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Best Primer for Pores and Acne-Prone Skin (I Tried Them All!)

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I have acne-prone skin that is oily with hyperpigmentation, ice pick scarring, and HUGE pores. So when I set out to find the best primer for acne-prone skin, I was extremely selective. Below are the primers I bought and tried, including which ones I think are best.

(Psst…read about my acne journey here.)

TL;DR

Let’s Get This Straight

First things first: You cannot really “fill in” or “shrink” your pores. Lower your expectations. NO primer (and I feel like I’ve tried them all) will completely disguise your pores or acne scarring. BUT the main goal is to “blur” the pores by taking away the shine and fill them in a tiny bit with the use of silicone.

What I’m Looking for in a Primer

  • Oil and shine control
  • Blurs pores and craters
  • Keeps makeup in place throughout the day
  • Easy to apply

More Important Than Primer? MOISTURIZER

When your skin is dry, every flaw shows up more dramatically beneath your makeup. So be sure to apply a hydrating moisturizer like Neutrogena Hydro Boost to plump up your skin and better disguise your pores.

Best Primer for Acne-Prone Skin Overall: Smashbox Photo Finish Minimize Pores Primer

Pros

  • Blurs pores
  • Creamy, thick
  • Controls oil and shine

Cons

  • Pricey

The texture of this one is thick and creamy, and it has a nude color. The color doesn’t actually cover your skin color, but if you, say, wipe it off with a white napkin, you’ll see color transfer onto the napkin.

The Smashbox primer does a good job of instantly blurring your pores, so they don’t look so large. It also mattifies the skin and holds my makeup in place even after I sweat from working out. I tested this side-by-side with the NYX Pore Filler, and the Smashbox did a better job of mattifying. The side with the NYX was noticeably shinier than the side with the Smashbox.

NYX Pore Filler

Pros

  • Blurs pores
  • Cheap price

Cons

  • Liquid is rather dry and can therefore splatter everywhere when you’re trying to squeeze it out

The texture of the NYX Pore Filler is strange—an odd mix between powder and liquid. You squeeze it out, but when you rub it, it turns quite powdery. Not creamy. It does have a good blurring effect though.

Best Primer for Acne-Prone Skin Drugstore: L’Oreal Magic Perfecting Base

Pros

  • Blurs pores
  • Creamy, thick
  • Controls oil and shine
  • Cheap price

Cons

  • Unsanitary to keep sticking fingers into jar

This has a thick, creamy consistency as well and does a fantastic job of “filling in” and blurring large pores. This primer was my go-to primer in college, and I would get complimented on how smooth my skin looked. BUT, I don’t like that it’s in a jar, as it doesn’t feel as sanitary as one that you squeeze out of a tube, and I still think the Smashbox primer does slightly better at masking pores and texture.

E.L.F. Poreless Putty Primer

Pros

  • Blurs pores
  • Helps makeup stay in place longer
  • Cheap price

Cons

  • Not good for oil or shine control
  • Feels rather thin, like the coverage could be better
  • Unsanitary to keep sticking fingers into jar

Of all the primers on this list, this one is the thinnest and stickiest–but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! It is supposed to help your makeup “stick” to your face. It does leave a more dewy finish, so it might not be best for people with very oily skin.

The Verdict

If you can afford it, get the Smashbox primer as it’s the best for minimizing pores and oil. But, the L’Oreal one is almost as good and way cheaper.

Overall, ANY of the primers on this list are better than no primer at all. They all blur the pores somewhat and create a more even base for you to apply foundation and concealer over. Unfortunately there isn’t a product that’s going to hide textured skin completely, but these primers can help smooth things over a bit.

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