I thought we were supposed to look “better” after applying makeup. What I see instead are magnified pores, cracked foundation, and wrinkles more visible than ever! If all this sounds too familiar, you might want to sit through this one. Because these are the exact reasons why makeup primers exist. On the flip side, the wrong choice of makeup primer can make things much worse. So it’s not only about using a certain primer per se but using the right one for your skin type and concerns. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the different types of primers and how to choose one.
What Is Primer?
A primer is a base product that prepares the skin for the actual makeup products you’re going to use. It’s usually in cream form but can also be oil or gel.
Face primers are the most common ones out there. They’re used to enhance your base makeup and support your foundation and concealer.
But there are other primers for other areas of the face too. For example, there are lip primers used for better lipstick wear. There are eye primers to enhance your eyeshadow. There are even eyelash primers to improve mascara.
What Does Primer Do?
A primer is like a barrier between your skin and the makeup product. The main purpose of a primer is to create a smooth canvas so that your makeup looks better, and more even.
Additionally, primer makes your makeup last longer and stay put. This is what a regular primer does. But depending on your primer, it can even illuminate your complexion or mattify it.
Do You Need Primer?
Absolutely not. A primer is not really necessary if you’re happy with how your makeup looks. But if you’re not, know that you can use a primer to deal with whatever it is that’s making your makeup look not as good as it’s supposed to.
Different Types of Primers
All primers help prep your skin and make your makeup last longer. But in addition to that, different types of primers offer different benefits. Know that there are no official guidelines for differentiating makeup primers. But I’ve listed below possible scenarios to show you how you can sort primers and what you should keep in mind.
A face makeup primer is classified into 5 different categories depending on the purpose of the primer. And these are mattifying primers, hydrating primers, blurring primers, color-correcting primers, and illuminating primers. This classification is helpful when you’re looking to minimize a certain skin concern.
A face primer can also be classified into two different categories depending on the formulation; water-based primers and silicone-based primers. And this classification is helpful when you’re shopping for a primer with your skin type in mind or when you’re trying to find the ideal match for your foundation.
And lastly, other available makeup primers include lash primers, lip primers, and eyelid primers.
Below are the different types of primers in more detail.
A mattifying primer, also called an oil-control primer, reduces oil on the skin and mattifies your complexion. This type of primer is commonly used by people with oily skin. When you have excess oil production, that oil tends to sweat through the foundation, giving you a greasy-looking face even with the foundation on. There’s a reason why this type of primer is a summer makeup essential. Because a mattifying primer instantly makes your complexion matte and prevents it from getting oilier later in the day.
A hydrating primer provides an extra layer of hydration for the skin. For that reason, it’s usually preferable for people with dry skin. Excess dryness makes your foundation separate, and look patchy and cakey. A hydrating primer prevents that look. It’s usually formulated with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients.
Just like the name suggests, a blurring primer has a blurring effect on the skin. They’re incredibly helpful if you have uneven skin texture, wrinkles, and enlarged pores. A blurring primer works like a soft filter on the face, smooths out your skin, and minimizes the look of those texture irregularities. It’s also sometimes called a pore-minimizing primer, or pore-filling primer because of its skin-smoothing benefits.
A color-correcting primer is usually a tinted primer and aims to give you an even skin tone by neutralizing the underlying colors in the skin. For example, some people with redness-prone skin or rosacea or acne utilize green-tinted color-correcting primers to cancel out the redness. Others dealing with dark spots or under-eye discolorations usually go for orange color-correcting primers to cancel out the color. So the idea with color-correcting primers is to, well, color correct and achieve an even skin tone so that your makeup looks even and discolorations aren’t visible through makeup.
An illuminating primer is a primer that has a radiant finish. The level of radiance varies but the idea is the same; make the skin look brighter, dewy, and luminous. For that reason, illuminating primers are preferable for people with dull, lackluster skin. If that sounds like you, check out our round-up of the best illuminating primers for seriously glowy skin.
A water-based primer is a primer that’s formulated with hydrating ingredients like water or glycerin as opposed to silicones. It’s usually very hydrating for the skin. These types of primers are ideal for anyone looking for a very lightweight primer regardless of skin type. And because of their light formulation, they’re ideal for people with sensitive, breakout-prone skin.
A silicone-based primer contains silicones, and a lot of them, to maximize the skin smoothing effect. It’s the ideal formulation to create a smooth canvas so you can do whatever you want with your makeup.
Also known as a mascara primer, a lash primer looks like mascara and is for extending the wear of your mascara and increasing your eyelash volume and length. It’s usually white or clear and it’s for coating the lashes, conditioning them, and prepping them for your mascara so they hold better and longer.
A lip primer is for hydrating and conditioning the lips prior to applying your lipstick. Even though it’s not the most common type of primer, it can be handy especially when you’re going for a bold lip. It preps your lips so that your red lips stay put.
Also called an eyeshadow primer, an eyelid primer can be tinted or untinted and is applied on the eyelids to extend your eyeshadow wear. It helps neutralize the blueish colors on the eyelids to give you an even base. It prevents your eyeshadow from breaking throughout the day because of oily eyelids. It also helps keep your eyeliner in place and smudge-free.
How To Choose a Primer
You should choose your makeup primer depending on your skin concern and a little bit of your skin type. Let me explain. You’ll see that most people suggest choosing a primer for your skin type. Even though it’s true, it’s not the whole story.
Your skin concerns come first. So you first need to decide on the purpose of your primer. After that, check out the formulation. And that’s where water-based and silicone-based primers come in.
Decide which one you prefer. And keep in mind that you need to make sure the base of your primer matches the base of your foundation.
If you’re using a water-based foundation, you should use a water-based primer. Similarly, if you’re using a silicone-based foundation, you should use a silicone-based primer. When the formulations don’t match, you may end up with foundation rubbing off your face and pilling.
Here’s more detail on how to choose your primer.
If you have oily skin and you’re concerned with excess oil, go for a mattifying and/or blurring primer. It’s going to give you a matte and shine-free base. Most matte primers usually contain silicones, which some people don’t prefer fearing that they’ll feel heavy and pore-clogging. Rest assured, there are water-based primers that mattify and blur too.
If you have dry skin and your foundation tends to look patchy, go for a hydrating primer. That extra moisture is going to keep your makeup in place and prevent patchy, cakey makeup. Make sure it’s rich in emollients and oils.
If you have mature skin and wrinkles and lines are getting in the way, go for blurring primers for wrinkles to get that smoothing, soft filter effect. These types of primers work like a wrinkle filler and prevent your foundation from making wrinkles more visible. Silicone-based primers are exceptional in that department.
If you’re dealing with redness and your foundation isn’t enough to cancel it out, use a green-tinted color-correcting primer. It’s going to give you an even skin tone so that your finished look is more even.
If you’re dealing with acne and blemishes, you can try blurring primers as well as color-correcting primers to minimize the redness and their appearance. If your skin doesn’t like silicones and tends to break out, make sure your primer is silicone-free and water-based.
If you have a lot of sun damage, dullness, or hyperpigmentation, try illuminating primers. They’re usually tinted pink or purple. And they brighten your complexion, giving you a fresh-looking, radiant base. Alternatively, try primers with SPF for better sun protection.
How To Apply Primer
The way you apply primer is just as important. But first things first, make sure you do your skincare routine where you moisturize and apply SPF. Primer comes after SPF so you should be completely done with your skincare routine. After everything settles in and absorbs, that’s where you start with your primer.
To apply your face primer, use a brush, sponge, or your fingers and use a very light layer of primer all over the face. There’s only one exception here. Most mattifying and blurring primers are better used on the T-zone only. There’s no need to apply a fully silicone-based, mattifying primer all over the face. Just get a little amount and dab it onto the cheeks, the center of the forehead, the chin, and the nose. Wait for a few minutes for your primer to set in. If you go ahead and apply your foundation too quickly, your primer won’t do much.
To apply your eyelash primer, curl your lashes first. Then apply your eyelash primer just like you’d apply mascara; start from the roots and wiggle it towards the tips. A few coats are enough. It’s going to separate the lashes and give volume in advance. The difference here is that you go ahead and apply your mascara before the primer dries down.
To apply your lip primer, apply it directly on the lips if it’s a stick, or use a brush if it’s in a pot. Coat your lips with your lip primer and wait for just a little to let it settle. You’ll see that your lipstick stays in place and doesn’t feather, bleed, or smudge.
To apply your eyelid primer, first, make sure your eyelids are clean and dry. Then apply your eye primer all over the eyelid until it looks even. Wait for it to dry down and then apply your eyeshadow. Otherwise, the pigments will look blotchy.
So these are the different types of makeup primers. As you can see, there are no clear-cut guidelines for makeup primers. But hopefully, this gives you an idea about what’s out there and how you can navigate your options. Again, it’s all up to you. If you’re dealing with a certain skin issue, choose your primer based on its purpose such as mattifying or blurring. If your skin type comes first, or you’re trying to find a match for your foundation, choose your primer based on formulations such as water-based and silicone-based.