Primer is an invisible but extremely important part of any makeup routine. When applied underneath other makeup products, it can help to maximize coverage and improve the staying power of other cosmetics.
Finding a good primer to complement and lay the foundations for your makeup is crucial if you want your products to stay pigmented and in place all day long.
However, with so many different primer formulae being developed by the cosmetics industry each year, finding the one that best suits your makeup style, skin type, and day to day requirements can be a challenge.
This problem is exacerbated tenfold for the millions of people worldwide who deal with sensitive skin.
Having sensitive skin massively increases the likelihood of experiencing irritation from cosmetic products, so finding the right primer can be extra difficult.
Here at Five Star Skin Care, we believe that everyone should be able to find or have access to skin products and cosmetics that work for them, regardless of skin type.
That’s why we’ve done some research and collated the 5 best primers for sensitive skin into a single guide.
Best Primers for Sensitive Skin: Our Top 5 Picks
1. Best Overall: bareMinerals Prime Time BB Primer-Cream
At the very top of our list, we have the Prime Time BB Primer-Cream from bareMinerals!
This primer is a little bit special because it also doubles as a BB cream, which is one of the reasons why we like it so much. Often, wearing makeup at all can be detrimental to the health of sensitive skin due to the necessity of applying multiple layers of different products.
The Prime Time BB Primer, however, not only primes your skin also but adds a light tint of coverage. This means that you can wear this primer underneath other products if you choose, or by itself for a natural but glowy no-makeup look!
Your skin is sure to look healthy and beautiful with the help of the Prime Time primer. A single application will blur the appearance of pores for a smooth finish and keep your makeup in place all day!
What’s more, this formula’s antioxidant content helps to promote skin repair, making this primer as good at treating dry, irritated skin as it is at clearing excess oil.
bareMinerals has even incorporated SPF 30 into the formula of this primer, so you can protect your sensitive skin from sun damage as part of your everyday makeup routine.
The press-down pump dispenser ensures that consistent amounts of product are used with each application and prevents you from accidentally using more than you need.
This primer is also cruelty-free and suitable for vegans, so while you’re taking care of your skin, you can also promote animal welfare in the cosmetics industry! How great is that?
- Doubles as BB cream
- Works with both dry and oily skin
- Contains antioxidants
- Incorporates SPF 30
- Practical pump dispenser
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Some customers have reported the pump not working
2. Reviva Labs Makeup Primer
Whether your sensitive skin is oily, dry, or combination, Reviva Labs’ Makeup Primer will renew your skin’s natural beauty and provide the smooth surface your makeup needs to stay fresh-looking for hours!
Formulated with the soothing combination of aloe vera and cucumber, the Reviva Labs primer nourishes and hydrates the skin without leaving it oily. In fact, this formula gets rid of unwanted facial oil while filling in your pores and lines, turning your face into a perfect canvas for your makeup.
The application for this primer is simple and minimal. A single drop on each cheek, the forehead, and each side of the jawline should be enough for pre-makeup coverage. The pump applicator is ideal for dispensing just the right amount of product.
This formula is vegan and cruelty-free, so both your skin and our animal friends will thank you for using it!
- Works on dry and oily skin
- Contains aloe vera and cucumber
- Safe for use on eyelids
- Ergonomic pump-applicator
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Getting all of the primer out of the bottle can be difficult
3. Maybelline New York Face Studio Master Prime Primer
Maybelline New York’s Face Studio Master Prime primer has thousands of positive customer testimonials, partly because of how well this product works with sensitive skin!
Because this is a water-based primer, it won’t make your skin feel greasy or oily. Instead, it has a blurring effect on the skin that smoothes out imperfections for a more ‘airbrushed’ finish.
It reduces the visibility of lines and blemishes and incorporates redness control pigmentation to help neutralize signs of irritation from breakouts or sensitivity.
Maybelline’s Face Studio Master Prime is lightweight and subtle enough that it can be worn both underneath makeup or alone for an even-toned, fresh-faced look. This primer won’t clog up your pores, either, so it won’t lead to further skin issues like some other products.
Unfortunately, because of Maybelline’s compliance with international animal testing regulations, this primer is not cruelty-free. However, overall, it’s still one of the best primer formulae on the market for sensitive skin.
- Blurring effect
- Redness control pigmentation
- Not vegan or cruelty-free
4. Cover FX Weightless Mattifying Primer
If you suffer from sensitive, acne-prone skin, we recommend Cover FX’s Weightless Mattifying Primer!
This primer feels virtually weightless on the skin, so whether you want to wear it as a stand-alone product or in conjunction with other makeup, you won’t even realize you have it on!
The formula of the Cover FX primer is very natural and contains many beneficial ingredients for sensitive skin, including orange, sugar maple, sugar cane, lemon, and bilberry extracts for very gentle exfoliation and skin repair by cell renewal.
It also contains Ancient African tree bark, which helps to minimize pores and eliminate excess oil, and 1% salicylic acid, which is an effective acne treatment.
Cover FX’s Mattifying Primer comes in a simple tube container that you can use to intuitively squeeze out the right amount of product for an easy fingertip application.
This is another vegan and cruelty-free formula, so barring specific allergies, anyone can use it.
- Gently exfoliating
- Promotes skin cell renewal
- Contains salicylic acid for acne treatment
- Easy-to-use tube packaging
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- May be too oily for oily or combination skin
5. Nyx Tea Tree Balance Skin Serum and Primer
The Tea Tree Balance Skin Serum and Primer from Nyx is a fantastic budget option for makeup lovers with sensitive skin!
This is a gentle and lightweight formula, infused with tea tree leaf oil. Tea tree is a known anti-inflammatory ingredient that is frequently used in acne-treating skincare products because of its soothing and clarifying effects.
The cream-like primer has a moisturizing effect, so it’s suitable for use on dry, sensitive skin. However, it’s not so oily that people with oily or combination skin will have issues with it, and it actually creates a perfectly primed skin surface for other makeup products.
Not only is this primer great for your sensitive skin, but it also smells wonderful and applies easily due to the simple tube applicator and ideal consistency.
This product, like all cosmetics by Nyx, has not been tested on animals either in its complete form or by individual ingredients. There has been no official statement made, however, as to whether it is vegan-friendly.
- Contains tea tree for inflammation
- Creamy consistency
- Pleasant scent
- Simple tube applicator
- Some customers do not like the consistency
Primers for Sensitive Skin: Buyer’s Guide
We hope that this article has helped you so far to find suitable primer options for your sensitive skin.
However, skincare and makeup are very individual, so it’s important to choose exactly the right product to meet your skin’s needs as well as to suit your personal makeup routine and preferences.
If that sounds a little overwhelming, don’t panic – our buyer’s guide is here to help solve all your sensitive skincare stress! Read on for a step-by-step rundown of factors to consider before you settle on your perfect primer.
The ingredients and formula content of a primer is what ultimately dictates whether the said primer is suitable for use on sensitive skin, so the ingredients list is definitely the first thing you should pay attention to.
Ideally, primers for sensitive skin should be formulated using natural ingredients and without the addition of scents or unnecessary filler chemicals. Any scent that a sensitive skin primer has should be derived from a natural or beneficial source, such as tea tree oil, for example.
Speaking of tea tree oil, tea tree is one of the best skin care and cosmetic ingredients for sensitive skin. This is because tea tree is a natural anti-inflammatory that has been proven to reduce redness and, more importantly, irritation.
If your skin is so sensitive that it regularly looks red and feels inflamed, we recommend using a primer containing tea tree oil for a soothing and nourishing effect.
Other soothing ingredients you might find in sensitive skin primers include cucumber and aloe vera. Both of these ingredients are very hydrating, so they’re perfect for dry skin. They also work wonders for calming down irritation.
If your sensitive skin is acne-prone, it’s a good idea to get a primer that also incorporates some form of acne treatment like, for example, salicylic acid. Salicylic acid treats acne by very gently exfoliating the skin, clearing out the pores of oil and dead skin, and leaving your skin free to breathe unobstructed.
Other gentle exfoliants for sensitive, acne-prone skin include sugar maple, sugar cane, orange, and lemon. Some of these ingredients also stimulate skin cell repair, so if your skin is damaged as a result of excessive dryness or sensitive reactions, a primer formulated with some of these things may help you.
Any primer formula with a high antioxidant content (eg. vitamin C, vitamin E, retinol, etc.) is also likely to benefit sensitive skin. These nutrients hydrate and moisturize the skin while reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles generally making your skin appear rejuvenated.
Of course, all of the products we’ve reviewed in this article are primers, first and foremost. However, you may have noticed that some of the primers in our review section also double as other product types.
One common combination is a primer and bb cream duo, which you can see featured as our top choice. The reason this option is so great for sensitive skin is that it provides more coverage with less product due to the product’s slight tint.
This means that if your skin is prone to irritation, clogged pores, or blemishes, you don’t have to risk further skin problems by applying a layer of primer and bb cream.
One application of a primer/bb cream combination will be enough to lay the foundations for the rest of your makeup, or create a natural, effortless makeup look all on its own.
Another product type often combined with primer formula is serum. A serum is a skincare product designed to penetrate the skin on a molecular level to nourish it with certain nutrients and ingredients.
A primer and serum combination product is a wise choice for people with sensitive skin because it will provide a gentle and smooth base for makeup products whilst also treating skin sensitivity.
Sun protection (usually SPF 30) may also be incorporated into primers, and we definitely recommend this feature to people with sensitive skin that is susceptible to sun damage.
Having a primer that also serves as sunscreen means you don’t have to worry about applying your sunscreen before or around your makeup and ensures that your skin is protected from sun damage on a daily basis.
The application process of a primer is a crucial factor to consider when you’re dealing with sensitive skin. You want to be able to apply your primer to your skin in a way that doesn’t cause any further irritation through excessive product or abrasive applicators.
Some primers, for example, come with small doe-foot applicators, which may be helpful for initial product distribution, but could also cause irritation or redness on extremely sensitive skin.
This is why all of the primers on our list come in either bottle or tube containers and can either be squeezed or pumped into the hand for finger application.
Some makeup users prefer pump dispensers, while others favor tube containers. This really is a matter of personal preference more than anything, but a pump bottle can be really helpful in terms of dispensing consistent and even amounts of product with each pump.
Tubes can also be useful, however, since they give the user more control over the amount of product used. Tubes are also easier to work with when it comes to getting the last traces of primer out of the container.
While we’re helping you to be kind to your skin with gentle, naturally formulated primers, we’d also like to encourage you to be kind to animals by buying cruelty-free where possible!
Of course, we understand that a primer’s cruelty-free status might not be the be-all-end-all for everyone, especially since it’s difficult enough to find products that are suitable for sensitive skin without imposing further restrictions.
Luckily, however, many sensitive-skin-friendly products are also vegan and cruelty-free due to the naturally-sourced, plant-based ingredients that sensitive primers rely upon to soothe and protect the skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I apply primer to sensitive skin?
Having a primer that is suitable for use on sensitive skin is the first step to eliminating skin irritation from your primer and enjoying long-lasting, beautifully pigmented makeup.
The next step, however, is leaning to apply your sensitive skin primer in a way that ensures you won’t have to deal with any irritation from the application process.
Believe it or not, the way you apply your primer (and other cosmetic products) can have a significant impact on how your skin reacts to the product.
First, remember to apply a natural, unscented moisturizer to your skin before you start to apply the primer. Moisturizing is an important first step that should precede the application of all other makeup products, especially if your skin is sensitive.
The moisturizer will provide an extra protective layer between your skin and your primer, and will also help to keep your skin hydrated and reduce the irritation that can occur from applying products to dry skin.
Unlike other makeup products such as foundation and powder, which should be applied with a blender or brush, primer is actually best applied with the fingers. This is because primer is likely to cling to bristles and apply streakily if a brush is used.
If you’re not comfortable using your fingers to apply your primer, you could use a slightly dampened beauty blender. Whatever you use, though, it’s vital to make sure that your application instruments are clean and hygienic to avoid exposing your sensitive skin to dirt or germs.