At its most simplistic level, a makeup primer is a base coat for your foundation, creating a smooth and flawless surface onto which your other makeup products will sit more effortlessly and, more importantly, stay put for longer. Professional makeup artists swear by the powers of a primer for brightening and smoothing your complexion. It’s the in between stage, bridging the gap between your moisturizer and your foundation.
Consider a primer to be like an undercoat!
When you are preparing something like a wood surface or a wall to paint, you don’t just slap a final coat on and hope for the best, do you? You lovingly prepare the surface first to ensure that the final result is spectacular and nothing short of perfection. No lumps, no bumps, no flecks, or imperfections, just a beautiful, flat, smooth finish. So with a primer, the look that you are going to achieve for your skin is that of uniformity and complete flawlessness. A primer gives you that extra help to ensure your skin is simply stunning.
But I don’t really wear very much makeup; why do I need a primer?
It doesn’t actually matter how much or how little makeup you wear, you can still benefit from using a primer. Even if your daily makeup look is simple with a beauty balm, slick of mascara, and nothing more on your lips than a touch of gloss, you should still consider investing in and regularly using a primer. In addition, primers are available to treat a whole host of other common skincare concerns from rosacea to acne, and uneven texture to fine lines and wrinkles.
Don’t skip this essential stage
Tempting as it might be to just go straight to popping on your foundation, a primer really is worth the investment if you want to have beautiful skin, and you should consider using one if you’re not doing so already. Let’s review some of the pros and cons of primers and why a primer might quickly become one of your favorite products in your beauty arsenal.
What is makeup primer?
Makeup primer is available in various consistencies like gel, cream, and powder-and you can even get them in a spritz spray solution. Essentially, what a makeup primer does is prepare your skin for all your other lovely products by giving them something to hold onto so to speak. It’s like an invisible protective bond and will help give your makeup real staying power. No need to touch up midafternoon when your usual foundation seems to have just disappeared into thin air! With a primer, you’ll have great results all day long.
What is the key ingredient in a primer that makes it so effective?
Many makeup primers are formulated with a silicone-based polymer, and it is this polymer that creates that smooth and even surface. You might regularly see the ingredient dimethicone listed in your primer. Unfortunately some people are allergic to this, particularly anyone who suffers from cystic acne, so before applying a primer to your entire face always check the full ingredients list and do a batch test to make sure that you don’t have an allergy.
If you do have a tendency to breakout you could invest in a primer that specifically has a spot fighting treatment built in. There are plenty of brands producing primers that contain active ingredients like willow bark and salicylic acid which help control unwanted breakouts. Again, just take a look at the list of ingredients so that you can invest in one that best suits your individual requirements.
What about fine lines and wrinkles?
This is another area in which a primer is a godsend! They can be very effective at helping to smooth out and conceal fine lines and wrinkles, and they are nothing short of miraculous in minimizing large pores. If you have large pores, you know just how difficult it can be to conceal and correct them with foundation alone and the thicker the foundation, the more it will just sit lifeless on your skin, bringing even more attention to those crow’s feet that you might be developing.
With a primer then, you can afford to go lighter with your foundation as the primer will deliver that all important job of making your pesky pores appear smaller. Depending on your own unique skin texture, decide on whether you want a cream, gel, or powder based primer. If you want to even out a bumpy complexion, then go for something with a creamier texture.
Primers aren’t just for your face either
A primer is really very effective when applied specifically to your eyelids. Probably two of the trickiest things to get right and to keep fresh and perfectly in place all day long are your eyeshadow and eye liner. Even if you buy something that claims to be long lasting, you’ll no doubt find that after just a few hours it’s smudged or slipped, leaving you looking perhaps a little panda like!
If you apply a primer first to your eyelids, not only will it give your eye makeup staying power, but it will also prevent unnecessary creasing and create a mattifying base. Applying a primer to your eye socket area will have a three-in-one effect. It will work to hold your makeup in place and prevent unwanted smudging, absorb oils throughout the day that might make your makeup slip and slide, soften out fine lines around your eyes, and work to counteract any redness.
Let’s consider in more detail what an eye primer can do for you
A primer that has been specifically designed for use on the eyelids will probably be either liquid or cream like in texture. As noted above, it will help your eye shadow and your liner go on more smoothly and keep it there for longer. You could compare it to a piece of double sided tape, giving you real staying power! What’s more though, it will intensify the colors of your shadows and make them look even more dramatic and brighter. Without a primer, eyelids do have a tendency to crease and also get quite greasy, so it’s a wise decision investing in an eyelid specific primer too, especially if you are serious about having an overall immaculate look.
Here are our top tips on how to get the best out of your eye primer.
Step 1. After your usual daily cleanse, tone, and moisturize routine, add some eye primer to your lids via either a flat brush or just blotting on with your fingertips.
Step 2. Ensure that you have applied just dap to create a nice thin, even layer and that it has been thoroughly absorbed. Less is most definitely better when it comes to your eyelids.
Step 3. With soft and gentle but fairly efficient and rapid movements, start to blend the formula into your skin. Work from your lash line all the way up to your brows so that you have a really even texture and this way, your brow products will also stay put throughout the day or night too.
Step 4. Don’t forget about your lower lashes either. Chances are that you will be looking to apply some shadow shading or eyeliner to your lower lids, too, especially if you are going for a full night time glamor look, so be sure to avoid neglecting your lash line. Now just wait for a minute for the formula to dry, and you are good to go!
Note that while so far we’ve been talking about face primers, you can also get primers specifically for your body or your lashes. In fact, a great lash primer will make you look like you are wearing false eyelashes! Generally, a lash serum will contain Vitamin E and Glycerin to condition and coat your lashes but without any of the clumpy mess, so you can really build up a good coverage and deliver some real drama without the need for lash extensions or falsies.
Why not consider a lip primer too?
A lip primer will, you guessed it, help your lipstick stay put for longer and give you a more dramatic and defined pout. A lip primer is a great extra product to help your lipstick stay exactly where you want it, on your lips! Go for one with a hydrating base and you will have softer, plumper, and more vibrant colored lips that stand the test of time all day long.
How should you be applying a face primer to achieve the best results?
Good news here ladies! Unlike with most other products where you will probably be sold a specific tool like a brush, sponge, or some other fancy applicator, with a primer there’s nothing wrong with your good old fingertips, especially if you are covering a large surface area in one go, which is the beauty of a primer.
You might then opt to do a second targeted touch up on specific areas that require a bit of extra love and product with something like your concealer brush. So while we may well be recommending that you invest in a new stage in your makeup routine by adding a primer to the equation, at least you won’t have to buy a new brush to apply it!
How to apply a primer correctly?
There are four key stages to applying your makeup primer correctly, so let’s quickly run through them here to ensure that you get the best possible flawless looking results.
- Cleanse and tone your face first. Follow up with your favorite daily moisturizer. A primer is not a substitute for an essential moisturizer even though yours might well have hydrating and SPF properties built into it.
- Let your moisturizer absorb. Apply only a very small amount of primer. Too much and you’ll make your foundation appear uneven which is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
- Blend with your fingers. Use circular sweeping motions, starting from your t-zone and working outwards. You can also invest in a special under eye specific primer as this area is more delicate and here you don’t want anything too thick that is going to sit in any fine lines and make them look more pronounced.
- Follow with your foundation. Or if you prefer a more natural look, just wear your primer on its own.
Less is more
When it comes to applying a primer, as previously mentioned simply using your fingertips so that you can get a lovely, evenly distributed texture works well. And again, we’re talking less is more. There’s no need to pile on the primer; just a small amount is all you need to be highly effective. By less, we literally mean like the size of a raisin.
Here’s a little trick you should consider trying too!
While you are applying your primer with your fingertips you are getting the blood activated and circulating fresh flow to the surface of the skin. Facial massage is a really effective way to eliminate any puffiness you might be suffering from when you wake up in the morning. So make a primer part of your daily routine, and while you are at it, work the product in with your fingertips, giving your skin a really effective facial massage to really get your glow on.
If you are so inclined, now might be a good time to also give yourself a bit of additional self-love and practice a few positive mantras or quick five-minute meditation. See, we told you that a primer could quickly become your new best friend. Simply by adding this extra stage into your daily routine you are now already looking more radiant, feeling more positive and ready to face the day, and you’ve not even gotten around to putting your favorite lipstick on yet!
Wearing a primer in extreme weather conditions
If you are lucky enough to be heading off to the tropics or anywhere that’s likely to be hot and humid, then makeup is probably the last thing on your mind as you seriously doubt its staying power. Consider applying a primer first for guaranteed longer lasting results and not an oil slick in sight!
Go it alone
We mentioned earlier on that a primer is a great investment even if your look is more “less is more” than fully made up. A primer is great just worn alone too, though. It will automatically upgrade your skin and give it a very polished and pristine appearance, and it can be a fabulous and lighter alternative to a foundation.
Let’s take a look now in more detail at the types of primers available
Before you invest in a primer, you need to decide which one is right for you and your particular skin type. Do you want to reduce the size of your pores, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, or inject an extra show of hydrating power into your skin? Ask yourself these questions to help you determine your key concerns.
- Does the size of your pores make you feel self-conscious?
- Is your skin on the oily side and you need help to mattify it?
- Could you do with an extra dose of moisture?
- Are you looking for your primer to assist with anti-aging?
- Do you need something that will really effectively even out your complexion?
How about trying out a tinted formula or what’s known as a Color Correcting Primer?
You’ve probably seen them in the beauty stores and wondered what the point of them is but a colored primer can be very effective at tackling particular skin concerns. You can get them in beautiful looking shades of pink, lilac, and green, and each one has been designed that way to tackle a different problem.
Try a primer with a light pink tinge if you have dull skin that you want to brighten. Lilac shades will also bring pretty life and vibrancy to anyone with sallow, yellow toned skin, whereas a green based formula is just fabulous for reducing redness. What each of these is doing is preparing a beautiful canvas ready for you to create your makeup masterpiece!
Let’s look closer at color correcting primers and what each color is really effective at combatting.
Green – the opposite of red in the color spectrum, anything with a green hue is going to be really effective at reducing redness. Use it sparingly and don’t cake it on too heavily though.
Purple & Lilac – this is a great option to really liven up a dull and sallow complexion. If you have undertones of yellow and a sallow looking skin tone, then this color works like magic to counteract that and inject some healthy brightness into your look.
Orange – anything with an orange or citrusy hue is going to bring great warmth to your complexion. Orange is also really good at covering up under eye circles and also age related spots and hyper pigmentation. Also look out for peachier and more salmon colored tones.
Pink – this is fabulous for reducing dark shadows under the eyes and around the mouth area, too. Near the opposite of green in the color wheel, a pink based primer has a real highlighting effect.
White and neutral – you’ll find lots of primers are a white color and that’s because this is a real multi-tasking color that is effective enough to help hide blemishes and dark circles but will still bring brightness to your complexion and inject it with luminosity. It also delivers a more natural and subtle finish.
Yellow – a makeup artist’s secret weapon and used on many Hollywood “A listers” who’ve been burning the candle at both ends so to speak! A yellow based primer really helps to correct tired and lackluster skin by bringing warmth and a natural healthy glow back to the complexion.
Choosing the right primer for your skin type
Just like it’s important to choose the right foundation for your skin type, you also need to pay attention to your primer. By skin type what we generally mean is Oily, Dry, or Mature.
Oily skin – you are going to want something that delivers a mattifying effect and will tackle any unwanted shine. A mattifying primer will absorb oil and control the over-production of sebum with ingredients like witch hazel most likely included.
Dry skin – needs something with more essential hydration to bring much need nourishment and moisture to parched skin. If you opt for a hydrating primer, you will of course still need to apply your daily moisturizer first, but you should find that your foundation now soaks into your skin more smoothly and flawlessly.
Mature skin – as we get older our skin changes tone and texture, and the wrong products can make it look worse, so look for a primer that is going to keep your complexion looking bright and even and won’t clog your skin too much. Go for products that have additional ingredients like Hyaluronic filling sphere, Vitamin B3, and Lychee extract to really boost the appearance of mature skin.
We’ve talked about the importance of color correction and anti-aging properties in primers, but they can do so much more than that, and there are many different kinds available. You could go for a Blurring primer, to give you that Instagram ready face without the filter!
Using light reflecting technology these are a really popular choice to create a lovely soft focus air brushed effect. How about an illuminating primer to bring out your inner goddess glow? Apply all over the face as you would any primer, but then pay special attention to your high points with an extra layer to accentuate your nose, brow bone, cheekbone, and Cupid’s bow for a lovely “light from within” effect.
What if you really can’t afford to invest in a new primer?
Well, the good news here is that you can formulate your own DIY primer! Yes, get busy in the kitchen and create something that will do a similar job from a few key ingredients you might have at home allowing you to perfect your own uniquely personalized primer and save yourself some money to boot! Let’s have a quick run through the steps you need to follow to create your own homemade primer.
First up, gather together all the essential items you are going to need. You are going to want a foundation that matches your own skin tone, some Aloe Vera gel, moisturizer and preferably also an SPF. Always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the important issue of saving your skin. Next up grab yourself a pot, jar, or container of some kind and mix all of your ingredients. One tablespoon of foundation should mix up to create a nice generous amount of primer. You want to have equal parts Aloe Vera gel and foundation in order to create the right consistency and blendability.
Next add about half a tablespoon of your favorite moisturizer, along with a couple of generous squirts of your sunscreen to give you that all important SPF coverage. Now get to mixing like a master apothecary! You could just use something like a Q tip or even a small teaspoon, but the trick here is going to be to really mix it up well and make sure that there are no lumps or thick build ups of product.
That’s it! You are done. Your very own DIY primer at just a fraction of the cost. Now all you need to do is store it in a cool dry place ready to use. It should last for at least a year, and you can just give it a good old stir every now and then if it’s starting to congeal a little.
Finally, let’s take a look at some of the key ingredients that might also go into your primer.
As we have already established there are different types of primers from face to eyes, to lashes. So depending on what they have been created for, you might find a host of complimentary ingredients to help make them more effective.
A foundation face based primer my contain something like salicylic acid in order to make it more abosorbant. You will probably also find plenty of antioxidants packed into your primer, like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as hydrating elements like grape seed extract and green tea extract. Right at the beginning of the article we talked about silicone which can be a key ingredient giving a primer its glossy texture.
Dimethicone or cyclomethicone may also be listed. If you are opting for a more natural, organic based brand though, quite likely they will have no added preservatives, oils, or fragrances present. Regardless, it is a good idea to check for SPF which is a vital ingredient today in most skincare solutions. Then again, there are also mineral based powder options that might contain finely ground mica or silica. Do your research, decide what you want, and then check out the list of ingredients before committing to your new primer purchase.
What is makeup primer?
By way of a quick closing recap, a primer could very well do all of the following:
- Diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- That’s because your primer will have a luxurious and soft velvety texture, ideal for temporarily smoothing over the visible signs of aging
- Give longevity to your makeup and ensure it stays put all day long (or night of course!)
- You have the layer of silicone to thank for this which acts as a really effective barrier, absorbing those naturally occurring oils which during the course of a regular day can cause your makeup to head south!
- Even out your skin tone and texture to conceal any imperfections
- Better still, it’s like an invisible photo ready finish that you are getting. Opt for one with a color correcting tone, too, and you can kiss goodbye to sallow, dull, and lifeless skin while saying hello to a bright, radiant, and even complexion.
- Protect and keep your skin safe from environmental factors like pollution and UV rays
- Packed with natural antioxidants and SPF, go for a primer that will really help you to maintain youthful and fresher looking skin
- Keep blemishes at bay and promote a healthier, more radiant looking complexion
- As a quick word of warning here, just make sure that you are not allergic to the ingredients first, otherwise you might find out that you suffer from even more breakouts. Always do a patch test on the back of your hand before going for full face coverage.
So pick your primer to perfect your complexion
As we’ve now established, a primer can be a lifesaver and you could consider it almost like insurance for your makeup. It can be both soothing and concealing, but also handy for preparation and protection. Overall though, the key benefit of a primer is that it is going to keep your makeup in place for longer and give you a beautiful, more flawless, even looking finish. You will be Instagram ready, that much is for sure!
As a great added bonus, many primers these days also contain SPF, so not only are you going to look more radiant, you are also getting some much needed protection from the harmful rays of the sun. If all of this hasn’t convinced you yet that you need a makeup primer then quite frankly, we don’t know what will!