serum as makeup primer

I am a Paula’s Choice fan girl. When she speaks skincare, I usually listen.

But when I came across a certain video by her Skincare Team (I’d link to it, but it has since been removed), I did a double take. The lovely Desiree was talking serums and mentioned you can use them as primers, too.

Serums as primers? Sure, a serum can double up as a moisturizer if you have super oily skin, but a primer? I am not so sure. In theory, the idea makes sense. In practice, not so much. Here’s why:

Why Using A Serum As Makeup Primer Makes Sense

Makeup primers are key to longlasting, flawless makeup. They:

  • Smoothen out imperfections, allowing foundation to glide on more smoothly
  • Fill in fine lines and wrinkles, making them look smaller
  • Create a barrier on the skin that prevents the pigments in your foundations from coming in contact with your natural oils, so your face doesn’t turn orange

A lot of silicones-based serums, like Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum and Paula’s Choice Resist Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum, can do the same.

And more. A good serum can fight wrinkles, fade dark spots and hydrate your skin to boot. A lot of primers make you the same sweet promises, too but they don’t have enough skincare goodies to deliver.

So, in theory, using a serum as a primer seems to make a lot of sense. You’re saving money and time in the morning, but getting double benefits, right? Not so fast.

Related: Why A Serum Is The Most Important Product In Your Skincare Routine

Don’t know which skincare ingredients you can mix and match together? Download your FREE “How To Layer Actives Like A Pro” cheatsheet to find out:

The Problem With Using Serum As Makeup Primer

There’s a reason why your serum goes on BEFORE your moisturizer. Moisturizers create a barrier on the skin that locks moisture (and everything else that’s on the skin) in.

If you do serum first and moisturizer second, your serum won’t have any chance to evaporate into thin air. But do it the other way around and that lightweight serum will find it really hard to pass through your moisturizer.

You can put primer on top of moisturizer because that’s supposed to stay on the top of your skin. How can it create a smooth canva for your makeup if it’s absorbed deep into your skin?

Serums, on the other hand, are supposed to be absorbed into the skin. They work better and faster when their active ingredients can penetrate through to the deepest layers where they can boost collagen, inhibit melanin production, and do all those things that keep your skin young and healthy.

If you take Desiree’s advice and use your serum as a primer, you can forget about its antiaging benefits. It will smoothen out your skin and make your makeup look better indeed but it won’t be able to fight dark spots and wrinkles as well as it should.

I think I’ll stick to a separate makeup primer, thank you very much.

The Bottom Line

I usually agree with the advice dished out by Paula Begoun and her team, but I guess there’s always an exception. Serums are the workhorses of skincare and you’re losing most of their antiaging properties when you use them as primers. No, thank you!