enlarged pores;
  • Help you avoid getting patchy areas in your makeup application;
  • Extend the duration of your makeup or foundation;
  • Makes the makeup application process much easier;
  • Achieve a certain look with your makeup.

On the other hand, moisturizers are designed to work towards:

  • Hydrate and lock in moisture in your skin;
  • Calm and smooth the skin’s texture from within;
  • Help with preventing fine lines and wrinkles;
  • Protect from dryness and irritation;
  • Restore your moisture barrier, and repair your skin.

An important distinction between a primer and a moisturizer is the way the two products are classified. While primers are considered makeup products, moisturizers, and face creams are considered skincare products.

Do you need a primer if you use moisturizer?

In a nutshell, yes, primer and moisturizer are created to be used together and provide complimentary effects for the skin. If you’re looking to enjoy the benefits of primers and to get your skin ready for makeup application, you’ll still need to use a primer, even if you already use moisturizer.

I’d also like to note that it’s best to apply moisturizer before primer.

Remember, your hydrating cream or lotion is part of your skincare routine. Therefore it should be applied before any makeup. Once your moisturizer has been absorbed by the skin, you can move on to the first step of your makeup routine – the primer.

Can you use primer as a moisturizer?

Although I don’t recommend using primer instead of a moisturizer, the truth is that you can sometimes get away with it.

This is only in case your primer’s ingredient list includes moisturizing and occlusive compounds that will provide the benefits typical for a moisturizer.

These are usually high-end primers that often cost a bit more than their cheaper counterparts.

I’d only suggest taking this approach if you’re trying to minimize your routine as much as possible for financial reasons or if you’re dealing with a specific skin condition that can benefit from less product on your face.

Best primers and moisturizers in one

We’ve reached the best part.

I’ve prepared a list of my favorite products which provide both the benefits of a primer and a moisturizer. These are solutions that merge two products into one. Some of these suggestions are the perfect example of how primers can contain moisturizing ingredients and other actives that can help work on skin concerns.

Best for hydration: Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

Milk Makeup primer and moisturizer in one

One of my all-time favorite hybrid products that combine the functions of primer and moisturizer is the Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer.

This is a transparent primer suitable for all skin types.

It offers reliable coverage that lasts throughout the whole day and contains glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and panthenol that hydrate the skin and lock in moisture.

The ingredient list also features blue agave extract that creates a sticky layer that further moisturizes the skin and grips onto makeup like nothing else.

It’s also packed with hemp seed extract and niacinamide, the last one being one of the most widespread skin-loving ingredients in the skincare space. It helps to minimize the work of overproductive oil glands, has proven anti-aging abilities, and evens out the skin tone.

I love the fact that this primer is extremely easy to use and lasts me for ages.

The product is completely vegan and free from parabens, oil, fragrance, and gluten. Plus, it leaves behind a nice glowy, dewy look.

It costs around $40 for 1.52 oz (45 ml) but is well worth it.

I suggest you purchase the smaller bottle first to try it out for yourself before splurging for the larger package, although I’m pretty sure you’ll end up loving it!

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer is Available at Amazon and Feelunique

Best for acne & pigmentation: Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Face Primer

Ole Henriksen moisturizer and primer in one

A much more affordable alternative, the Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Face Primer costs around $28 for 1 oz (30 ml) and it also merges the benefits of a primer and moisturizer into one.

It’s the perfect combo of makeup and skincare that hydrates, smoothes out the skin, and tackles fine lines and wrinkles at the same time.

It’s created with brightening pigments that offer extra radiance and make the skin look healthy and glowy (and also make this primer a top recommendation for people with pigmented skin).

The primer is enriched with the pure form of vitamin C – ascorbic acid – a great antioxidant with powerful skin-brightening abilities. It has, in fact, an ester form of vitamin C in the list too, which makes it even more potent.

By the way, having vitamin C in your morning routine is super beneficial for your skin as it boosts protection from your SPF and helps to wipe off any free radicals that wreak havoc on your skin.

It also has Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate which is a derivative of azelaic acid and helps to fight off acne, clear the complexion after breakouts and normalize sebum production.

As a primer, it works by illuminating the skin and prolonging your makeup life. It’s silky smooth and a true pleasure to apply, it’s also vegan, provides light coverage, and instantly makes the skin feel soft and healthy-looking.

Best for oily, acne-prone skin: Cover fx Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment

Cover FX moisturizer and primer in one

With a price of $31 for a bundle of two products – a 4 oz setting spray (118 ml) and 0.5 oz primer (15 ml), the Cover FX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment is amongst the most cost-efficient options in my list of recommendations.

It’s an outstanding duo for oily and acne-prone skin.

At Amazon, it sells in a bundle with a mattifying setting spray which I found really prolonged the life of my makeup.

The primer itself is weightless, reduces the visible oiliness on the skin, and eliminates blemishes. It also makes pores look smaller and less visible.

The ingredient list includes 1% salicylic acid, which works to unclog your pores and reduce blemishes in addition to African Tree Bark, which reduces pore size and offers lasting shine control. The primer is also formulated with kaolin clay to further reduce the shine and soak up all of the excess oils from the skin.

The formula is 100% alcohol-free, which means that it prevents dryness, irritation, and guarantees durability.

When it comes to hydration, it has squalane and glycerin, which offer the necessary moisturizing effect, even for oily skin.

Just like most products from the brand, the primer is free from talc, parabens, fragrances, mineral oil, gluten, sulfates, and phthalates.

Cover fx Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment is Available on Amazon and Dermstore.

Best for redness: Make up for Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Redness Correcting Primer

Make Up For Ever primer and moisturizer in one

Finally, my recommendation for you if you’re looking for a primer and moisturizer into one that tackles redness – the Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Redness Correcting Primer.

This is another product great for oily skin as it’s super lightweight and hydrates without being heavy on the skin. It evens out the skin tone, smoothes out the lines, nourishes, and diminishes skin redness. This is certainly one of the innovative primers out there and I’d strongly recommend trying it if redness is something you struggle with.

Some of the key ingredients included in the product are glycerin – which helps the skin retain moisture, panthenol – which soothes the skin, and ethyl vanillin – which calms and soothes everything down.

The texture of this one is very creamy and smooth and goes on like a charm. It also has a slight green tint to it that, included in a primer product, manages to stick around your skin for longer, unlike green-tinted moisturizers, for example.

But don’t worry about the green tint – the product soaks in quickly and turns completely invisible on your skin while concealing the redness that you have.

This one retails for $54 for a 1.01 oz tube (30 ml) – on the pricier end, but definitely worth it, at least for me.

I hope that the information here will help you answer most of your questions when it comes to using a primer as a moisturizer.

If you’ve experimented with the topic on your own, I’d love to get your thoughts and learn more about your stories!

Have you tried any of the recommended products in this article? Use the comments section below to share your feedback on all this.

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