First Base: Makeup Primers Demystified

Makeup primers are fairly new, and usually touted as makeup artists’ best secret. But what exactly are they, and do they work? Well, primers are essentially used to “prep” your skin before applying makeup. They function in a similar way to moisturizers, but are also supposed to even out skin tone, minimize pores and smooth over fine lines. Foundation primers claim to make for a smoother application of foundation, and prevent makeup from sliding or fading throughout the day – in other words, making it last much longer.

Do you need them?

Honestly, no. Some women swear by their favorite primer and won’t leave home without it. If you have dry or even normal skin, and you want to give it a test run, by all means. There aren’t many low-end versions of primers yet, but most brands offer samples, so I suggest you start with those before purchasing a full size. Women with combination/oily or acne-prone skin should be more wary. Most foundation primers contain silicones, which is what forms the barrier between makeup and skin. Silicones tend to block pores, though, and can trigger breakouts, so check the ingredients carefully before you try anything. Also, keep in mind that there are several foundations that contain silicones, so if you use already use one, you definitely don’t need to add a primer.

Eyeshadow bases are more appropriate for all skin types, although some will work better on dry or oily/combination skins, depending on how emollient they are. These primers’ main function is to make sure your eyeshadow lasts longer and doesn’t crease. Bases are either clear or come in various colors, so you can choose according to the shades of eyeshadow you’re using. If your budget only allows for one, pick a nude or neutral that can work with any shade of shadow.

How to apply

On clean, moisturized skin, smooth a small, dime-sized amount of primer over your face. Then, apply your regular foundation, concealer and powder.

If you’re using an eyeshadow base, dab a tiny amount onto your lid and blend lightly, using either your finger or an eyeshadow brush. Give it a few seconds to dry and then apply eyeshadow as usual.

Foundation Primers

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer or Bronzing Primer ($49 and $38, sephora)
ModelCo. Face Base ($34, sephora)
MAC Prep + Prime ($20, maccosmetics)
Tarte Clean Slate ($30, sephora)

Eye Primers/Bases

Bare Escentuals Prime Time Face & Eye Primer ($18, sephora)
Benefit Stay Don’t Stray or F.Y…eye ($24 and $22, sephora)
Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer ($20, sephora)
Urban Decay Primer Potion ($17, sephora)
Clinique Touch Tint for Eyes ($14.50, clinique)
Lancôme Color Dose ($17, lancome)
L’Oreal De-Crease ($7.99, walgreens)
MAC Paints ($16, maccosmetics)