Monday, June 30, 2014

Beauty Squared Lessons: Primers

Do you ever experience your makeup sliding off your face or melting/fading during the day?
Does your eyeshadow end up in your eyelid crease or slide around your eyelid?
Does your foundation and concealer sink into fine lines or pores?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are that you need to add a primer or two to your makeup routine.

What are primers?

Think of primers as shapewear for your face. They make everything you put on top of them look better. Just like shapewear can smooth out bumps, conceal problem areas and make you look better, primers can smooth uneven texture, minimize imperfections and allow makeup products you put on top perform better. 

Primers often contain ingredients that can benefit the skin. There are some that contain acne-fighting ingredients, some that can even skin tone and some that can prevent dryness. 

Many contain silica (silicone dioxide) to prevent shine and waxes and polymers to form a stronger bond between your skin and whatever you're putting on top of it. 

There are primers for your face, primers for your eyes, primers for your lips and primers for your eyelashes. Face primers help your foundation and concealer last longer without fading, smooth out fine lines and pores, create a smooth surface for your foundation, and help to keep shine at bay. Eye primers help your eyeshadow last without fading or moving, help to smooth the skin surface for better application and can make eyeshadows colours and textures to be truer. Lip primers help to smooth the lip surface so lip products apply cleanly and smoothly, help to keep the skin hydrated, allow colours to be truer and last longer. Eyelash primer is designed to make lashes appear fuller and longer when mascara is applied on top, can help mascara last longer without fading or flaking and can strengthen lashes. 

While lip and eyelash primer can be effective, they're not as useful as face and eyeshadow primers, nor as readily available. Do your research into lip and eyelash primers before making the decision to buy. 

Do I need a primer?

Not necessarily but here are some reasons why you may want to consider using one (or more):

  • your skin is oily and you find that your makeup fades or melts off your face
  • you have fine lines
  • you have large pores
  • you find that makeup can sink into your fine lines or large pores
  • you live in a warm and or humid climate and you find that your makeup fades/melts
  • you wear makeup while doing physical activity
  • you have oily eyelids and find that your eyeshadow ends up in your crease or fades
  • you like to wear dark or colourful eyeshadow and feel like it doesn't look as good on as it does in the pan
  • your lipstick tends to fall into creases in your lips
  • you find that mascara isn't enough to thicken and lengthen your eyelashes
Some primers will add radiance to your skin, some have luminzing properties, even your skintone, hydrate your skin, fight blemishes and some contain SPF. It can be daunting to know where to begin. The best thing to do is start with the main issues you have and learn what you like and don't like.

How do I use a primer?

Primers act like a glue between your skin and your makeup, so apply it after you've prepped your skin for makeup (cleanser and moisturizer, maybe a serum, toner, etc). Some primers can be applied after you do your makeup, for example, during the day for touch-ups, but this seems a bit odd to me. Hopefully a primer is doing it's job under the makeup so you don't have to apply it again on top.

Typically, a light layer is best with a primer. Too much might make anything you apply on top of it cake. 

Even if you don't wear makeup you can benefit from using a primer. Look for one that smooths fine lines, minimizes discolouration or softens the look of large pores. Apply it after you've cleansed and moisturized your skin and go!

How much should I pay for a primer?

As with most makeup products, primers come in a wide ranger of price points, from drugstore to very high end. Do your research, based on your needs and on your skin type, and you'll probably find a whole range of primers to try. But just because a primer (or any cosmetic) works for someone, it doesn't mean it'll work for you too. Try before you buy as much as possible. 

On the lower end, L'Oreal and Elf have primers in their lines, and Sephora/Shoppers Drug Mart/online brands Smashbox, Urban Decay and Benefit are known for their mid-range primers. Going to the high end, look for primers from Dior, Hourglass and Guerlain. 


A primer can be a pricey addition to your makeup routine but one that may change the way you wear makeup. They can eliminate or at least minimize many, many makeup problems you have and possibly even some you didn't realize you had. 

Do you already use a primer? Share your favourites in the comments below!



  1. Great post! I think a good face primer is key in any beauty routine. Xx

  2. Thanks for this post. With the humidity this week I've been having trouble keeping makeup on my face. After a 12 hour+ day I get home and look at my face in the mirror and my makeup is not in the same spot it was when I applied it in the morning. I do wear primer, but I think I should explore more options and find one that works best for me.

    Any suggestions what I can do to help keep makeup on my forehead? By the afternoon/evening, especially with this heat, it feels like there is no makeup left in the forehead area. Should I just be reapplying?

    1. Hi Sarah,
      This is a common problem, for sure. Do you use powder to set your makeup in the morning? It, along with the primer, can help to prolong your makeup on hot, humid days. There is also the trick of applying powder after your primer and before your foundation/concealer. This helps to set the primer and creates a barrier between the natural oils of your skin and the foundation. It makes it last much longer. Here's a video explaining it:

      Another option is to try a long-wearing foundation, if you're not already. If you don't already, blotting throughout the day can help as well. As can powdering after blotting.

      If you aren't, and can, switching to a lighter base, such as a tinted moisturizer or BB cream for summer means that while your makeup will still melt and slip, it'll be less visible when it does and less high maintenance in the end.

      You'll probably need to do a trial and error and see what works best for you.

      Good luck!