Breaking news here, friends: No one has perfect skin. Even your friend with perfect skin doesn't have perfect skin. Every one of us has fine lines or acne or texture or discoloration.
What people with seemingly perfect skin actually have is a good primer. Maybe even several good primers.
Primer goes on before the rest of your makeup, "priming" your skin for foundation application in the same way an artist would prime a canvas before painting. Some primers make your makeup last longer. Some color-correct. Others help with oil control. Still others offer moisturization or luminosity.
If makeup teaches us nothing else, it's that for every problem, there's a product that promises a fix.
I like to use several different primers each day, on different parts of my face, to combat different skin issues. (It should come as absolutely no surprise at this point that I'm a little high-maintenance.) I have large pores on my cheeks. I have dry skin on the perimeter of my face. A little luminosity never hurt anyone.
If enlarged pores or fine lines are the bane of your existence, as they are mine, there's help. Try Benefit Cosmetics the POREfessional Face Primer ($31 at Sephora or Ulta), which minimizes the look of pores; Smashbox Iconic Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($36 at Sephora or Ulta), which fills in fine lines and smoothes the skin; or Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Primer ($37 at Sephora or Ulta), which comes in 10 formulas that address a variety of skin concerns: mattifying, smoothing, hydrating, nourishing, redness-correcting, and radiant primers for a range of skin tones. The smoothing formula has a permanent spot on my vanity. (Pores? What pores?)
Excess oil is not an issue I have, but friends who tend toward the shiny recommend Cover FX Mattifying Primer With Anti-Acne Treatment ($38 at Sephora). They say it mattifies, works to prevent and heal blemishes, and fills in fine lines and pores, to boot.
Babe on a budget? Nivea Men Sensitive Post Shave Balm ($6.49 at drugstores) doesn't know it's a primer, but it's one of the best and one of my faves. It smoothes skin and I swear it makes my makeup last longer. One (possible) downside: You'll totally smell like a dude. It's not unpleasant, but it is noticeable.
Bonus shoutout to my other favorite priming products, the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water ($32) and Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Oil ($42). Both prep and hydrate the skin, making makeup go on more smoothly. I spray on the Primer Water every day; the oil I reserve for when my skin feels particularly parched or I plan to wear a drying foundation.