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  • Melissa


Updated: Dec 12, 2020

Whether it's your face, eyes, or lips...there's a primer for that! Primers are products that we apply before makeup in order to make the makeup go on smoother and last longer. Face primers often serve additional purposes such as mattiying, hydrating, or filling pores. Like foundation, the primer you choose will be very personal to your skin type. Most eyeshadow primers and lip primers are pretty universal, but there are so many different kinds of face primers that it can be hard to know which type is best.

When I test out makeup (and trust me, I thoroughly test all the products I buy), I like to be super scientific about it and isolate one variable at a time. So if I'm testing out a new primer, all the other products on my face will be ones that I usually wear and am familiar with. This way, if I see a difference in the way my makeup looks or how long it wears, I will know that the primer is the game changer.

I'm such a firm believer in hydration for all so even if you're oily, make sure you're hydrated! Hyaluronic acid is great for hydrating without making the skin oily so look for this ingredient in moisturizers and primers. You can always go in with a matte foundation or setting powder to mattify the skin afterward, but makeup hardly ever looks good on dehydrated skin (and yes, you can be oily and dehydrated at the same time).

Before I move on to talk about eyeshadow primers, here are some face primers I have tried:

Becca Backlight Priming Filter ($38 for full size): gives a beautiful glow to the skin

Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector ($39 for full size): Nothing ever prevents oil 100% in my t-zone (especially during warmer months) but this did a pretty good job at taming it.

Benefit POREfessional ($31): smooths out the skin but if the skin isn't oily, it can ball up on the skin instead of blending out smoothly

Cover FX Gripping Primer ($38 for full size): I thought I was going to love this because it felt tacky from the moment I put it on so I thought "Wow, this really is going to make my makeup stick to my face and last all day!" But the second I began applying foundation over it, I noticed what I first thought were hairs from my makeup brush sticking to my face. I looked closer and realized it was the primer and foundation pilling off of my face in the worst way I'd ever seen a primer do. So disappointing! I tried it with a couple different formulas and it did it every time. Some people love this, but it did not work for me.

gross closeup of how the primer literally rolled up off of my face lol

ELF Mineral Face Primer ($6): I used this a long time ago but I remember it being smooth with a very silicone-y slip to it

ELF Poreless Putty Primer ($8): Really smooth and super similar to Tatcha's The Silk Canvas primer which is roughly 9x the price!! A great affordable smoothing primer.

LA Girl Pro Prep HD Smoothing Primer ($5.99): nice and smooth, great affordable option

L'Oréal Magic Lumi Primer ($12.99): good for glowy look but the Becca one is a little better

L'Oréal Magic Perfecting Base ($12.99): Nice for filling in texture and smoothing skin

L'Oréal Revitalift Miracle Blur ($24.99): A nice smooth base with that slippery feel

L'Oréal Youth Code Texture Perfector Pore Vanisher (discontinued): They don't make this anymore, but it didn't do much for me.

Make Up For Ever Step 1 Smoothing Primer ($37 for full size): a great smoothing primer

Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer ($30 for full size): Slightly tacky to help foundation stick to your face. I was afraid it would do the same thing the Cover FX Gripping Primer did but luckily it worked well. I only had a sample so don't mind the picture lol.

Nivea Men Post Shave Balm ($6.49): If you don't follow beauty social media, you're probably wondering if you're reading this right. Well, you are. A YouTuber tried this as primer and when it actually worked well, it went viral in the beauty world. I do think it makes your makeup last longer so I still use it from time to time

NYX Angel Veil Primer ($16): silky smooth texture and slightly mattifying without drying the skin

NYX Bare With Me Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Radiant Perfecting Primer ($15): Such a beautiful glowy primer that makes the skin look gorgeous! The CSS Oil has many skin benefits and you can even wear it without foundation for glowy, healthy-looking skin.

NYX First Base Primer Spray ($8): spray a generous amount to help foundation last longer, especially before super matte foundations to help them blend better

Sorry for the grainy picture, it's all I could find!

NYX Honey Dew Me Up Primer ($17): Such an amazing primer! It's like a primer and skincare all in one. It hydrates the skin and makes it glowy and radiant while nourishing with tons of great ingredients, such as honey, collagen, and hyaluronic acid.

NYX Hyrda Touch Primer ($14): so good for hydrating, feels nice and calming on the skin and makes makeup glide on

NYX Hydra Touch Oil Primer ($14): good for very dry skin, helped me when my skin was flaky. Even oily skin can use this since it absorbs into the skin. A little goes a long way so I just use about 3 drops for my whole face

NYX Total Control Drop Primer ($17): An average primer- makes the skin a little satin-y. Didn't exaggerate oil or dryness. I don't know that it does a whole lot but if you just need a basic primer to literally prime your skin for foundation it's not bad.

NYX Pore Filler ($14 for full size): Really does blur lines and pores

NYX Shine Killer ($14): I've seen it help shine on some people and make others (like me) more shiny so it's going to be very personal to your skin. Try NYX Can't Stop Won't Stop Primer if you're super oily, but only put it in your oily areas such as the T zone because it is SUPER mattifying

NYX Soft Focus Tinted Primer ($14): super smooth and I always seem to have a good makeup day when I use this. Never thought I'd like it so much, but I believe it is discontinued.

NYX Total Control Drop Primer ($17): I feel like this is the ultimate primer for someone who says their skin is normal and they're not looking for any specific features in their primer. It works best with the NYX Total Control Drop Foundation, but in general it will give a light base layer to help your foundation apply smoothly and last longer.

Pixi Flawless and Poreless Primer ($22.49 for full size): I never really noticed anything great about this one, but it was supposed to be smoothing

Rimmel Stay Matte ($6.99): I don't know if they make this anymore but it was very matte

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($36 for full size): Super smooth, silicone feeling. Blurs the look of pores.

Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Primer ($42 for full size): Good for hydrating, but the NYX Hydra Touch is just as good if not better

Smashbox Photo Finish Oil & Shine Control Primer ($39 for full size): smooth, reduced shine a bit but not completely

Smashbox Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Primer ($39 for full size): Similar to the Benefit Porefessional- If your skin is normal to dry, it might ball up on your face when you try to smooth it on. Otherwise, it's smoothing and blurring.

Tatcha The Silk Canvas Protective Primer ($52 full size): Really silky smooth to create a nice even base for makeup application. Not sure I saw a difference in how well my makeup lasted, but my skin definitely felt smoother. Super pricey though.

Too Faced HangoveRx Replenishing Primer ($32 for full size): Another good hydrating primer but I never fell in love with it enough to repurchase

Eyeshadow primers: One day, I stopped and said, "Is this stuff really necessary?" So I applied my eyeshadow like I regularly would without a primer underneath and immediately noticed a difference. Not as much pigment was showing up and colors weren't blending as smoothly as they usually do. Most eyeshadow primers are transparent and don't add any color so they work with all skin tones. Depending on how quickly the formula dries, I will set it with powder or an eyeshadow similar to my skin tone before blending eyeshadows over it. The last thing you want is your eyeshadow clinging to a wet patch of primer and looking crazy. I've tried many eyeshadow primers over the years, some listed below. If there's not comment with it, that means I liked it and there was nothing too unique about it.

Essence I Love Stage Eyeshadow Base ($3.49): Not bad but I never liked the color of it

Lorac Behind the Scenes Eye Primer ($23 for full size)

NYX HD Eye Shadow Base ($7)

NYX Pigment Primer ($6.50): particularly good for loose pigments

Too Faced Shadow Insurance ($20 for full size): I've had this separate and be really oily but when it's not separated, it's good.

Urban Decay Primer Potions ($24 full size)

Wet n Wild Fergie Take on the Day Eyeshadow Primer (discontinued?)

Wet n Wild Photofocus Eyeshadow Primer ($5.49 for full size)

It is also worth noting that some people enjoy using different kinds of products as eye shadow bases. Some use concealer, cream eyeshadow, or eyeshadow sticks to create an even base for eyeshadow. I suggest setting these products with a light layer of powder or eyeshadow. I've successfully used concealer in the past so while I prefer primers, you can definitely get away with concealer if you're traveling or just want to save money. Also, if you have a lot of discoloration or veins in your eyelids, using concealer helps cover that up so the eyeshadows show up more true to their color. Pictured below is a shadow stick I used to use by Jordana in the shade Continuous Almond and a Cream Eyeshadow by Maybelline.

Lastly, I don't usually use a lip primer but I almost always line AND fill in my lip with a lip pencil before applying lipstick or gloss. I just think this helps with the neatness of my application and extending the wear of my lipstick.

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