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By now, most of us know that the glow and picture-perfect finish on the faces of celebrities and super models isn’t all natural born beauty. Much of it begins with makeup primer and a good foundation.

Applying primer and foundation is pretty easy, but sorting through the promises, claims, colors, and choices of foundations and primers can be more of a challenge.

What Is Makeup Primer?

If you’ve ever primed a wall for paint, you know that primer prepares the surface so that the paint goes on smoother and lasts longer. Makeup primer serves the same purpose on your face. It evens out the skin’s surface so that foundation makeup goes on better and lasts longer.

Philadelphia dermatologist Naheed Ali, MD, says, “Primers are expected to even out skin tone and get rid of sunken pores or scars while brightening the face.” Primers can fill in fine lines, deeper wrinkles, and enlarged pores while minimizing the signs of aging.

“The idea is that tiny molecules settle into small lines and pores, giving the illusion of a smoother skin texture,” Kerry-Lou Brehm, a Manhattan fashion district makeup artist, says. Primer can be worn by itself or under foundation.

What Is Foundation Makeup?

“Foundation makeup’s purpose is to even out skin color and cover blemishes and imperfections,” Brehm says. “The better the skin condition, the less foundation is needed.”

Foundations come in different shades and formulas. They also offer different benefits. Some moisturize dry skin. Oil-free formulas are best for skin that is prone to acne or breakouts. Some foundations contain silicone and others are water based, so if you’re allergy-prone, you have an alternative. Some nourish the skin in addition to improving its appearance.