The best hydrating primers for dry skin

Anna Hunter 14 September 2020
Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

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The best primers for dry skin

If your skin has a tendency to go arid mid-afternoon, you’ll know that a desert-like complexion doesn’t hold onto makeup all too well. If uneven base is your bugbear and you’d like a lovely cushion to keep moisture in, makeup on and skin supple, the following primers will seal the deal as well as making your skin extra glowy.

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The water one: Estee Lauder Futurist Aqua Brilliance Watery Glow Primer, £30.50

Just reading the name of this feels hydrating. It comes out of the tube similarly to a delicate eye cream, melting on contact with the skin for an ultralight, rosy glow veil which allows makeup to glide on top of effortlessly. The navy and blush pink packaging is ultra chic and gives a clue for how luxe this primer feels. It's made with hyaluronic acid and Estee Lauder's micro-sized water droplets for a dewy glow with or without foundation on top.

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The classic one: Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer Hydrating, £32

Laura Mercier primers are an enduring staple in many a beauty editor’s kit, long relied upon for giving even the most parched of mugs a glow. The brand launched four new editions in January 2020 (a lifetime ago) and this is our pick of the pack. The water-based formula sinks in within seconds; skin looks immediately healthier and more luminous before you’ve even gone in with foundation. The glow even beams through once you’ve added foundation on top. It has glycerin in to attract moisture to the skin, olive extract to smooth skin and lock in hydration and marine hydra botanicals to replenish natural moisturising properties.

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The coconut one: Lottie London Illuminating Coconut Primer, £9.95

Loved by Jemma on the GTG team, this has a pearly gold pigment to add an ethereal gleam to skin without giving you a unicorn shimmer. It has a subtle coconut scent that will transport you back to summer even once the autumnal central heating has dried your skin out.

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The kombucha one: Elemis Superfood Glow Priming Moisturiser, £39

This comes out of the Glossier-esque packaging looking very pearlescent but merges into the skin easily for a subtle, soft shine that will have people telling you how "well" you look. The formula is enriched with kombucha and fermented ginger (no festive fragrance here) to energise and brighten the complexion; the active prebiotic helps to protect the delicate microbiome of the skin leaving it feeling nourished and looking natural.

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The anti-pollution one: Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Primer, £33

This weightless hydrating primer has hyaluronic acid in the mix for a pleasant plumping effect, while aloe vera works to soothe and condition the complexion. Vitamin E gets involved too to strengthen the skin against environmental pollutants.

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The gel one: Illamasqua Hydra Veil Primer, £27.20

A cooling way to sandwich in moisture post day cream and pre-makeup, this niacinamide , algae and sodium hyaluronate  enriched primer is a joy to apply on a hot day and the bouncy texture leaves soft, calm skin in its wake. It’s seriously impressive when it comes to keeping foundation firmly in place too, and it would suit combination skin as well as drier complexions.

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The high street one: NYX Hydra Touch Primer, £11

For a pocket money price tag, this light fluid primer brings some fancy ingredients to the table. Jojoba, safflower and sweet almond oil support dry skin, yet it doesn't feel in any way tacky or cloying- it dries fast to a silky finish. A no-brainer if you don’t want to blow the budget on an additional beauty step in your routine.

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The highlighter/ primer hybrid: Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter, £30

This is available in seven shades and marries the blurring properties of a primer with the gleam of a highlighter. The ‘glossy oil’ complex makes it a particularly appealing option for dry skin and it can be used alone as a primer (although it’s a bit shiny disco ball if you put it all over), mixed with a moisturiser or foundation or applied strategically to cheekbones and anywhere else you want to bring the light. You can apply it on top of your existing makeup if you want to revive your face at the end of a long day and apply to your lids for a less stick approximation of eye gloss . It’s not a primer per se, but it straddles many cosmetic needs and makes drier skin look beautifully dewy, no matter how you use it.

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The pearly one: Lancôme La Base Pro Hydra Glow, £29

A brightening, smoothing balm, this primer feels relatively rich compared with some of the more fluid options out there (that’ll be the shea butter and beeswax). Our art editor Sarah rates it for making skin feel soft and anchoring foundation in situ, and it gives a nice sheen to cheeks. It smells slightly lipstick-y in an old skool cosmetic kind of way, which could be a pro or a con depending on how you feel about fragrance.

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The probiotic one: Too Faced Hangover Primer, £26

The ‘faking optimum hydration and eight hours sleep’ marketing trope is a common one, and while this will in no way bring you back from the brink of a savage hangover, probiotic lactobacillus  has an anti-inflammatory effect and it’s got a decent roster of hydrating ingredients going on, from olive oil to coconut water and good old glycerin. It absorbs quickly, doesn’t leave skin sticky and freshens up fatigued complexions beautifully.

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