Primers can be confusing. It’s a simple statement for a complicated matter. There are different bases, colours, uses and textures. Where do you even start?! I hope this post will be beneficial and please let me know if there are any questions I haven’t answered.
Why Use a Primer?
Primers main function is to prep your skin for foundation, well prepped skin results in an easier, more flawless foundation application. Starting with a “perfect” canvas makes foundation application a BREEZE. However, most of us don’t have flawless skin (and that’s okay!), primer is here to help boost your skin appearance. This isn’t a skincare post (although primer is definitely close to being skincare) but I want to highlight how important of a step that is because you can spend gross amounts of money on foundation but what makes things easier is focusing on skincare so that your foundation routine is crazy easy.
Primers can allow a smoother base, may help longevity, colour correct, brighten, minimize fine lines and pores..etc it can do plenty of things for your skin! I neglected the use of primer for a very long time but have not looked back since putting together my stash.
DO I NEED TO USE PRIMER?
TL;DR version: no, you don’t. There are many skin prep benefits to primer but it is not necessary. Most foundations these days are meant to last on your skin so although primer can boost the wear-time, it may only be a few extra hours.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Go look at your foundation, read the ingredients (or be like me and just google what the base of your foundation is). If it is a water based foundation, chances are it’s not going to bode well if you’re using an oil/silicone based primer. If you’re using a water based primer however, if you wait a sufficient amount of time (letting the product sink in your skin so you can no longer feel it), it may not have any reaction to your oil/silicone based foundation.
SILICONE/OIL based primer water based foundation
WATER based primer MAY be okay with SILICONE/OIL based foundation.
Here’s a Wayne Goss video with a good explanation on this.
Redditor u/kahlex did a great guide on this. Basically if you see silicone ingredients near the top of the ingredient list it is likely silicone based. If there aren’t silicone near the top, it is likely water based.
In order to determine whether a product is water-based or silicone-based, you have to look at the ingredients. -Cone/-methicone, and -siloxane words near the top of the list tend to signal a silicone-based product. Water will be at the top of the list for any liquid product because water makes it liquidy. It doesn’t mean that a product is water-based. Without water, the product would not be spreadable/blendable. — u/kahlex
She uses examples and even shows that it’s not ALWAYS the case but a good majority.
WHICH BASE IS GOOD FOR ME?
Picking which type of primer base if good for you is largely dependent on which foundation you’re wearing but there are other points to think about when choosing which to use. What would you like your primer to do? Moisturize? Hydrate? Blur your skin and hide your pores? Primers are one of those makeup products that are almost on the cusp of skincare.
Prepping your skin with moisturizer before hand helps quite a bit, but if you’re in a hurry or don’t have the time, a primer can substitute as a moisturizer. If you have dehydrated skin, a water based primer is likely way more hydrating and better for your skin but, you can always use an essence, or hydrating moisturizer before.
Also remember that you can combine primers, as in use one after another but NOT mix two different bases (feel free to mix if they’re the same base though!). In this case you would use a water based primer first and WAIT till it sinks in the skin fully. If I do this I would usually use a mattifier or a pore minimizer just on my t-zone/ your oily areas.
You may notice some primers have colour tints to them, here’s what they do. One thing to keep in mind with colour correcting is the colour wheel! Yes, I’m bringing you back to kindergarten. Analogous colours are colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel, contrasting/complementary colours are those that are across from each other on the colour wheel.
So let’s take a look at the wheel, if you have blue undertones in your eye bags, using an orange -apricot/salmon- coloured concealer will cover it better than just a flesh tone concealer. Ideally you’d use your colour correct and if it’s not mixed with a flesh tone coloured concealer you’d use your regular one on top.
GREENS: This colour correct is probably the most well known. I would like to mention one thing, if you just have a few pimples, it’s much better to use a green concealer rather than a green primer. A green primer is great for those with redness/roscea (I tend to prefer using yellow in these cases though). One thing I would recommend is be light handed!. Green can easily take all the colour from your face and make you look like the living dead. I recommend using green in the areas you need only.
*PINKS: Pink concealers are great for people who are cool toned and fair. What this colour does is create a brighter appearance and get rid of sallowness. Great for lighter skintones.
*PEACH: Peach primers are a good in-between pink and yellow. Great for cover acne marks, pigmentation and sun spots. Great for light-medium skin tones.
->Orange will have similar effects and is best for tanned/olive skin tones.
*YELLOWS: Yellows are great for medium-tan complexions (remember, just a guideline, not a rule!) and will help brighten and get rid of sallowness.
PURPLES: Purple will make your face appear lighter by covering yellow appearances in skin. If you have pink undertones and are porcelain, chances are this type of primer won’t do much for you. If you have yellow undertones, it will brighten your skin tone.
-> Blues will do the same but are great for those with mainly pink undertones –having pink undertones doesn’t mean that there is no yellow in there!–.
HOWEVER, lets all remember don’t neglect your neck if you’re doing this. Mismatched colours doesn’t look good.
CARAMEL: If you have darken skin and are finding a difficult time with foundations (I know, colour range can suck for deeper skin tones), a caramel primer can help brighten and add warmth to your skin tone. Just because you have darker skin doesn’t necessarily mean you have warm undertones however a good majority of foundations in that colour range do have red bases. To match up better and give a nice fresh feel to you face, try a caramel colour! It’s a staple in my kit, cool or warm toned!
Holika Holika Naked Face Balancing Primer
- Make your skin clean and clear
- Make your skin tone up
- Make your skin more gorgeous
L’Oreal Paris Skincare Revitalift Miracle Blur Instant Skin Smoother Primer
- Instantly erases the look of wrinkles
- Helps reduce the appearance of lines
- Formula helps minimize the look of pores
- Can be worn alone or under foundation
*pink/peach/yellow all have similar benefits, the main difference is each is a little more catered to different skin tones.
MIXED: There are also primers on the market that have all colours combined. You’ll get benefits of more than one colour! It’s a time (and money) saver if you’d like to have the benefits of more than one colour. You can always mix your primers (as long as they’re the same base) but a pre-combination of colours seems a bit more user-friendly.
There is more than one texture/form of primer, the most known is of course liquid which holds the majority of the market, however there are others! Benefits to liquid would be the ease of application and it’s likely to be more moisturizing/hydrating than the others.
Spray would probably be the next popular, setting sprays can be used before application as well but there are certain spray mists used specifically to prep. A spray is probably to easiest, most fuss free primer since you don’t even need to touch your skin. I find these are mainly for hydrating or oily control as you can’t exactly have a colour mist colour correct as well. Skindinavia’s makeup setting spray is actually silicone free and works great with all types of foundations. I’ve tested this product with my foundation and it holds my makeup great.
The least known is powder! I know, we’re told never to apply liquid on top of powder but rules are meant to be broken! I’m not one to listen to many makeup rules, there are a few you should (like washing your makeup off every night!) but something like this can be broken. Often call The Goss Method because he made it popular via a YT video, a light application of powder on your oily areas then apply your foundation on top acts like a primer! I often use MUFE’s HD powder when doing this since I like the extra soft-focus effect it gives.
SPF OR NAH?
In my opinion, you should opt for a primer without sunscreen. The reason being is that mixing sunscreen with the primer actually makes the SPF less effective. You’ll get more protection if you actually use sunscreen and then a primer on top. The same thing goes for foundation. You won’t get great protection because it’s basically being diluted by your foundation (also why you shouldn’t mix your sunscreen with anything).
If you don’t wear sunscreen or don’t care for it, then getting something with sunscreen is better than nothing.
HOW DO I APPLY PRIMER?
Depending on which texture/formula you use, they’ll be a little different. One thing that is constant is that you do not need a lot. A little goes a long way! If you’re using powder, focus on your oily areas only. You can use your fingers or brush but I wouldn’t use a sponge as it’s likely to soak up too much product (unless you’ve accidentally applied too much!). Apply primer after moisturizer (if any) and before foundation.
Note though that some primers can actually be applied after foundation as well. Generally it’s the soft-focus/pore minimizers, for example Benefits POREfessional or MUFE’s Smoothing Primer –in this case it acts more of a pore buster rather than helping your foundations longevity. I personally still prefer before foundation but play around and see what works for you!
MY PERSONAL ROUTINE:
I have lots of primers and I do things differently depending on the day. I will say one things I do most often is use more than one primer. I usually use a hydrating primer then a smoothing/pore minimizer just on my t-zone and under eye area to smooth out fine lines. In the summertime I often use HD powder on my t-zone area. I also use my fingers to apply primers on myself.
So, what are your favourite primers??