What is Primer: How To Apply Primer & What Does Primer Do?

What is primer and what does a makeup primer do? Discover the benefits of primer and learn how and when to apply face primer in your beauty routine.

Face primers have long become a staple in makeup bags EVERYWHERE thanks to their skin-perfecting benefits. Skincare and makeup work together to create a flawless canvas and primer is a wonderful hybrid between the two that can have the power to transform the look of your skin whilst keeping your makeup in place all day. Discover how to apply makeup primer and learn exactly what it does, why you should use it and the different types including Charlotte's SPF primer, Invisible UV Flawless Poreless Primer with SPF 50 and the glow-giving Wonderglow.

Wonderglow primer still life

What is Primer & What Does A Makeup Primer Do?

What does primer makeup do? A face primer goes underneath your makeup to help your makeup apply smoothly, stay in place and give your complexion an even-looking skin tone. Some primers also provide a glow-boost and extra skin benefits like hydration and protection from external aggressors like UV rays and pollution. You can also use a primer on top of your makeup to give your skin an instant pick-me-up during the day. Wonderglow is magic for refreshing the look of your makeup. Or wearing face primer on its own will help to even the look of your skin tone and blur the appearance of blemishes for an everyday, naturally glowing look.

SPF primer still life

Why You Should Use A Primer? Benefits of a Primer

Primer benefits include preparing your skin for makeup, creating a smoother-looking canvas, and boosting the complexion's radiance. Depending on the type of primer, you can get many different skincare benefits as well as making your makeup glow. As a hybrid between skincare and makeup, it is the perfect powerhouse to keep your skin hydrated and looking flawless.

A face primer has skincare benefits as well as being an essential makeup product. This makes it the perfect start to your makeup routine!


Face primer benefits can include giving the complexion a youthful-looking glow. With anti-ageing ingredients, a primer can create the illusion of a plumper-looking canvas, helping your skin to always appear more youthful.


It’s no secret that at Charlotte Tilbury we are all about that GLOW, so an illuminating primer is high on our list of makeup and skincare priorities! Primers are ideal for adding subtle glow underneath your makeup if you want to add radiance to your makeup. If you want to wear a primer on its own, illuminating ingredients can give you an all over glow without the intensity of a highlighter. We love adding a boost to our makeup midday by tapping in Wonderglow primer on our cheekbones for a subtle highlight.


Face primer benefits and smooth skin come hand in hand. The most popular way to use a primer is before your foundation, and this is a fantastic method of creating a smoother-looking canvas. As the skincare ingredients treat your complexion, the smoothing makeup will create silky soft feeling skin that helps your face makeup glide on effortlessly. Plus, it helps your makeup last for longer!


A lot of us have issues with redness and discolouration of the skin. Face primers offer a wonderful remedy to help even out skin tone and colour-correct the appearance of redness. By doing this before your foundation or concealer, you can eliminate the look of discolouration for a more even-looking complexion. This can help you see where you need further coverage with makeup and where you can go without.


Hydrated, moisturised skin is on top of most of our skincare wish lists. By using a face primer, you can help to keep your skin nourished and hydrated.


Some primers have extra ingredients that provide protection! Charlotte's Invisible UV Flawless Poreless SPF Primer is enriched with SPF 50 and CITYSTEM™ to provide everyday protection from UV rays and modern pollution, while also blurring the look of skin and prepping it for makeup.

How To Apply Primer

  1. Thick and luscious pearly-white moisturiser in an open glass jar with its gold-coloured lid placed behind it.

    Step 1: Moisturise the Face

    Primer or moisturiser first? Your makeup will look its best if you moisturise your face to create a smoother-looking, well-hydrated complexion, then apply a skin-perfecting primer that creates a barrier between your skin and your makeup that's easy to glide foundation and concealer onto.

    When applying your face primer, it is best applied using your fingertips. Simply use a peanut-sized amount and blend all over your face after applying moisturiser to create a silky-soft canvas for your makeup look.

  2. Wonderglow is an illuminating primer that gives the skin a soft-focused, luminous finish

    Step 2: Apply Primer before or with Foundation

    Applying primer underneath foundation helps to prep the skin for makeup, creating a smooth canvas for your foundation to glide onto. To apply a face primer, pump a peanut-sized amount onto your hands and massage into the face and neck using your fingertips.

    Tilbury Tip: You can also mix your primer with your foundation to give it a moisturising finish with a dewy-looking glow!

    Shop all primer

  3. An open foundation wand in gold packaging with a pump dispenser and a medium-brown-coloured body to show the shade of the foundation inside.

    Step 3: Feel Fresh-Faced And Fabulous!

    Once you've applied your primer, continue with your makeup and enjoy an even smoother makeup application thanks to the power of primer! Or, for an effortless, natural look, wear your primer on its own to even out the look of your complexion and give it a flattering, blurring effect!

    Shop Invisible UV Flawless Poreless Primer SPF50

    Shop Wonderglow Face Primer

What is Primer: More Frequently Asked Questions

Hollywood Flawless Filter still life


It’s both! Primer is at an intersection between makeup and skincare; it combines the properties of both and is a perfect example of makeup and skincare going hand in hand. The primary role of a primer is to prep skin for makeup, so it can be categorised as a complexion product like foundation, concealer, or powder. However, many primers act in similar ways to serums or moisturisers, targeting specific skincare concerns and supporting skin health. Primers are often infused with skincare agents like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, or even SPF, so a case can be made for primer being a skincare step, as well as a makeup step.


Face primer should be applied after moisturiser and before makeup. The purpose of a makeup primer is to smooth and blur the look of your complexion to prepare it for makeup application. You can apply primer at any time of day, whether that’s in the morning after performing your skincare routine or later in the day before applying your evening makeup look.

Tilbury Tip: You can also wear face primer without applying any other makeup, darlings. Just smooth your favourite formula onto your skin to give your complexion a beautifully blurred appearance.

Discover the correct order of skincare steps


Yes – primer is best applied to your entire face to create the appearance of a more even-looking canvas. Think of your makeup look like a painting; your primer is the secret to smoothing out the look of skin before painting on makeup products like foundation, concealer, bronzer and blush. You can also apply primer to the ears and neck to prep these areas for foundation.


I always recommend applying a makeup primer before foundation to get the smoothest, most flawless application. You can apply foundation without using a primer but creating a smoothing-effect barrier between your skin and makeup with primer will help the rest of your makeup to blend more seamlessly and can help to improve your look’s longevity.

Tilbury Tip: If you decide to skip primer in your makeup routine, be sure to prep your skin with a hydrating moisturiser. I never do makeup without applying a magical moisturiser like Charlotte’s Magic Cream or Charlotte’s Magic Water Cream – they’re my beauty secrets for smoother, plumper-looking skin! After applying your moisturiser with my Tilbury Tap facial massage technique, your makeup always looks better!

Discover my Tilbury Tap technique

Discover the difference between gel vs cream moisturiser


No – the purpose of primer is not to fill in wrinkles, but rather to blur their appearance. Applying a makeup primer helps to smooth the look of the complexion and provides a flattering, blurring effect that bends and bounces light when it hits the skin. Primer can help to reduce the look of wrinkles, but it won’t fill them in, as such.

Tilbury Tip: To reduce the appearance of wrinkles, darlings, I recommend reaching for my award-winning Charlotte’s Magic Cream, an instant-turnaround moisturiser that visibly reduces the look of wrinkles in just 4 weeks!*

Shop Charlotte’s Magic Cream

Discover the difference between wrinkles and dehydration lines


When you apply foundation without primer, your makeup could be prone to creasing, caking, and separating. Primer helps to hydrate, smooth and blur the look of your complexion to create the most effective canvas for makeup. Without primer, skin may appear more textured and have a harder time meshing with your foundation. Primer can also increase the longevity of your look by creating a perfect canvas for makeup, whereas wearing foundation without a primer might result in a less successful wear time.

Discover how to stop foundation separating


Moisturising your face with a magical moisturiser like Charlotte’s Magic Cream or Charlotte’s Magic Water Cream wonderfully preps the skin for makeup. You can absolutely apply makeup to moisturised skin and create a gorgeous makeup look, however, I always recommend following your moisturiser with a makeup primer to create a smoother-looking, makeup-ready complexion with a beautiful, blurred effect.

Shop moisturiser


Once you have applied your moisturiser, it’s best to wait until it has fully absorbed into your skin before applying your primer. You can tell when moisturiser has absorbed by lightly tapping on your skin – if it continues to feel tacky, then it’s best to wait a few more moments before applying your primer. It shouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 minutes for your moisturiser to fully absorb, and for an ultra-light gel moisturiser it may take even less time.

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Your primer requires a similar process to your moisturiser; after applying face primer, let it sink into your skin before reaching for your favourite foundation. Give your primer a couple of minutes to absorb, then once it no longer feels tacky to the touch, apply your foundation over the top and effortlessly buff and blend it into primed skin.

Tilbury Tip: If you’re in a pinch darling, I recommend reaching for a handheld fan to help speed up this process.

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Author Details

Charlotte Tilbury

Founder, President, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty

With over 30 years experience, Charlotte Tilbury MBE is the world's number 1 makeup artist and British beauty entrepreneur. Charlotte established Charlotte Tilbury Beauty in 2013, which is now a record-breaking beauty brand that has won over 400 awards.

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