Makeup is not just about contouring, highlighting and mastering the art of the perfect cat-eye — it’s about prep work, too. When it comes down to it, the way your skin takes to makeup (and vice versa) all depends on what you do to your complexion before going in with foundation, concealer and the rest of your beauty arsenal. And while you might be quick to reach for a primer, it is not the only way to enhance your look.
Don’t get us wrong — primer is excellent for prepping your complexion ahead of makeup. That is especially true if you are going out to an event and need your look to last through the night. But, let’s be honest: Most of us don’t go to events every night, and most of us could do without the extra product (at least in an everyday sense). With that in mind, we tapped a top makeup artist to find out how to prep your skin without primer.
Determine Your Skin Type
As with most anything we put on our face, skin type matters. Even if you use a primer, you should always look for one that is compatible with your complexion. The two symptoms you want to look out for are dry and oily. Both impact the way makeup interacts with the skin and — if not cared for properly beforehand — could result in either a dull, rough-looking application or one that seemingly melts off. Many people wonder how to prep dry skin for makeup versus oily skin. The good news is there are still effective ways to prep both dry skin and oily skin for makeup without primer that aren’t too far off from your skincare routine.
Start With Cleanser
“If you are more of an oil-prone skin type, begin cleansing the skin with a hydrating, yet oil-controlling cleanser,” says makeup artist Hannah Hatcher. When selecting a cleanser for oily skin, Hatcher suggests keeping your eye on the label, as the ingredients can make a huge difference. She recommends a cleanser enhanced by salicylic acid, which can “help dissolve any excess oil [and] gently exfoliate the skin.”
If dry skin is your makeup woe, Hatcher suggests “adding lipids [fatty acids] back into the skin.” That means more moisture and cream-based cleansers. And, bonus points (and results) if it has humectant-rich ingredients like honey and hyaluronic acid.
Tone it Up
While you might get away with skipping toner in your skincare routine, it is not something you want to deprive your skin of for makeup prep — even if your skin is oily. For a toner that oily skin will love, Hatcher suggests one that hydrates the skin. “It is very common for people with oily skin to reach for drying or alcohol-based toner to try and strip their skin of oil,” she notes. “But this can lead to flakiness and irritation of the skin, which will completely alter the way your makeup looks.”
In contrast, dry skin needs all the moisture it can get. So, much like your cleanser, Hatcher says to reach for something that will boost hydration with nourishing ingredients (again, hyaluronic acid could help here).
The last step is one of the most important steps, as moisturizer can make or break your base. “Even though your skin may be overproducing oil, it still needs moisture (water!),” Hatcher says of oily skin types. “Applying an oil-free moisturizer will help condition and hydrate the skin,” she says.
Those with dry skin also benefit from moisture, of course. If your skin falls on the ultra-dry side of the spectrum, try a thicker cream-based formula. And, while you might feel inclined to switch it up with a potent skin care oil, trust us when we say: Don’t do it! Oil can definitely do dry skin some good — it’s full of those lipids Hatcher talks about — but, using it before you apply makeup can result in a greasy, streaky mess. After all, there’s a reason some of the best makeup removers contain oil. With that said, if you can’t live without your facial oils, there is a way around such disaster. To be on the safe side, apply a nourishing skincare oil one hour before makeup application and wait until its fully absorbed before you dab any sort of foundation or concealer on.
Because many primers are formulated with silicone, they can help smooth out the skin’s surface and fill in any holes — aka, wrinkles and fine lines. However, you don’t need silicone to create that supple, smooth effect. To create a similar notion, try adding a little facial massage into your prep work. Massaging the skin before applying makeup can help increase circulation and the plumpness of skin, which can give you that primer look without the actual product itself.
We like to massage our skin with a jade roller as it is not only easy, but feels amazing, too! Jade rollers are particularly great at decreasing puffiness — especially under the eyes — which means you likely won’t have to use as much concealer to hide puffy under-eye bags.