The Official Primer on Primers

Foundation primer, eyelid primer, lip primer, mascara primer– The makeup aisle is beginning to sound a lot more like an aisle at Benjamin Moore than the contents of the Barney’s beauty counter. The transition makes sense when you consider that makeup application has stolen from the art world and used light, shadow, color and technique to produce jaw dropping looks. But, just like a boring bedroom wall needs a coat of primer before its painted into a dream room, so does the face. For those wondering what primer is, here’s an elementary level primer on primers.


What is primer?


A primer covers the face like a moisturizer would. Most primers come in power, gel and cream form while a few brands offer spray on options. Primers work to absorb the oil in the skin and to prepare the face for makeup application. Like paint primer, the formula sits on the skin and smoothes out imperfections, creating an even, matte base. Primer gives tinted moisturizers and foundations something to bond to throughout the day and extends the longevity of your makeup.


What’s the science behind it?


Foundation primers are formulated to absorb oil that is naturally produced by the skin and any kind of liquid that may come in contact with makeup. Most primers contain salicylic acid – a beta hydroxy acid- that sticks to the lining of the skin pore and can help to declass blackheads and white heads. For makeup users with sensitive skin or cystic acne , several water and silicon based options are available. The silicon formula is ultra smoothing and is a favorite amongst makeup users with and without skin problems. It has been proven to give a pearl-like finish that reflects more light from the complexion. Make-up artists like those behind Physician’s Formula have helped to produce primers that a lightly tinted with color that cancel out color imperfections in the skin like dark eye circles and rosacea.

Brands including Nars and Makeup Forever have formulated their primers with  infuse grape seed extract, green tea extract and vitamins A,C and E. Vitamin A is a light-absorbing molecule that delivers retinol to the skin which optimizes skin and cellular health. Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen and has been proven to work as an antioxidant. The infusion of these vitamins and oils leaves skin not only bright and beautiful, but healthy underneath make-up.


Eye Primer

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Eyelid Primer works to bond makeup to the eyes. Eyes are extremely delicate and most eye primers are formulated to enhance the eye without harming it. Eye primers are available in smooth, matte and shimmery textures. They are also available in a variety of colors including white; a color that helps to intensify the pigment of eye shadows. Eye shadow primers are essential for people looking to disguise eye veins and thick, uneven creases.  Primer can help to keep pigments in place and can boost the effects of eye liner as well.


Mascara Primer


Mascara Primer is useful for women looking to create the look of longer, fuller lashes. The often colorless base adheres to lashes and creates a coating around them that helps to achieve this look. Mascara primers that are infused with organ oil, almond oil or other conditioning oils can help lashes grow over time. Mascara Primer is necessary for makeup users who fear the smudging, flaking and sticking that can often occur when wearing the beauty product.


Lip Primer


Lip Primer is formulated to smooth the lips. There is no greater makeup sin than a beautiful hue that is undermined by dry, cracked lips. Lip balms, while soothing are often too oily to be applied under lip stick. They prevent lip liner from sticking and can drastically shorten the life of lipstick. Makeup experts suggest that beauties apply lip primer to (pre-exfoliated) lips. Lip primers will fall into the creases of the lips and give the appearance of a smoother, softer mouth. When used in addition to lip liner, lip primer can prevent the horrid “feathering” that happens when gloss and lipstick slide past the perimeters of the mouth.




Primer is the best solution to the temperature woes of wearing makeup. In the summer, high temperatures can cause sweat to muddle makeup, while the blistering cold of winter can make sky dry and cracked underneath pigments. Primer provides a strong adhesive that keeps makeup in place. Some are strong enough to withstand water and even the sweatiest of situations. (Pro -tip: Start with a strong primer and then seal makeup in with a durable finishing spray-makeup will last for up to 12 hours). In the winter, the creamier, oil infused  primers will help to provide moisture to skin that is begging for it.

So, if you haven’t heard of primer or just haven’t had the guts to smear some on, head to your local beauty counter and get your hands on the serums that will change the way you see your makeup.



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