What Is the Difference Between Primer, Foundation, And Concealer?

Knowing the difference between the three is the key to a perfect finished look.

Reviewed by Favour Akinjiyan, Makeup Artist
Written by Esha Saxena, MA (Mass Communication & Media Studies)
Edited by Asmita De, MA (English)
Fact-checked by Vaishali Sinha, MA (Comparative Literature)  • 

If you are new to the world of makeup and looking for a take-off point, the right place to start will be to understand the difference between beauty products like primer, foundation, and concealer. Yes, there is plenty to explore in the makeup game, and, as a newbie, you are excited to know it all as soon as possible. But, starting from the initial steps of makeup is your best bet. Build your base and go on from there to delve into the multitude of products, makeup techniques, beauty tips, looks, and more. Check out this article for all you need to know about the holy trinity of makeup: primer, foundation, and concealer. Scroll down!

protip_icon Keep In Mind
  • Technique: A primer is used to create a smooth base for makeup products. A foundation is used to even out the skin tone and provide coverage. Use a concealer to cover blemishes, dark circles, and other imperfections.
  • Skin Type: Choose hydrating products for dry skin. Opt for oil-free products for oily skin. Use a blend of both these products for combination skin.
  • Skin Tone: Match your foundation and concealer to your skin tone, to create a flawless, natural-looking complexion. Cool skin tones have pink or blue undertones. Warm skin tones have yellow or golden undertones. Neutral skin tones have a mix of both warm and cool undertones.
  • Coverage: If you prefer a more natural-looking finish, use only a primer and concealer.. You can spot-conceal areas that need more coverage and skip foundation. For more coverage and a polished look, use all three products to achieve a flawless complexion.

Primer – The Best Beauty Prep

When applying makeup, what goes on first? Want your makeup to last longer and look 3x times better? Use a primer. But what is a primer? A primer creates a smooth base for your foundation and other face makeup. This often-neglected essential can blur pores, smoothen fine lines, correct discoloration, and magically set your makeup in place for hours. You must always apply primer after moisturizer or your last skincare step and before your makeup.

One primer we absolutely recommend is the Porefessional Primer from Benefit. It’s silky, lightweight formula is oil-free, translucent, and complements all skin tones.

  • Serum Vs. Primer

Both, serums and primers, serve distinct purposes – serum for nourishment and treatment and primer for a polished look. A serum provides targeted skincare benefits; it penetrates deep, addressing specific concerns like fine lines or dark spots. A primer, on the other hand, creates a smooth canvas for your makeup, blurring imperfections and ensuring a flawless finish.

Clearly, a serum and primer are not interchangeable and serve very different purposes. While serums provide your skin with hydration, glow, and long-term enhancement from the inside, a primer helps you with your immediate cosmetic needs for a flawless makeup look. You may use a serum, followed by a moisturizer and sunscreen before applying a primer for any makeup look.

protip_icon Trivia
Coconut oil, milk of magnesia, B.B. creams, and CC creams are other alternatives to primer.

[ Read: Top 15 Makeup (Foundation) Primers And Their Reviews ]

Foundation – The Second Skin

Are you unsure whether to apply concealer or foundation first? Applying foundation is the second step in a typical makeup routine. The right foundation formula can help cover imperfections, even out skin tone, and give your skin the desired finish, like dewy, matte, satin, or natural. It can also help other makeup products – such as blush, highlighter, and concealer – go on much more smoothly.

Christine, a beauty blogger, shares her makeup application method for a flawless base. “I have quite the dark circles around my eye area. After I prime, I apply my foundation with a sponge. I use a light coverage foundation as opposed to a full coverage product as you can always cover blemishes with concealer (i),” she observes.

To avoid the dreaded “cakey” look, apply your foundation using a damp beauty sponge. It absorbs products, allowing you to add the ideal amount of foundation to your skin gradually. It is also important to not add too many layers of foundation to avoid looking “cakey.”

There is a wide variety of foundations available in different shades, coverages, and compositions. The three main categories include liquid, cream, and powder foundations. If you are a beginner, we recommend trying Maybelline’s Fit Me Foundation. It comes in both matte and dewy finishes in over 45 shades for a diverse range of skin tones.

protip_icon Fun Fact

Ancient Greek women from 200 BC were known to use chalk and white lead powder as a foundation.

[ Read: 10 Of The Best Foundations For Combination Skin ]

Concealer – A Magical Quick-Fix

Once you have your primer and foundation on, your skin can look quite amazing. However, nobody’s perfect, and we all have days where our skin refuses to cooperate with us. From angry zits to redness and dark circles to spots, concealer comes in handy to fix all your skin issues instantly.

Use a concealer brush or your fingertips to apply concealer. If you want it to look natural and undetectable, make sure you blend it out thoroughly.

No matter what your skin type, it is a good idea to have two concealers on hand – one to cover spots, and one to cover dark under-eye circles. We recommend NYX’s HD Photogenic Concealer for spots and Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind Eraser for dark circles.

Note: You can apply concealer before foundation in order to cover ‘problem spots’ to reduce the amount of foundation you use in the end and create a more natural look.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Erace by Max Factor is believed to be the first commercially available makeup concealer. The product was launched in 1954.

[ Read: Best Liquid Concealers Available In India – Our Top 10 ]

Check out the difference between foundation and concealer, concealer vs foundation.

Concealer vs Foundation vs Primer

PrimerFoundationConcealer
What is it?The base that allows all your other makeup to go on smoothly by creating an extra layer between your skin and the makeup.Closely resembles your skin color and is applied over a primer.A kind of color corrector that helps brighten your skin and hide imperfections.
UseIt helps makeup last longer while keeping oil and shine at bay.It evens out your complexion while hiding blemishes and redness.Masks dark circles, large pores, age spots, and blemishes
Types AvailableCream, gel, and powderLiquid, stick, cream, and mousseLiquid, balm, cream, and stick
Makeup StepStep #1Step #2Step #3

Infographic: Primer Vs. Foundation Vs. Concealer: What’s The Difference?

Applying makeup can be a difficult task. If you are just starting out, you might be wondering what the difference is between primers, foundations, and concealers. It turns out that these three items have diverse purposes and should be employed at varying stages while applying makeup. We take you through them in the infographic below to help you identify these nuances. Take a look!

primer vs foundation vs concealer: whats the difference (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Save the high-quality PDF version on your device now.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

A primer forms the base, a foundation forms your second skin, and a concealer magically makes your spots, blemishes, and other inconsistencies disappear. We hope the basic difference between primer, foundation, and concealer is clear. These different makeup products, explained above in detail, are important cosmetics you should add to your beauty routine. While we have recommended some brands for your reference, you should find products that suit your skin type. These are must-have items in your beginner makeup box. If you can master these basic layers of makeup, you will almost be at an expert level. So, get yourself these items and start practicing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use concealer without applying primer?

Yes, you can. However, if you wish to conceal stubborn spots, using a primer will help the rest of your makeup stick to your face better and last throughout the day.

Can I use concealer without foundation?

Yes. If you want a minimal look, you can skip the foundation and use concealer for a light, fresh-looking complexion.

Can I use moisturizer instead of primer?

No. A moisturizer has a different function from a primer and won’t give the same effect and results. However, both are crucial steps in makeup application. You need a moisturizer to hydrate the skin and a primer for better and longer coverage.

Can I mix my primer and foundation?

Yes. You may mix your primer and foundation to prepare a thin base for your makeup. This will help you achieve a lighter and more natural look.

Is primer better than CC cream?

No. Both are different products and have different purposes. A complexion corrector cream is tinted and can hide skin discoloration. Primers usually don’t have pigments and are meant to fill pores and let the makeup stay for long. However, you can skip primers when using cc creams.

Is primer good for oily skin?

Yes. A primer can control the excess oil and keep the oily sheen off your face when applying makeup.

Key Takeaways

  • A primer, foundation, and concealer are not the same makeup products.
  • A primer is a base for the other makeup products you apply to your face.
  • Foundation, similar to your skin tone, is applied over primer.
  • A concealer is used to cover blemishes, discolorations, spots, and more.


Watch this video to learn the difference between primer, foundation, and concealer and how to use them for the perfect makeup look!

Personal Experience: Source

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