The Ultimate Guide to the Best Cruelty-Free Primers beyond 2020


First things first, it isn’t entirely necessary to wear a primer. But there are several reasons why you should. If you aren’t sure if or why you need a primer or you need help finding the best one, this guide to the best cruelty-free primers was made just for you. In this article, we’ll explain what primers are, the benefits of using primers, how to apply primers and our reviews of the best primers currently available.

What is a Primer?

A primer is a cream or lotion formulated to be applied on your face before applying foundation or other makeup. Face primers are the most well-known primers, but there are eyelash and eye primers too.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Primer?

There are many reasons why you should use a primer.

Benefits include:

  • Provides a protective barrier between your skin and makeup that may otherwise be harsh or irritating
  • Keeps makeup in place
  • Prevents makeup from creasing
  • Amplifies the end-result
  • Creates a smooth and even layer for makeup to be applied
  • Helps colors last longer
  • Minimizes the look of large pores
  • Reduces the amount of foundation needed
  • Gives you a flawless, glowing look

What are the Different Types of Primers?

The most common primer is face primer and it’s the default primer most people use. However, there are other types of primers that each provide you with even more benefits than your standard face primer. Learning about the different types of primers and understanding their function will allow you to choose the best products for your makeup routine so that you look flawless every single day.

Face Primers

After your skincare routine, a face primer should be your next step. They are formulated to work with foundations, concealers and powders too. Some people choose to wear a face primer without any makeup for a simple yet picture-ready look. The main goals of face primers are to make your makeup look flawless and last longer.

Additional benefits may include:

  • Adds moisture to your face
  • Gets rid of and prevents oily skin
  • Adds a luminous glow to your look
  • Color correction
  • Pore minimization

Eye Primer | Eye-shadow Primer | Lid Primer

Eye primer should be applied to your upper eyelid and the skin underneath your eyebrow after you’ve applied your face primer. Use the applicator that comes with the primer or the tip of your finger to gently pat in a tiny bit of eye primer onto your upper eyelid and underneath your eyebrows. If you use a tinted eye primer, apply it in the discolored areas that need it. Before you begin applying your eye makeup, allow your eye primer to fully dry.

Eye primers have been formulated to be used on the sensitive skin above the eye. Makeup tends to crease, fade and run along the eye area but eye primers combat these issues. You may even be able to see more vivid eye-shadow colors once you apply an eye primer.

Lash Primer / Eyelash Primer

Use lash primer if you want bigger, bolder and clump-free eyelashes. Lash primer should be used before you apply mascara to your eyelashes. It looks a lot like mascara, but lash primers usually include nutrients so you should make it a point to also apply it to the root of your eyelashes. It’s recommended that you allow your lash primer to completely dry before applying mascara, although there are people that prefer to apply mascara immediately after.

Lip Primer

A lip primer makes your lipstick application even and smooth. The best lip primers prevent lipstick from bleeding and will help your color last much longer. Specifically, some lip primers may even offer plumping for larger, fuller looking lips.

Lip primer is applied just like most lipsticks, though you may choose to wear the lip primer alone without any lipstick. If you do decide to wear lipstick with your lip primer, apply the lip primer first.

Do I Really Need to Use a Primer?

As we mentioned before, primers are a personal choice whether to use or not. But the right one can provide you with several benefits like protecting your skin and bringing the best out of your look. For most people, just these two benefits alone are enough to make them want to invest in good primers.

Should I Put Face Primer or Moisturizer on First?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions people have about primer, so don’t feel alone if you also want to know. It’s common for people to get confused about the correct or most effective order to apply cosmetics in their skincare routine. One easy way to learn the correct order is to remember: skincare before makeup.

If you’re going to apply eye, lip, lash or face primer, put it on after you moisturize. It’s a good practice to treat your skin with whatever it needs (cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing, etc.) before you put on primer which will create a barrier between your skin and makeup. Since primer will make sure your makeup will stay fresh and in place all day, you should ensure your skin is protected and hydrated during that time as well.

How do I Apply Primer?

Even though it only takes a couple of minutes to apply face primer, there are a few important steps involved that everyone using primers should be aware of. If you’re wondering how to put on primer, here are the five steps that will allow you to apply primer like a pro:

1. Start off with the right primer.
The right primer will get you the best results possible and this is when you’ll truly see the amazing benefits of using primers. Luckily, we’ve gathered a list of the best primers available for all skin types so you can find the highest-quality primers that are best for your skin. Before you scroll down to see the list, make sure you figure out which kind of primer you need first.

How to figure out the best primer for your skin:

Think about your main skin concerns. When you apply makeup, does your face end up shiny with oil? Would you like to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles? Do you want to reduce the size of your pores for a smoother look? Does your skin need color correction? There are all types of primers out there that specifically address these concerns and more.

The next thing you want to consider before selecting the right primer, is your skin type. As with all skincare products and cosmetics, the best ones for your skin will of course be those formulated for your skin type.

Pro Tip: The last step in figuring out what the right primer is for you is to take a look at your foundation. Check to see if it is water or oil-based. Since you want your primer and your foundation to work together, you should find a primer that has the same base as your foundation.

2. Wash your hands and your face.

Before you begin covering your skin for the rest of the day, it’s important to use a gentle facial cleanser to get rid of any dirt, excess oil and any impurities. A clean face will also help all your skincare products apply evenly to your skin. It’s also important for you to start with clean hands since you’ll be using your fingers to apply your moisturizer and primer.

3. Apply a moisturizer and let it absorb.
It’s true, before you apply your primer you should apply a moisturizer first. Even if your primer has moisturizing properties, you should still apply your daily moisturizer before the primer. Don’t worry about it being too heavy or adding too much moisture. All you must do is give your skin time to absorb your moisturizer before you apply the primer. If your skin feels dewy, give it a few more minutes.

4. Apply the primer.
Once the moisturizer has been absorbed, squirt a pea-sized amount of your primer onto your fingertips. Keep in mind that too much primer can clog your skin and not using enough won’t get you the results you’re looking for. Similar to how you apply moisturizer, gently blend the primer into your skin using circular motions so that you have an even layer on your entire face and neck area if you’ll apply makeup there as well. Gently pat the primer or eye primer around your eyes and on your eyelids. Don’t forget to put a little primer or lip primer on your lips to keep your lipstick smooth and vibrant.

5. Let the primer dry.
Before you begin applying your makeup, make sure to let the primer dry completely. Once it’s dry, you may begin putting on foundation or skip ahead right to your other makeup. Some people also choose to wear primer alone to help shrink the appearance of pores and to brighten the skin.

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The 10 Best Cruelty-Free Primers for 2020

Now that you know all about primers, it’s time to discover what the best primers are. We’ve analyzed hundreds of primers to finally compile a list of the top ten cruelty-free primers available to you right now. The best primers include high-quality ingredients, feature amazing benefits and are of course tried-and-true.

Elizabeth Mott | Thank Me Later Eye Shadow Primer

Product Size: .35 oz./10g

About This Primer

The Thank Me Later Eye Shadow Primer by Elizabeth Mott is the best eye primer for people with oily eyelids. It does an excellent job at balancing your skin tone and keeping your eye shadow in place. It’s capable of reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles near your eyes, however, this isn’t its strong suit.

This is the best primer for oily skin because it lasts long, dries quickly and it isn’t oily. Not only is this one of the best eye primers on the market, but it comes with a money-back guarantee so you can buy it risk-free knowing if for some reason it doesn’t work for you, you may request a full refund.

  • PETA accredited company
  • Lasts long so your makeup is in place all day
  • Dries in seconds
  • Gives you an instant glow
  • Lightweight formula
  • Money back guarantee
  • Good for oily skin
  • Doesn’t work as well for dry skin

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What color is this?

A: The primer is pink, but it appears colorless on your skin.

Q: How long will this allow my eyeshadow to stay on if I have oily skin?

A: This primer will keep your eye shadow intact for the entire day even if you have oily skin.

Q: Does this have fragrance?

A: No, this is fragrance-free.

Q: Does this work under the bottom lashes as well?

A: Yes, you may also apply this primer on your bottom eyelid.

Q: Will this work for people with darker skin?

A: Yes, this eye primer is also great for women of color and those with darker skin.

Q: Does this work well with eyeliner?

A: This is a good accompaniment to eyeliners.

jane iredale | Smooth Affair Facial Primer and Brightener

Product Size: 1.7 fl.oz./50ml

About This Primer

If you’re looking for the best primer to give you smooth skin and amazing coverage for your makeup, this primer is a great choice. It’ll give you the perfect base for your foundation and conceal while offering a good amount of moisture. Simply put, it does a good job at matching out your skin tone, minimizing the appearance of large pores and giving you a brightening glow.

  • Leaping Bunny certification
  • PETA accredited company
  • Features anti-aging grapefruit, green and white tea extracts
  • Reduces appearance of large pores, fine lines and wrinkles
  • Company supports many local and natural causes
  • Gives skin an instant glow
  • Goes on skin easily
  • Some people don’t like the scent of citrus

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will this reduce redness?

A: This primer wasn’t designed to reduce redness, but it does a very good job of reducing the appearance of large pores and providing a smooth canvas for makeup.

Q: Is this good for mature skin?

A: This primer is hydrating and reviewers with mature and dry skin have reported positive results.

Q: Can men use this primer?

A: Yes, this primer is very suitable for men too.

Q: Does this primer work with dry or combination skin?

A: Yes, this primer works well for all skin types.

Q: What does this primer smell like?

A: It has a citrusy scent that is noticeable when you first apply it, but it doesn’t last for long.

dermalogica | Age Smart Skin Perfect Primer

Product Size: .75 fl.oz./22ml

About This Primer

The Age Smart Skin Perfect Primer by Dermalogica made the cut as one of our best cruelty-free primers. This smooth skin-perfecting primer will hide dark circles, blemishes and other imperfections while also providing sun protection for your skin too. We’re certainly all for skin care brands’ makeup products because of the additional skin benefits.

So many people love this primer because it works well with all skin tones, primes without drying, and protects while lightly moisturizing. Best of all, it’s perfect for all skin types.

  • Leaping Bunny certified company
  • PETA accredited company
  • Blends into skin well
  • SPF30 protection
  • Makes makeup application easier
  • Helps makeup last longer
  • Lightweight
  • Costs more than many other primers but worth it

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is this primer clear or tinted?

A: It goes on your skin clear.

Q: Can I use this as a moisturizer?

A: You shouldn’t use this primer as a moisturizer because it will not provide your skin with enough hydration.

Q: Does this work on normal, dry and/or sensitive skin or is it best for oily skin?

A: This primer works great on all skin types but it’s not good for people with extremely oily skin.

NYX | Studio Perfect Photo Loving Primer

Product Size: 1.01 fl.oz./30ml

About This Primer

Do you want to be ready for your close-up? Studio Perfect Primer by NYX Professional Makeup is one of our best cruelty-free primers because it keeps your makeup in place all day, is quickly absorbed and it comes in three shades depending on your needs. The Clear primer (pictured) covers fine lines and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The Green primer is best for covering up redness. The Lavender primer brightens and illuminates yellow undertones.

This is hands down one of the best primers because it spreads easily, absorbs quickly and does an amazing job at reducing enlarged pores.

  • PETA accredited company
  • Works well even with sensitive and oily skin
  • Effective at creating a matte finish and reducing enlarged pores
  • Range: available in clear, green, and lavender
  • A little goes a long way
  • Packaging makes it easy to apply
  • Instantly makes skin silky smooth
  • May not be suitable for people with very dry skin

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use this on my eyelids as an eye primer?

A: This primer wasn’t formulated to be used as an eye primer. Some people do use it this way and are happy with it while others say it doesn’t work well as an eye primer. We recommend using this product for your face explicitly.

Q: Is it fragrance-free?

A: Yes.

bareMinerals | Original Prime Time Foundation Primer

Product Size: 1 fl.oz./30ml

About This Primer

The Original Prime Time Foundation Primer from bareMinerals is the best cruelty-free primer for those of us with problem areas and imperfections. This primer was made to transform enlarged pores, uneven skin tones and textures. Not only that, but other cosmetic facial concerns into a smooth, glowing and flawless look that you’re nothing short of happy with.

  • PETA accredited company
  • Pioneers of The Power of Good Fund™ – a Female Empowerment initiative
  • Glides on smoothly without feeling sticky
  • SPF 30
  • Lightweight and easy to apply
  • Blends well
  • Works well with normal, dry, sensitive and combination skin
  • Non-comedogenic
  • May not be a good choice for acne-prone skin

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is this tinted?

A: No, this primer isn’t tinted.

Q: Will this hide enlarged pores?

A: Yes, this primer will hide the appearance of enlarged pores, fine lines and wrinkles too.

Q: How do you use this primer?

A: Apply about a dime size amount lightly over the face, wait a few minutes for it to dry before you apply any makeup.

smashbox | Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Primer

Product Size: 1 fl.oz./30ml

About This Primer

If you’re looking for a water-based primer to go with your water-based foundation, this is the best transparent primer for you. The Photo Finish Foundation Primer by Smashbox is a simple and lightweight primer that gives you a smooth and naturally beautiful look. It can cover up large pores and even hide wrinkles and fine lines but those aren’t its strongest points.

People love this cruelty-free primer because it does a good job at creating a smooth canvas for makeup application.

  • Leaping Bunny certification
  • Easy to apply
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Lightweight and oil-free
  • Gives you a long-lasting matte finish
  • Fragrance-free
  • A little goes a long way
  • May not hide wrinkles all that well

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does this have a tint?

A: No, it’s clear.

Q: Does this last all day?

A: It should last all day and most people report that it does.

Elizabeth Mott | Thank Me Later Face Primer

Product Size: 30g

About This Primer

Elizabeth Mott also has a Thank Me Later Face Primer that comes in two variants. The Illuminating face primer is great when you want to achieve that natural glow look. This Matte Face Primer directly targets enlarged pores so you can look flawless. These are some of the best cruelty-free face primers because they are extremely effective at bringing out our best looks regardless of which variant you choose.

We love this primer because it’s waterproof so you can wear your makeup worry-free in any weather. Importantly, it’s paraben-free and it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you decide to give this one a try, make sure you don’t apply too much at once.

  • PETA accredited company
  • Water & perspiration proof
  • Prevents shine
  • Paraben-free
  • Gives you a natural glow
  • Reduces the appearance of enlarged pores
  • 100% satisfaction guaranteed
  • You might find it to be a bit greasy

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can this face primer be used as an eye primer?

A: We don’t recommend that you use this as an eye primer because it wasn’t formulated for the sensitive areas of skin around your eyes. It’s better to use eye primers for your eyes.

Q: How long will this last?

A: It should last you quite some time, at least a few months. You only need to use a small amount per application.

COVERGIRL + Olay | Simply Ageless Makeup Primer

Product Size: 1 fl.oz./30ml

About This Primer

The Simply Ageless Makeup Primer from COVERGIRL + Olay is the best cruelty-free primer for smoothing and prepping your skin for a flawless look. This is an oil-free primer with anti-aging properties and ingredients from Olay.

This makeup primer duo is one of our top picks because on top of it ensuring your makeup is flawless, it also helps to reduce signs of aging and it does it all without clogging your pores.

  • Leaping Bunny certification
  • Promotes smooth and even complexion
  • Anti-aging
  • Moisturizing
  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Takes a little longer to dry than other face primers

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does this have a scent to it or have any fragrance?

A: This is a fragrance-free primer and it doesn’t really smell like anything at all.

Q: Do I still need a moisturizer before using this?

A: Even people with dry skin have reported to not feel the need to use a moisturizer with this since they felt it hydrates their skin enough. However, best practice for your skin care routine should be to use a moisturizer before you apply primer. Just remember to allow your skin to absorb the moisturizer before you begin applying the primer.

Monica Ann Beauty | Dual-Action Face Primer

Product Size: 1 fl. oz./30ml

About This Primer

The Dual-Action Face Primer by Monica Anna Beauty is a matte primer perfectly worn alone or underneath makeup to hide the appearance of large pores for smooth skin and a perfect look. A key ingredient is vitamin C which naturally boosts your skin’s collagen production for firmer and younger looking skin. Not only that, it’s also great at repairing the skin from sun damage. Another key ingredient is hyaluronic acid which does a great job at fading fine lines and wrinkles.

This is the best primer for anyone that wants to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, help keep the skin smooth and firm and for hiding large pores. We also love this matte primer because a percentage of every purchase is donated to women’s cancer research.

  • Works well with all skin types
  • Hydrating
  • Minimizes the appearance of pores, fine lines and wrinkles
  • Percentage of each purchase funds women’s cancer research
  • Translucent enough for any makeup
  • Feels very silky
  • Doesn’t contain parabens, sulfates or phthalates
  • Made in the USA
  • Looks sparkly from certain angles (may not be a minus for you)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What foundation and powder can I use with this?

A: You may use any foundation and powder with this primer.

Q: Is this good for very aged skin?

A: People with aged skin have reported amazing results with this primer.

Q: Is this good for people with oily skin?

A: Yes, many people with oily skin have left positive reviews.

Q: Does this have a scent?

A: Yes, it does have a light aroma to it.

Bellezza Secreto | Premium Foundation Makeup Primer

Product Size: .5 oz./15ml

About This Primer

Last but not least, the Premium Foundation Makeup Primer by Bellezza Secreto is one of our favorite primers to make the list. This is 1 of the best cruelty-free primers because it has all the features and benefits you want in a primer. It’s loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, hides imperfections, it’s anti-aging and it offers full coverage all day long.

If you want a flawless look regardless of your skin type, this nutrient packed primer does a great job at everything it claims. Great with or without makeup.

  • Anti-aging properties
  • Organic ingredients
  • 8 to 12-hour coverage
  • Made in the USA and FDA approved
  • Smooths and softens skin
  • Non-comedogenic, fragrance and paraben-free
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Lightweight and easy to apply
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Minimizes blotchy skin
  • Reduces redness
  • Non-greasy, oil-free formula
  • Waterproof and also hydrating
  • Hard to see how much product remains in the bottle

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does this feel smooth on the skin?

A: Yes, it feels silky smooth against the skin.

Q: Is this primer suitable for acne-prone skin?

A: Yes, it works well with oily, acne-prone and sensitive skin even with daily use.

Q: Is this an oil-free primer?

A: Yes, it is oil-free.


For any skincare routine you have or have been told about, using a primer or foundation will be the first step. Just like a brick wall or a large building, the foundations put in place are critical to stand the test of time. For your face, this is no different. Using a quality foundation/primer provides a smooth, beautiful canvas for you to apply your makeup. Finally, what better way too than to use products not tested on animals – choose the best cruelty-free primers for your perfect look.