I decided to write this post on water-based primers (makeup primers! A lot of the search results annoyingly seem to assume I’m trying to paint something other than my face) to help others searching for their next holy grail.
To be honest, I’m not a silicone hater. I suffer from uneven skin texture and huuuuuge pores so I definitely understand the benefits of lathering that stuff on. BUT there may be disadvantages to silicones too. My massive pores (not surprisingly) tend to get clogged easily. I also suffer from a bunch of other nice, cuddly things such as dehydration, oiliness and eczema. Perhaps that constant barrier isn’t helping.
In Search of Water-based Makeup Primers
I’ll write a separate post about my experiences of going silicone-free, but in this one I’ll share with you all the water-based primers I found while doing my research, and what I found out about each one of them. Note that I haven’t actually tried all of the products on this list, nor would that necessarily even help you since we all have individual needs and preferences. However, I have spent hours obsessively googling, reading reviews, comparing, researching ingredients and all that stuff.
I would say I can probably give you a better overview on your options than any beauty guru or magazine by now… *wipes sweat off forehead*
Water-based is not always silicone- or oil-free.
What I noticed while doing my research is that many (if not most) of the products advertised as water-based do still contain some amount of silicone. So, water-based is not necessarily silicone-free.
Also, often silicone-free primers are not water but oil-based, and brands don’t always mention any of this explicitly in their product descriptions, so you have to actually hunt down and read the ingredient lists yourself. However, this list of water-based primer makeup should help you out a bit. I know I will be coming back to it while shopping.
Let’s get to my findings then!
The Best Water-based Primers
1. Laura Mercier Foundation Primer – Radiance ($$)
This primer claims to make you glow, and according to reviews it does just that. It doesn’t, however, help with pores, textured skin or wrinkles, but can make them stand out instead. While this primer is water-based, it’s not actually fully silicone-free.
It has a pearly/peachy tint, so it’s better suited for those with light to medium skin. Not the cheapest option on the market, but many people swear by it due to the beautiful, natural looking glow it gives you.
2. Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector ($$)
Great for oily skin! This primer helps keep your oily skin matte (for how long depends on whether you’re a hint-of-grease kind of person or more of a big-old-lump-of-butter like me).
Does blur your pores a little, a pain in the ass to apply though if you’re a beginner or very impatient. If you suffer from dryness: keep looking, this is not for you. It’s fully silicone-free by the way.
3. Honest Beauty Everything Primer Glow ($$)
The Everything Primer Glow does make you glow (in a nice, subtle way) and is suitable for different skin types. It doesn’t help with skin issues such as fine lines and enlarged pores though, nor does it control oiliness.
Many (and I mean MANY) of the users commented on its smell, not usually in a positive way. However, many of the reviewers felt that it does do a decent job keeping your foundation stay in place, and more than a few people like to use it as is on those days when they can’t be bothered to wear a full face of makeup but still want a little bit of something extra. Not 100% silicone-free.
4. LORAC “I’m So Sensitive” Soothing Face Primer ($$)
This primer is completely silicone-free. And oil-free, and paraben-free, and fragrance-free. It’s super easy to apply and makes your foundation go on all nice and smooth.
This one is definitely more ideal for those with normal to dry skin types (I mean I’m assuming you’d want to control your oiliness and this primer does not do that), it’s also good for people suffering from sensitivity. The word “soothing” was used a lot in reviews, so that says something.
This product does not offer a pore blurring effect, however, so keep that in mind.
5. NYX First Base Primer Spray ($)
NYX has given us this silicone-free, water-based primer spray that promises to keep your makeup in place while nourishing the skin. It has got (mostly) great reviews, it works for different skin types and does its job rather well.
On its own it doesn’t offer much help with large pores or oiliness, which is why many people pair it with a cream type primer that targets those specific problems. It’s very affordable and feels more refreshing and less heavy compared to regular primers.
Can also be used as a setting spray for double effect. Definitely one of the best water-based primers there is.
[update]: This product seems to be out of stock both on the company’s own website and Amazon 🙁 However, you can still get it from Ulta (at least at the time of writing) and surely some other stores as well.
How to Choose the Best Water-based Primer Makeup Product for You
There are a few things to consider when buying a primer:
- Your skin type vs what the product does – is it targeted for people with oily skin but yours is like a flaky desert? Pass. Perhaps you need to hide some fine lines? Then make sure the product you’re about to buy does that (and doesn’t just make empty promises).
- Do you have preferences regarding the consistency? There are primers that are thick, sticky, watery, ones that are sprayed on…
- When getting a water-based product it’s good to keep in mind that there are water-based primers that are silicone-free, ones that are oil-free, and ones that might not be either.
- Tinted , “glowy” and mattifying primers may affect the way your makeup turns out so know what you want the end result to be and go with the primer that enhances that effect.
- The best water-based primer for you is one that ticks the boxes for any important special requirements, such as being suitable for sensitive skin or being cruelty-free. Sometimes these things may be the first things to consider even if the product is otherwise only an 8/10. None of us is perfect I guess (doesn’t mean you should stop trying though!).
I hope this list of water-based primers has helped you at least a little bit. It can be a difficult task trying to find the perfect product, especially when it comes to our skins. I’m going to be updating this list as I find and research new items, and will add any good suggestions you might have as well.
Looking for new products, especially water-based face primers, can be really time-consuming due to the fact that lists like this aren’t always up-to-date (products are discontinued, as I found many times during my research), and going through the ingredient lists of a bunch of random products just isn’t that much fun.
It’s also not easy on the budget (or your mental health for that matter) if you have to buy something before figuring out that the product is the opposite of what you want. Plus in the case of water-based primer makeup the results can vary even just based on what other products you use so you’ll want to get it right the first time around.
Let me know if you have an amazing water-based primer that’s missing from this list!