Makeup primers continue to be like a frontier not yet discovered. What do I mean by that? Well, there are so many to choose from and yet many people are still somewhat baffled by them. So I’m putting on my little makeup cape to sweep in and help you figure out what makeup primers do, whether or not you need them and of course, to share the ones I’ve been using.
But first, what are they?
The short answer is that they prepare your skin to receive your foundation or tinted moisturiser, blush, highlighter, illuminator, filter thing in a bottle and so on. Same for eyeshadow primers, they help your eyeshadows, liners etc go on easier and last longer.
Are makeup primers a must?
Nothing is, but I’ll say this. The older I get and the more I understand about makeup, the more I realise what a tremendous difference a good makeup primer can make to the overall look of your makeup and your skin while the makeup is on your face. But, the old premise and one I doubt will ever be challenged, is that the state of your skin will determine how your makeup goes on and how long it stays on.
Look, sometimes your skin has a moment, you get a spot the day before a big event, or your hormones are owning you, or maybe things are stressful and your skin is showing that. That’s where makeup comes in and of course, a good makeup primer.
Also, it’s very much ok to wear primer even if you’re not into makeup. Many primers now have SPF that can be layered over your dedicated SPF, (a must) and over your skincare products too.
Plus there are formulations that match your skin tone and skin type whether your skin is dry, oily, combination, mature, sensitive or in flux.
Here’s what a primer can do
It can smooth out the appearance of pores, fine lines, offer a temporarily lifted appearance, increase radiance and reduce the look of dullness and redness. Makeup primers can also smooth over dry patches, bumpiness or texture, and tone down the appearance of imperfections although it won’t conceal them.
When should makeup primer be applied
After the last product in your skincare routine, which should ideally be your SPF. But let’s say you’re headed out for the evening or work at night, then your primer should be applied after your moisturiser.
How to apply
Increasingly, I prefer to use a flat head brush with a small head. But makeup primer can also be applied with clean fingers while working in small sections. Plus, it’s ok to only apply makeup primer where you need it as opposed to your entire face. Once your primer is on, give it a minute or so before you begin applying your foundation or tinted moisturiser and other colour cosmetics.
Or, if you’re wearing makeup primer without applying makeup on top, let your sunscreen be the last product you layer over the primer.
A quick thing to note is that there are some skincare products that behave similarly to makeup primers. Such options include creams/moisturisers, serums and even some SPF formulas. Two creams I’ve happily used as makeup primers are Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré and Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream. Both of these are especially lovely if you have a drier skin type or if as your skin matures, you notice your hydration levels decreasing, but they can certainly be adjusted based on your skin type.
What about eyeshadow or eyelid primer
I find it difficult to approach my eye makeup without using a dedicated primer. It makes a sea of difference in how everything applies, how true the colours remain, whether or not I experience creasing and how long eye makeup stays on for. There are many that you can choose from based on your skin tone, eye sensitivity, and eyelid texture etc.
With that, here are the primers I reach for:
Too Faced Cooling Matte Skin Perfecting Primer is one that’s done a lot of rounds in the makeup world. It offers a cooling effect and even though it has a peachy tint, it sets clear on my deeper skin tone. And although it’s a matte makeup primer, it serves my dry skin very well without drying it out and saved my makeup during a [tropical getaway]. Plus the tube packaging makes it easily portable and it comes in full size and travel size.
Illamasqua Hydra Veil Rehydrating Gel is a new addition to my rotation and one I’m pleasantly surprised by. This is an innovative gel that hydrates and has self-levelling properties, which means that it does the work of evening itself out.
Think of it like nail polish that smoothes out even if it’s not applied like a pro. It’s formulated with plant extracts including microalgae along with Vitamin C and B3.
Plus it absorbs nicely, gives a bit of a cooling effect that gradually goes away and smoothes out my skin without leaving any residue to the point of being undetectable to the touch.
YSL Instant Matte Pore Refiner also creates a beautiful canvas and doesn’t dry down to leave your skin feeling uncomfortable. YSL makes beautiful primers that usually feel similar to light moisturisers, yet manages to hold makeup in place longer. I provided more details about this primer [here] and it also comes in a travel size which means you get to buy-in without paying full price.
Chanel Le Blanc Light CreatorBrightening Makeup Base gets the prize for the longest-running one in my rotation. Formulated with SPF 40, it offers a blurring effect, includes Akoya pearl extract to help brighten your skin and contains a natural hydrator that’s found in the body.
Le Blanc is also oil-free and the compact, plastic packaging makes it travel-friendly. I’ve found it’s best applied in a thin layer with a flat head brush and it works on deeper skin tones as well.
Chanel Hydra Beauty Camellia Water Cream fits into the skincare as primer category. New to Chanel’s product portfolio, it already has me in its grip. With, you guessed it, camellia water or Camillia Alba PFA plus hyaluronic acid, Vitamins C, E and Blue Ginger, it’s a light-formula moisturiser that absorbs quickly, hydrates, plumps, smoothes and illuminates your skin.
I love how it keeps my skin and my foundation looking fresh and smooth yet still very skin-like and illuminated with a believable amount of light. In other words, you know how you can tell when someone is wearing highlighter, with this you can fake that effect without the extra step.
And For Eyes
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion is also another heavy hitter that delivers a filling-in effect and helps eyeshadows to remain crease-free. It’s a holy-grail product for many people and I rate it highly because I can tap this on my eyelids quickly using my fingers or I can go the extra step and use a brush if I’m after ultimate precision. Non-irritating and easy to work into the skin, I’ve come to learn not to pack on too much of this ahead of applying my eye makeup. It also comes in six shades, so finding one to match your skin tone is easy and there are travel-size options as well.
I also like Tom Ford’s Eye Primer Duo which seems to be discontinued now. And as I was typing this while listening to the Breaking Beauty Podcast which is on my ultimate beauty podcast playlist [here], they were interviewing the founder of NYX Cosmetics (she’s since sold the company to L’oreal).
It made me remember that years ago I used their eyeshadow base and my eyeshadows did not budge at all.
Let me know how you feel about makeup primers in general and even what some of your faves are. The right one can really make a difference to your overall daily look so if you’re not yet using one, I hope these tips are useful.
So, go ahead and catch up with the last post [here] featuring some of the most remarkable lip balms I’ve had the pleasure of using, hint, there are tinted options too and see how easy it is to do a lotion mask using some cotton squares and your toner or facial essence [in this post]. It’ll be the best five minutes of your beauty routine and as always, I hope this helps.