Wishing you could just glue your foundation to your face has probably crossed your mind if you have oily skin. When your makeup separates or slides off halfway through the day, drastic times call for drastic measures, as they say. Luckily, jelly primers, a trendy new formula from Korea, is about as close as you’re going to get to foundation glue. They have a sticky texture that New York City-based makeup artist Markphong likens to “having a light layer of school glue all over your skin.” It may not sound appealing at first, but it’s seriously effective.
So, what is jelly primer, anyway? To put it simply, jelly primers are transparent gels with a tackiness that helps makeup grip to skin and last all day long. Although they feel thick when you slather them on, they melt into skin like a lightweight serum. And in case you were wondering where they get their stickiness from, cosmetic chemist Ginger King points toward a polymer called PVP and a copolymer on the ingredient lists of popular jelly primers. They work to create a film that staves off oil, retains moisture in the skin, and smooths it out.
The K-Beauty Connection
Although American beauty brands like Cover FX and Dermablend have recently launched their takes on the trend, the concept of jelly primers is nothing new in South Korea. In fact, the primer innovation originated in Seoul in 2015, thanks to actress Ha Jiwon. She helped launch the beloved J.One Jelly Pack. Its signature sticky, clear formula, which multitasks as a mask, serum, and makeup primer, even counts Blackpink’s Jisoo as a fan.
In 2018, the J.One Jelly Pack line expanded with the Red version. This was New York City-based makeup artist Tony Tulve’s introduction to the jelly primer phenomena. Now, the J.One Red Jelly Pack is a staple in his kit. Unlike the original, it’s spiked with ceramides, which King says are great for smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. Plus, it has a slight, skin-brightening pink tint, due to hibiscus and raspberry extracts.
Why Jelly Primers Work For Oily Complexions
Tulve swears by jelly primers for oily skin, in particular, because they don’t overly mattify skin like most primers for this skin type. Instead, jelly primers let skin have a glass-skin shine without any unwanted dewiness. “The primers almost seem to cut the amount of oil breaking through while still giving the skin a wonderful lit-from-within glow,” he explains.
Those with acne-prone skin should take note of jelly primers, too. Leigh Dickson, an artist from Vancouver, Canada, known on Instagram for her bold makeup, typically has a hard time finding a primer that doesn’t make her skin breakout or aggravates her cystic acne. Lately, she’s been reaching for the Dermablend Professional Insta-Grip Jelly Primer, though, and hasn’t experienced any irritation. (It’s formulated with quercus suber bark extract, which King says helps with oil control.) It also helps smooth away her acne scars.
“I’ve definitely noticed that I can go much longer between touching up,” Dickson explains. “I’m always struggling with my skin’s natural oils breaking up my foundations or oxidizing the shade and using this primer has made a big difference.”
The extra grip that jelly primers give her skin is especially important when she has active breakouts. “Sometimes, makeup won’t stick to those patches the same way,” she says. ” Having a grippy primer really evens the playing field and helps to create a consistent base across your entire face for your foundation or other products to grab onto.”
To be honest, if you don’t apply jelly primers the right way, you’ll probably hate them. To master their stickiness, Tulve recommends letting your skin-care products fully absorb first. Then, lightly tap on a dime-sized amount of the product, starting from the middle and working outward. He doesn’t mind covering the whole face with it, but Markphong prefers to only target the T-zone with it.
When you’re ready for the foundation step of your makeup routine, Tulve suggests tapping it on, too. Begin with less than you think you need, then build up the coverage for the most even finish. Once your foundation is all set, it won’t budge all day. You’ll be convinced you really did glue it onto your skin.