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What is hair primer? Here’s why you need one and 9 of the best hair primers out there

May 18th 2022 / Sarah-Jane Corfield-Smith / 0 comment

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We all know about make-up primers, but what about a hair primer? Here’s everything you need to know about the product you never knew you needed.

Chances are, whether you use one or not, you understand the purpose of skin primers, but how familiar are you with hair primer? “Hair primers serve exactly the same purpose to your hair as a make-up primer does for your skin,” explains celebrity hair stylist, Lewis Pallett. “Hair primers were originally designed as product to help hairdressers with cutting as they tamed the hair making it easier to shape but have such strong styling credentials that nowadays that’s what their focus is more about. This is because they prep the hair before blow-drying to help give hold, create shape, reduce frizz, detangle any knots, create shine and provide essential heat protection.”

And you may be asking yourself, ‘do I really need yet another hair product?’ Well, if you’re the type of person who blow-dries their hair regularly (btw if you’re looking for hairdryer reviews, we’ve got you covered), the short answer is yes! “By incorporating a hair primer into your routine, you’re giving your hair the best chance of looking great because primers help it behave better. Plus because a hair primer ticks so many styling boxes, this may be the only styling product you need, however they also serve as a great foundation to then use other products on top of too,” Lewis explains.

Hair primers: how they work, best hair types and how to use them

How does hair primer work?

Just as make-up primers smooth the skin’s surface, hair primers do the same. They wrap round the strands of hair creating a more even surface, which means you end up with smoother looking hair, but also creating a protective shield at the same time - a bit like the best heat protections sprays - to keep frizz and humidity away.

Best hair types for hair primer

“Hair primers work on all hair types, it’s more about how you choose to style your hair that will make them an essential or not,” says Lewis. “They are designed to be used before blow-drying so if you blow-dry your hair every time you wash it, then a hair primer is a no-brainer.” If you’re lucky enough to have the type of hair that you can leave to air dry then you will find a hair primer redundant. “They’re also great for hair that’s coloured because they tend to contain heat protector which will help lock your colour in for longer and maintain the integrity and health of your hair,” says Lewis.

How to use hair primer

Hair primers vary in consistency between creams, gels and sprays. If you’re using a cream or gel based one Lewis recommends applying a 10p sized blob on damp hair, from the mid-lengths to the roots. If you’re using a spray then give your hair a good mist. “Then it’s all about blow-drying your hair how you like it. Personally, I recommend using a round brush to give hair some bounce and lift and directing the heat from the hairdryer down the hair for a smooth finish.”

9 of the best hair primers

1. Best hair primer for fine hair: Percy & Reed Wonder Balm Hair Primer, £20

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This has a gorgeous lightweight gel texture making it a great option for finer hair types as it won’t weight it down. As well as doing all the things a hair primer does; taming frizz, adding shine etc. this contains some anti-humidity ingredients as well as the most amazing scent that lingers for hours.

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2. Best hair primer for keeping hair clean: Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in1 Styling Treatment, £25

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Not only does this genius product provide heat and UV protection and help shape and style hair, it contains a very clever healthy hair molecule that actually repels dirt and oil away. Meaning once you’ve got your hair exactly how you want it, your style will stay looking spot-on for longer.

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3. Best hair primer for knotty hair: Oribe Run-Through Detangling Primer, £39.50

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If you have the sort of hair that goes from perfectly smooth to knotty and tangled in an instant, then this is the primer for you. It contains a detangling oil, designed to keep strands apart and from getting intertwined but doesn’t leave hair feeling greasy or oily. The light mist is easy to spray all over and is also an absolute winner on knotty, tangled children’s hair should you wish to share it with them!

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4. Best hair primer for curly hair: R+Co Twister Curl Primer, £23

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Adding much needed moisture to keep curl patterns defined and strong, this primer has been specifically designed for kinks and coils. It contains shea butter and aloe leaf extract to drench the hair in hydration and it’s lightweight, silky lotion texture means other styling products can easily be layered on top. You can use it on damp hair and leave to dry naturally but it works brilliantly with a diffuser to lock it in.

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5. Best hair primer for a dry scalp: Arkive The Prologue Hair Primer, £13

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With an amazing scent of tomato leaf and rhubarb, you’d be forgiven for just wanting to spray this all over as a perfume (we have put in a request to brand founder and a-list hairdresser, Adam Reed for it to be released as an EDP) but it has amazing hair styling properties too as well as containing Baobab oil to help hydrate the scalp so if yours is on the dry and flaky side, this is a must-buy.

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6. Best hair primer for dry hair: Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/ UV Protective Primer, £25

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Styling your hair can be a vicious cycle when you have dry hair. You try to avoid heat to stop it from getting more dehydrated but it looks more polished when you use heat stylers on it. This primer is a way of helping protect your hair whilst still using heat to style it. This is thanks to the strong heat and UV filters it contains, plus the combination of six oils that will penetrate dry hair to give it much needed moisture and TLC.

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7. Best hair primer for split ends: Gisou Polishing Primer, £27

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As with all the Gisou products, this contains propolis - an ingredient made by bees to keep their hives strong. It is rich in oils, vitamins and minerals - all the things your hair needs to make it stronger, smoother and shinier. This creamy balm has been designed for all hair types and can be used with heat or without heat but we found it worked wonders on our parched split ends.

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8. Best hair primer for holidays: Centred Unwind Detangling Primer, £18

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Holidays are great, but they can play havoc with your hair. Sun exposure makes hair dry and brittle. Add in chlorine and salt and that only gets exacerbated. That’s where this primer steps in. Its vegan formula contains great UV protection to keep your hair protected during the day as well as providing the extra moisture it needs.

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9. Best hair primer for volume: Virtue Volumizing Primer, £36

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Alpha Keratin 60ku may not mean much to you (us either), but the founders of Virtue discovered that this brilliant protein is identical to keratin; the main building block found in hair. Which is why they’ve packed this spray full of the stuff. By being able to get it into the hair, damaged strands are repaired and become fuller, which means more volume. And the spray is so light that it can be sprayed directly to the roots to create serious oomph.

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