Yes and no. The answer is kind of tricky to explain, but I'll do my best here...
Primers are basically silicone-based fluids, gels, or liquids that sit on top of the skin and create a smooth, even surface. There are plenty of skin care products out there that have the same basic cosmetic chemistry as a primer, but they're sold as serums or moisturizers. Typically primers are oil-free and can comfortably be called non-comedogenic. BUT...
Many, many people--myself included--have had severe breakouts from traditional makeup primers like Smashbox Photo Finish, which is a HG for a ton of people. The thing you have to take into consideration is that you're applying another layer of product to your skin. And if your skin was already treated with skin care products that contain thickeners and emollients, as well as being topped with makeup products that have even more emollients... Well... That can make breakouts a real issue.
A lot of people blame the silicones, which is somewhat baffling because silicones are basically in everything. If you can't use silicone, you can't use the majority of cosmetic products on the market and most medical supplies. However, if you are allergic to latex, you will be more likely to react to primers because the silicones they use in cosmetics can sometimes be contaminated with latex. This can create an allergy that can mimic breakouts.
Regardless of that...You need to think about whether or not you really need a primer before adding one, and you may want to see if any of your motives are coming from flaws in the routine you already have. If your skin care routine is not very efficient, then your makeup will definitely suffer. And if you're choosing the wrong foundation, concealer, and powder for your skin type, then it won't go on so well either.
If you find one that can multitask, you'll be pretty happy with a primer, and that means looking beyond the silicones. Finding one that includes SPF, anti-aging ingredients, salicylic acid, niacinamide, or brightening ingredients will really be beneficial to acne. And you can also find perfectly good primers that are being sold as serums, which contain hyaluronic acid, peptides, antioxidants, or AHAs. Color correctors will allow you to use less foundation, making product overload a non-issue. Finding out what you need and choosing a formula that is as lightweight and nonirritating as possible is critical to avoiding breakouts from primers--or anything you use.
If you choose to use a primer on a regular basis, it's important that you adjust your morning routine accordingly because you may need lighter products or find you can skip some of them all together. And you may even find that the products you were using before were the very reason your makeup wasn't very longwearing in the first place, making adding one more thing a tipping point for your skin.
It's also terrible for acne prone skin to experience a lot of friction, so prolonging your makeup application with more rubbing and blending can be too much for easily stimulated skin.
Silicones can turn real ugly if you don't cleanse your skin twice a day religiously. They are semi-occlusive and create a weightless film on the skin. They kind of form a "breathable web" that won't suffocate your skin like petrolatum or waxes, but they still create a protective barrier that can shield your skin from the environment and even comedogenic products that would otherwise break you out.
If you don't apply them to clean skin, you can drive any grime or bacteria deeper into your pores. So many people skip their morning cleanse, which is a huge, huge mistake. You have to remove the products you applied the night before and dead skin cells--not just dirt.
You also need to be sure you're removing them properly at night, which isn't an easy task for anyone using a cleanser or makeup remover that isn't designed to break down silicones. Because silicones feel weightless on the skin, you'll have no idea you didn't remove them either. You need to use either a dual-phase makeup remover (like Lancome Bifacil), a cleansing oil, or oil-containing makeup remover (like Clinique TTDO Cleansing Balm) followed by cleanser that contains cocoamidopropyl betaine (like Peter Thomas Roth Gentle Foaming Cleanser). Sulfates just don't break down silicones, and most toners don't either.
You also cannot sweat in them. Period.
Sorry for being longwinded... I hope this made sense. Acne prone skin is a real pain to keep in balance--with or without primers. When all else fails, patch test. =)
Unfortunately, there is no clear yes or no answer to your question. It all depends on the primer in question. There are dozens of different formulas - each designed to address a particular issue. All of us girls out there that are unlucky enough to suffer from acne are always looking for the next "it" product that will magically make our skin clear up and look like a porcelain doll's. Unfortunately, some days I think I'd have better luck finding a white knight riding up on a unicorn to take me off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Until then, we can at least help each other out and post honest reviews of products whether we love them or hate them to help steer others down the path towards the sought after miracle products that will make all of our skin woes a thing of the past.
First things first - you should check the label to see if the product is non-comedogenic, which means it won't clog pores and create those pesky black heads or pimples that we all despise.
I have tried quite a few different primers and I prefer primers that shrink pores and create a silky backdrop for makeup to adhere to. My favorites so far have been Smashbox's photo finish primer in the apricot color that is supposed to even skin tone, Clarins, and Perfekt. Smashbox has a primer in a green color that is supposed to reduce redness, but it just made my skin tone look sallow and washed out. All three have kind of a flesh colored mousse/waxy texture as opposed to the clear liquidy type. I find that this type helps to even skin tone, shrink pores, and just over all make my skin look better. The major difference between them is the type of packaging. Smashbox is a pump (if you buy the large size), Clarins comes in a pot with a little plastic spatula, and Perfekt comes in a squeeze tube. I like the pump dispenser the best personally, but it all comes down to personal preference.
However, if you have super shiny, oily skin, you may want to lean towards a primer with mattifying ingredients. My best advice is to read the customer reviews on Sephora for any product you are considering. In my experience our fellow users give honest, straight forward advice on the products they've tested. Just keep in mind that everyone's skin is different, and what may be one person's trash is another person's treasure.
Try Cover FX's "Clear Prep" foundation primer. It's a lightweight primer with salicylic acid<= this will kill pesky bacteria that causes breakouts. My breakout prone clients love this primer
It just depends on the ingredients. Silicone based primers actually can prevent breakouts. They put a seal on your skin so bacteria and irritants can't get in BUT that also means if your skin isn't clean when you apply it that dirt will be trapped and probably cause a blemish. Also sweating in your primer can cause a break out. Just remember it's trapping in whatever is on your skin. I also don't reccommend Too Faced's primer. It has bismuth oxychloride which can often cause acne on irritated skin and also can cause cystic acne.
They could... If you use the wrong ones.
Silicones are likely to clog pores and most primers are made out of silicons to make the skin appear more smooth.
I don't have very good experiences with primers (I have oily/ combination acne prone skin), except from the ones from Shiseido and Clarins. I'd say, don't use them on a daily base... If you have good foundation, you don't need primer. I actually only use it when I go out ;-)
i recently started using Smashbox Photo Finish primer. prior to this i was using Benefit Dr. Feelgood primer and the pore reducing Benefit primer on for my nose, but they were sooo oily that i wanted to switch back to one more like the primer i originally used which was just the Sephora brand oil free primer. anyway, i'm 25 and i've never had any problems with acne in my life, but recently i've had tons of problems with acne around my t-zone area. ITS been SOOO annoying!!! and i have been trying to pin-point what has changed in my diet, exercise, sleep, skin care, etc patterns (i even had my gyno measure my hormone levels) but hadn't thought about primer (since i thought this Smashbox primer was basically like the Sephora primer and i'd never had problems with that one). BUT now after reading some of the posts in this forum i'm starting to think that perhaps it IS the primer that is causing this..... so basically i just wanted to say that perhaps primer can cause acne problems. i think it probably depends on a case by case basis, but if you start using primer and your acne flairs up, it might be worth cutting it out of your skincare regimine for a while to see if it makes a difference...i know thats what i'll be doing starting tomorrow.....
I have acne prone skin and primers dont bother me, but if you are worried i would try a silicone free primer. i personally love the Korres Oak primer. it feels so good on your skin, helps your makeup stay on all day and has the antiaging benefits.
If you dont want to use primers at all, try using the Temptu airbrush makeup system. The AirPod foundation has a built in primer and it lasts alll day