The best makeup primer - Chicago Tribune

If you have ever glanced in the mirror midday to see smudged lipstick, fading eyeshadow or patchy foundation, you know how frustrating it can be. Finding a makeup primer that works well with your skin type and the kind of makeup you are using, may be worth the extra step and make all the difference.

For a smooth and comfortable base that minimizes skin texture and grips onto product, the Benefit Cosmetics POREfessional Pore Minimizing Face Primer can be used both on the eyes and face so you can feel confident about the longevity and appearance of your eyeshadow and foundation throughout the day.

What to know before you buy a makeup primer 

Do I need a makeup primer?

Primers are used underneath your makeup and act as a kind of barrier between you and the product to create the optimal canvas for application and performance. They can help keep your products in place for longer than if they were used on their own and help to accentuate your product’s intended use, such as more vibrant and pigmented eyeshadow or a more flawless foundation finish. They can also reduce the amount of makeup you use, which can save you money in the long run.

There are several kinds of makeup primers on the market used to work specifically with different kinds of makeup and makeup applications. The most common ones you will see are:

  • Foundation primers: There are a number of different types of foundation primers that help foundation work best with a specific skin type, improve the look and longevity of your foundation and may even provide additional skincare benefits. For a more in  depth breakdown of different foundation primers, read on to the section below.
  • Mascara primers: These are applied like a traditional mascara and offer a base to which mascara compounds or fibers can better adhere. Mascara primers can be useful for lashes that have difficulty maintaining curl or lift. The result can be flake-free lashes that look longer and more volumized.
  • Lip primers: These can be applied prior to lipstick or other lip products to make it less likely to smudge, bleed or gather in the lines of the lips. Lip primers often double as a vehicle for delivering beneficial and hydrating ingredients to the lips.
  • Eyeshadow primers: These can often have a slightly tacky texture with color correcting properties in which eyeshadow pigments can adhere so the eyeshadow won't fade, crease or bunch. 

How to use a makeup primer

A makeup primer should be the very last step prior to makeup application and after moisturizers or serums. Wait some time for other skincare products to absorb before applying primer and only use a thin layer, as an excess of product applied too soon can result in pilling. You can use a makeup sponge, brush or fingertips for application.

It will depend on what specific makeup primer you are using, however, primers can come in a variety of packaging with various means of application. Lip primers can come in roll up bullets, tubes, pencils or pots, while mascara primers will always apply and come packaged like a mascara, sometimes in a double-ended tube alongside a mascara. Additionally, face primers will most commonly come packaged in a squeeze tube or a pot and eyeshadow primers will come in easy to use tubes with a wand applicator along with more traditional pots and squeeze tubes.

In addition to providing an effective base for makeup application, makeup primers can also be a vehicle in delivering beneficial ingredients to the skin.

  • Dimethicone: A silicone based organic polymer that can calm irritation and minimize redness.
  • SPF: There are many primers for the face and lips available that offer the added protection of broad spectrum SPF, both in mineral and chemical forms.
  • Hyaluronic acid: A humectant that can draw moisture into the skin and keep it hydrated.
  • Vitamin E: Can help protect the skin from free radicals and oxidative stress.

Due to the diverse nature of skin types, there’s an equally diverse number of foundation primers to suit different skin needs and can help your foundation look as flawless as possible.

  • Mattifying: When foundation is applied on oily skin, the weartime is often compromised and the product will begin to separate or become patchy on the skin. Similar to pore filling primers, mattifying primers utilize silicone-based formulations to help control oil production and grip the foundation.
  • Color correcting: Color correcting primers can be useful for individuals that have redness, discoloration, hyperpigmentation or pronounced under eye circles. These primers will contain color pigments that offset and neutralize these areas on the skin. For instance, green pigments can offset redness and blue can conceal overly yellow and sallow undertones.
  • Pore filling: Also known as blurring primers, pore-filling primers are beneficial for individuals with more textured skin, fine lines or enlarged pores. Foundation can have a tendency to accentuate these textural irregularities and using a primer that helps to "fill in the gaps" can allow for a smoother application. Pore-filling primers usually use dimethicone as the main ingredient to achieve this effect.
  • Hydrating: Skin that is overly dry can sometimes look more dry when under foundation. This is because foundation will tend to adhere to dry patches or flaking skin, thus exaggerating their appearance. Hydrating primers help to maintain the moisture levels of the skin and provide a smooth base for foundation to adhere to. They can also be useful for individuals that want to achieve a more dewy appearance.  

The cost of a makeup primer will vary greatly and depend on if it’s a drug store option or from a professional cosmetic brand. On the more affordable end you can expect to spend anywhere between $2-$15, midrange will land somewhere between $15-$25  and highend can be $35 and above.

How long does makeup primer last?

A. Generally speaking, makeup primers will last up to 24 months after opening. After this time, their efficacy may decrease or product texture may become compromised.

Can I just use makeup primer on its own without makeup?

A. Yes. In fact, very often primers for the face or eyes will be tinted, so they can help even-out skin tone and minimize imperfections without giving the appearance of wearing a lot of makeup.

Which makeup primer should I get?

Best of the best makeup primer

Benefit Cosmetics POREfessional Pore Minimizing Face Primer: available at Sephora , Ulta and Kohl's  

Our take: A long-time cult favorite, this foundation primer is a good blurring option that's not too mattefying for individuals with textured skin and enlarged pores.

What we like: Uses dimethicone to fill in fine lines and textural irregularities to leave a smooth canvas for foundation application. Contains vitamin E which can help protect the skin from free radicals and help maintain overall skin health.

What we dislike: Some users say the overly silky texture is a bit off putting and difficult to rub in.

Best bang for the buck makeup primer

Our take: An affordable way to create the perfect canvas for any lip product, while improving lip texture in an easy to use pencil for precise application.

What we like: This lip primer is formulated with a number of nourishing waxes to ensure lipstick longevity and precision. It also contains jojoba oil which hydrates lips and prevents flaking.

What we dislike: It doesn't do well with masking discoloration on the lips if it is used alone.

Honorable mention makeup primer

Our take: A lightweight eyeshadow primer that uses a lip gloss wand for application, effectively prevents creasing, fading and makes eyeshadow appear more vibrant.

What we like: This has a unique formula that utilizes a blend of polymer and mineral powder to provide a firm grip for eyeshadow pigments, whether they are cream, glitter or powder shadows. It also contains antioxidant rich deep sea and rice extract to protect and brighten skin.

What we dislike: Nars is not a cruelty-free brand.

Tessa Flores is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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