The Best Water-Based Primers For Lightweight & Breathable Makeup

Best Water-Based Primers

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Everybody agrees on the importance of a good makeup primer. But things get confusing as to which primer to pair with your foundation: water-based or silicone-based. Well, the best water-based primers are the ones to go for if you’re looking for a light, hydrating, and shine-free formula.

Silicone-based primers are amazing when you simply want to smooth out the skin texture on aging skin or blur out pores on oily skin. But because they can sometimes feel heavy on the skin, water-based primers tend to be the safer option for people with oily and acne-prone skin.

As water-like substances cannot clog your pores or feel heavy and greasy on the skin, a water-based primer is the one to layer under your foundation.

But hey, water-based primers are not just good for oily skin but also make great primers for dry skin! They’re like a replenishing base to get an extra layer of hydration under your foundation with some added smoothing benefits.

But let me tell you more about your options. Water-based primers are mostly silicone-free and are likely to be oil-free. On the other hand, silicone is pleasantly smoothing and blurring. That’s why some brands may choose to use it in little amounts even in water-based primers too.

So know that lumping primers into water-based or silicone-based is not a healthy starting point to make assumptions. A water-based primer can still contain tiny amounts of oils and silicones. And more often than not, ‘water-based’ can be a marketing trick.

Now, if you had oily skin looking for something extremely light, and you immediately added that primer to your cart because of the “water-based” label, there’s a chance you’d be disappointed.

Does that mean they’re bad? Absolutely not! It’s just about knowing what you’re buying. And not to worry, I’ll list down below which ones are completely water-based, oil-free, and silicone-free.

Before we dig in, remember to properly layer your makeup. Use a water-based foundation on top of your water-based primer. And use a silicone-based foundation on top of a silicone-based primer.

And if you need more information on how to find the right water-based primer, refer to the end of the page.

The Best Water-Based Primers

Find below the best water-based primers.

1. Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer - Best Water-Based Primers

This silicone-free and oil-free makeup primer is a long-lasting hydrating base. It’s good for all skin types but especially ideal for oily skin. It’s like your daily moisturizer. And it’s one of the best water-based primers for creating a soft and fresh base for your foundation.

The gel formula hydrates with hyaluronic acid, aloe, vitamin B5, aka panthenol, and vitamin B3, aka niacinamide. It’s basically skincare with added makeup-enhancing benefits.

2. Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer

Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer - Best Water-Based Primers

This one has been a hit since day one for all skin types, including oily skin. Formulated with coconut water, it’s indeed replenishing for dehydrated skin. It works as a bridge to bind your foundation to your face and give your makeup a boost.

This is a water-based, silicone-free primer. But it’s not oil-free! But because it doesn’t have a greasy, heavy feel on the skin, you can comfortably use it even if you have oily skin. If you’re prone to acne, maybe skip this one.

3. Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Primer Water

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water - Best Water-Based Primers

This one is literally a bottle of water. It’s absolutely silicone-free and oil-free. It’s a multi-tasking product that can be used as a primer and as a setting spray. And it’s amazing both for prepping the skin and setting your makeup.

The primer is an instant boost of hydration for the face. It’s really easy to apply makeup over it. And it doesn’t feel like you’re layering products at all. It’s all electrolytes to replenish the skin!

4. Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Illuminating Primer

Now, if you have dry skin or mature skin and looking for a water-based formula that’s really moisturizing, this is it. Because even though it’s water-based and silicone-free, it does contain oils. And that’s great when you need radiance, and moisture on dry skin.

This is an illuminating creamy formula that leaves the skin radiant. It’s enhanced with jojoba oil and squalane, making the foundation super easy to apply over it. The makeup base smoothes out the surface of your face by minimizing the appearance of pores and gives a healthy glow without the grease.

Related: The Best Primers For Covering Up Redness

5. Ilia True Skin Radiant Priming Serum

Ilia True Skin Radiant Priming Serum - Best Water-Based Primers

Just like their serum foundation, this makeup primer is also infused with skincare. The water-based serum primer is oil-free, and silicone-free, and comes with a hefty list of hydrating goodies. Glycerin, aloe water, and gluconolactone hydrate and plump up the skin.

The primer has a nice, silky finish. It’s not necessarily a skin-blurring primer. But because it’s so hydrating, it reduces the look of texture and enlarged pores too. Plus, the vegan formula is fragrance-free! So whether you have dry skin or oily skin or aging skin, this water-based primer is going to make all the difference!

6. Nyx Bare With Me Hydrating Jelly Primer

Nyx Bare With Me Hydrating Jelly Primer - Best Water-Based Primers

Sometimes, your skin sees your foundation as a hostile entity and refuses to cooperate. For those times, prime your face with this one to create a wholesome makeup base. It’s water-based, oil-free, silicone-free, and super budget-friendly!

The primer simply hydrates with aloe, glycerin, and cucumber. It prevents your foundation from separating and really is a gripping primer. Apply a tiny amount of the jelly-textured primer for a flawless, airbrushed finish.

7. MAC Prep + Prime Natural Radiance

MAC Prep + Prime Natural Radiance

This is a water-based, silicone-free primer that comes in two shades to better match different skin tones. It comes in pink and yellow and for lighter skin tones and deeper skin tones respectively. It’s an illuminating primer and has a very light lotion texture to it. Though radiance looks good on anyone, and the formula is non-comedogenic, the primer is not oil-free.

So if you have oily skin, beware. It hydrates with sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, and squalane and really softens the skin with shea butter. Plus, it has energizing caffeine and antioxidants like vitamin C, and vitamin E, practically making it a water-based, anti-aging primer.

How To Know If Your Primer Is Water-Based

First of all, ‘water-based’ would make things inconclusive as almost all makeup primers contain water. Water-based roughly suggests that the primer probably doesn’t contain silicones or contains only small amounts. It means it’s mostly hydrating and contains humectants or light emollients.

Think of them as easy on silicone but heavy on water. So it’s not all silicone or oil so much so that it’s smothering your skin, but it’s not all water to the extent that it’s basically a face serum.

To understand if the primer is water-based, check the ingredient list and see if there are any silicones listed very high up on the list. Even if the product says ‘water-based’, still verify it yourself.

What Is Good About Water-Based Primers?

The idea with water-based primers is to prime the skin with a product that’s like a moisturizer but with makeup-enhancing benefits. In that sense, water-based primers can work great for people with dry skin in a few ways.

Firstly, people with dry skin usually use water-based foundations. And water-based foundations usually require a water-based primer.

And secondly, water-based primers can help people with dry skin by reducing flakiness on the skin, thereby preventing that flaky foundation look.

Water-based primers are also great for people with oily skin. As long as you find the right formula, you can benefit from a water-based primer especially if you have oily and dehydrated skin.

What Is Not So Good About Water-Based Primers?

Probably the only downside of water-based primers is that they cannot be as skin-smoothing as silicone-based primers. In that sense, you shouldn’t expect a perfectly smooth base if you have very textured skin. You need silicones to fill in pores and wrinkles for that.

How To Choose a Water-Based Primer For Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, go for water-based primers that are oil-free but not necessarily silicone-free. Not all silicones are bad and heavy. In fact, there isn’t even any proper science to support that.

By opting for an oil-free one, you get to keep your pores clean. But with the added silicones, you can still get that texture-smoothing benefits.

How To Choose a Water-Based Primer For Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, try water-based primers that also pack hydrating goodies. You can avoid silicones but embrace oils in your primer.

Read Next: The Best Foundation Alternatives For Breathable Makeup

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