Makeup primer is a cosmetic designed to smooth and conceal fine lines and uneven skin texture. Much like primer for painting, it ensures that a person has a smooth, even, uniformly colored surface on which to apply cosmetics, and helps them adhere properly to the skin. It's generally made from materials such as waxes, polymers, and silicone, and often contains extra ingredients for SPF protection. There are a variety of area-specific and problem-specific primers: for instance, one for lips can keep lipstick from feathering, and a tinted one can make a splotchy complexion look better. Though makeup can look fine without using these products, it generally won't last as long and may not have quite as polished a look.
Formulas for Different Skin Types
Lightweight, silicone-based makeup primer is usually the best choice for acne-prone or oily skin. It doesn't usually contain irritating ingredients and has the consistency of a smooth gel. It's usually labeled “oil-free.” Heavier primers that contain waxes, lotions or emollients often work well for dry or aging skin. The emollients keep skin supple, while the waxes help hold in moisture.
There are both tinted and transparent varieties of makeup primer. The tinted kind comes in a variety of colors, and is used to cover subtle age spots or discolorations on the face. People should choose tints about one shade lighter than their natural skin tone, since the product can look too thick or mask-like when combined with a foundation of a similar color. Some primers feature bold colors like lavender, green, blue, and yellow. When used under foundation, yellow tints help conceal blue shadows under the eyes, while green shades hide red marks. Lavender and blue liven up yellow skin.
Transparent primers don't affect the color of skin as much as tinted ones, but can improve its appearance by moisturizing it and filling in wrinkles. People who like a very light layer of makeup often wear transparent formulas under a light dusting of powder and blush for a casual look.
Users should start by prepping the skin with a gentle cleanser followed by a moisturizer. After the moisturizer dries, the makeup primer can be applied either with the fingers or a sponge. Many people start by gently spreading a thin layer over shiny areas like the forehead, nose, and chin, and then covering the rest of the face. Using a gentle swiping motion helps prevent big splotches of color and uneven application. After the primer dries for several minutes, any other makeup, such as foundation, blush, eyeshadow, or lipstick can be applied as usual.
Those who have contact dermatitis, allergies, or milia — tiny cysts around the eyes — may not want to use makeup primer, as it could exacerbate these conditions. It may also cause breakouts in people with sensitive or acne-prone skin, especially when combined with layers of other products. This can clog pores and irritate skin. Additionally, ingredients like silicone may lead to allergic reactions in those with latex allergies, as silicone-containing products often come into contact with latex when they're being manufactured. Those who have an allergic reaction or serious breakouts should seek medical attention.