Makeup Primer 101

Even those who are nowhere close to being makeup savvy have probably heard of makeup primer. It’s the supposed miracle product that claims to help everything from foundation and eye shadow to lipstick and mascara stay on longer.

But with so many different makeup primers on the market, how do you know which one to choose, and, even more important, how do you know it’s really going to work?

So how does makeup primer work?

Makeup primer is a lot like the primer you paint on a wall when you’re wanting to change its color. The primer preps the wall for the new shade of paint, and makeup primer preps your face for foundation, concealer, or whatever else you’re putting on it.

If you’re applying face primer, it will fill in any lines you have, smooth over any bumps, and hydrate any dry patches, so your face is then ready for foundation and concealer. Primer also acts as a way for makeup to properly adhere to your skin. Your products will bond to the primer instead of seeping into your skin, potentially causing clogged pores.

What are the different kinds of primers?

You have your traditional foundation primer, which is probably the most recognizable. Like described above, it helps create a clean slate for your foundation, and helps keep it from melting off your face before the end of the day.

Almost as popular as foundation primer is eye shadow primer. Almost all makeup brands make one, and you can find it in a variety of shades: translucent, nude, or with a hint of shimmer. Eye shadow primer is meant to keep your eye makeup from budging and prevent those annoying creases that can happen when you wear eye shadow.

Lipstick primer is one of those products that some people swear by, but I have yet to try. According to lipstick-primer wearers, it first preps the lips for lipstick by smoothing them and relieving them of any dryness. If it’s a good lipstick primer, it should keep that bold red color on your lips from fading and feathering, even after a big night out.

Last but (maybe?) not least: mascara primer. Out of all makeup primers, this one has always seemed the most useful to me. If you wear mascara, the last thing you want to see is it rubbing off your eyes and running down your face. Mascara primers not only extend the life of your mascara, but also help lengthen your eyelashes.

Where can I buy makeup primers?

Like I said, almost all makeup brands sell primers. But these are the ones I’ve heard the most about, or personally tried and enjoyed:

Foundation primers



From left to right: Smashbox Blemish Control Primer, Benefit The Porefessional Primer, Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Primer

Eye shadow primers


From left to right: Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Original, NYX Eyeshadow BasePür Minerals Cease Crease

Lip primers


From left to right: MAC Cosmetics Prep + Prime, Too Faced Lip Insurance, Bite Beauty Line & Define

Mascara primer


From left to right: Urban Decay Subversion Primer, It Cosmetics Tightline Primer, Clinique Lash Building Primer

So my final say on makeup primers? Aside from Urban Decay’s Subversion mascara primer and their eye shadow primer, I have yet to find a makeup primer that I’m crazy about, and believe me – I’ve tried quite a few. Yes, a majority of them have felt good on my skin, but don’t expect me to shell out major bucks until I find one that blows my mind.


What do you think BBs? Have you found a makeup primer you love? If so, share it with us in the comments below!


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