How Do I Choose the Best Makeup Primer?

Amanda R. Bell

Choosing a makeup primer depends on your skin type and the kind of results for which you are looking. A makeup primer is a cream or gel that smooths out the skin’s surface so that makeup applies more easily and stays on longer. In general, it is best to choose a primer that does more than just prepare your skin for makeup, such as products that include serums or moisturizers. If you have issues with oily skin, you may want to look for a mattifying makeup primer that will absorb the excess oil that your skin produces, keeping your face shine-free during the day. In cases where you want your eye makeup to last longer, look for makeup primers that are meant specifically for the eyes to enhance your eye makeup’s color, staying power, or both.

Eyeshadow primer can be applied with a makeup brush.
Eyeshadow primer can be applied with a makeup brush.

For most, a product that serves more than one purpose is ideal for both saving money and time. If you want more from your primer, you can look for products that contain additional ingredients meant to improve your skin. Many primers contain extra moisturizers, vitamins, and retinoids that can work as a skin-improving or anti-aging serum, as well as a primer. For brightening effects, look for products labeled as light reflective. You can also slightly change the color of your complexion by picking a tinted makeup primer.

Makeup, including primer.
Makeup, including primer.

Certain primers can help to control oil production during the day. The unique particles in these types of makeup primers absorb the oil your skin produces, preventing it from mixing with your makeup. Oil mixing with foundation, powder, blush, and bronzer is one of the most common reasons for colors oxidizing during the day, a common complaint of those with oily skin. If these are benefits for which you are searching, choose a product that is labeled as "oil-absorbing" or "mattifying," and avoid any product labeled as “brightening.” This typically means that the makeup primer includes some amount of shimmer, which can make your skin appear even oilier than it actually is.

If you are looking for a makeup primer for your eyelids, do not use anything that says “foundation primer.” As the eyes are extremely delicate, it is important to choose a makeup primer specifically meant for the eyes. In general, you should choose a primer that matches your skin tone exactly for everyday looks, as it will help your eyeshadow to stay true to color and resist creasing.

If you are looking to achieve all of these benefits, as well as change or enhance the color of your powdered eyeshadow, there are several different primers that are colored as well. A white primer can make bright colors appear bolder, while a more taupe makeup primer can tone down these same colors. If you are going for one bold shade, choose an eyeshadow makeup primer in the same color as the powdered shadow that you intend to use to intensify it.

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