Beauty Level-Up #7: A Primer on Primer

Primer is one of those newfangled products that people say they don’t need to hide the fact that they don’t really know what it is. It’s okay to admit it. I’ve pretended to not want or need things I didn’t understand, too. Bronzer was one of those things, and now it’s a contouring staple for me. Maybe primer will be something that will benefit you, and maybe it won’t, but after reading this, you’ll at least know what it is.

With all apologies for the worm I’m undoubtedly introducing into your ear, it’s all about that base.

The principle behind makeup primers is simple: Primer is a product you apply before makeup in order to make the makeup show up more vividly and last longer on your face. It does so by adding a layer to your skin or hair that is smoother and/or stickier than the skin or hair beneath it. There are a zillion other ways to make your makeup show up more and/or last longer, but primer is one of the easiest ways to make both these things happen.

General Primers
This most common type of primer is marketed as “foundation primer” or simply “primer.” This type of primer smooths out pores, unevenness, and fine lines. Generally speaking, you would apply a product like this all over your face (without moisturizer or after your moisturizer has absorbed), wait for it to dry, then apply your makeup over that. Some dry and set too quickly to apply to the whole face at once, but those are the exception rather than the rule. You can also spot-target with a general primer by only applying it to your eyelids for eyeshadow, trouble spots for concealer, and so on.

If you’re new to primers, one of this kind is likely your best bet to figure out if you even like primers in the first place. They come in a very wide range of prices and types for different skin concerns and preferences. Because primers are meant to stick closely to your skin, it’s best to try one out before committing to it to make sure your skin won’t react to it, especially if you have acne and/or other skin sensitivities.

Eyelid / Eyeshadow Primers
If you’ve ever wondered how fancy make-up people get eyeshadow colors to pop and stay without creasing, primer is the answer. The difference between shadow applied with vs. without a primer is generally astounding. Cheap shadow can look rich and lovely with a primer; without a primer, quality, pigmented shadows don’t live up to their full potential.

closed eyelids with eyeshadow
It is not a trick of the light. Both lids have the same cheapie eyeshadow on them, but the lid to your right has a layer of primer under the color.

If you have particularly oily lids or only want primer for eyeshadow purposes, this specific type of primer could be for you. However, most people can get away with using a general primer or a long-lasting, light-colored eye pencil on their eyelids instead of eyeshadow primer. There are products called “eyeshadow base” or “eye base” that perform the same function; I got a pretty good one from Be A Bombshell via my Ipsy Glam Bag.

Eyelash / Mascara Primers
Lash primers lengthen and thicken lashes before mascara application. Most people don’t need mascara primer and can get away with applying multiple coats of mascara for similar effect. However, if you have oily lids, they can help a lot with the staying power of your mascara.

Bonus Use: As they are often clear, a layer or two of mascara primer can also be used to temporarily lighten darker lashes prior to colored mascara application. My lashes are very dark, so without primer beforehand, colored mascaras don’t show up very well at all.

Lip Primers
I’ve yet to experiment much with these, but they can help to fill in lips and plump them up in preparation for lipstick application. As with eyeshadow primer, you can substitute a pencil for primer. I personally love using a clear lipliner to line and fill my lips prior to lipstick application for long-lasting color rather than primer.

I don’t have a good recommendation for primer as of yet because I’ve mostly used Monistat Anti-Chafing Gel as primer — no kidding. It works fine but I feel like I could do better. Right now, I’m working my way through a vast array of Sephora samples to discover my One True Primer.

Got beauty questions? Drop me a line via the method of your choice: Twitter / Tumblr [anon enabled] / Facebook/ (anonymous) / email

Beauty Level-Up #7: A Primer on Primer
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