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Why do you need to use an eyeshadow primer? Let us count the reasons. First, it will seriously up the longevity and vibrancy of any shadow you apply over it. Two, it prevents said shadow from caking and creasing (and ain’t nobody got time for that). It can also make the skin on your lids appear smoother, not to mention that many formulas now have a subtle tint that evens out skin tone ever so slightly, and look perfectly pretty worn on their own, even without any color on top.
But we get it, the thought of shelling out big bucks on yet another addition to your makeup bag may be less than appealing. Happily, you don’t have to in order to reap that long list of benefits. Drugstore brands now make eyeshadow primers that work just as well—heck, in some cases maybe even better—than their much pricier counterparts.
We found the best drugstore eyeshadow primers that work, without breaking the bank.
Best Overall: NYX Proof It Eyeshadow Primer
With serious staying power, this waterproof formula isn’t going anywhere, we promise. It imparts that same waterproof resistance to shadow, choice for hot and muggy summer days or teary-eyed occasions. Creases and smudges don’t stand a chance. Also nice: It dries completely clear, ideal for those who don’t want to mess with their shadow color.
See our guide to the best drugstore eyeshadows.
Best Brightening: Maybelline Eyeshadow Primer, Prime + Illuminate
Whether you had a late night or early morning, one swipe of this luminescent formula will instantly pep up tired eyes. The pinky-champagne hue is super flattering, with just the right amount of radiance to brighten your eyes without veering into full-on glitter territory. It’s so pretty that you can totally get away with using it solo, no shadow topper required.
Best for Oily Skin: Wet n Wild Picture Perfect Eyeshadow Primer
Oily lids can be a recipe for shadow disaster, almost instantly causing any formula, powder or cream, to cake and crease. But not with this mattifying option, which acts as a buffer between lids and color, ensuring shadow stays put without budging. While it dries clear, it also has a subtle brightening effect. And we’ll never say no to that.
Read through our best drugstore moisturizers for oily skin article.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer
To be fair, all of the options on this list are totally affordable, but this rings in at just a few dollars. Like, less than your morning cup of coffee. So there’s no excuse to not give it a try, particularly when we’re telling you how well it extends the wear of your shadow. Bonus points for the two shades it comes in: a sheer natural tone and silvery pearl.
Best Clear: Milani Eyeshadow Primer
While this goes on nude (in a shade that’s surprisingly flattering on a wide array of skin tones), it dries down completely clear, ideal for anyone who wants their primer to not be so prominent. Dab it on with your fingertip or a small, flat brush; either way, it glides on seamlessly without tugging or pulling on delicate skin.
Take a peek at some of the best drugstore eyeliners you can buy.
Best Shades: NYX Professional Makeup Eyeshadow Base
To amp up the intensity of your favorite shadow hue, apply the white version of this creamy primer beforehand; it promises to boost the color up to 100 times. Or, use either the white pearl or skin-tone options solo to subtly even out and enhance the skin around your eyes. There’s even a black shade to layer under dark shadow colors.
Best Long-Lasting: Revlon Colorstay Eyeshadow Primer
True to its name, this boasts an impressive 24 hours of wear time…yes, as in a full day. It’s lightweight and silky, and the single universal tone blends into the skin smoothly and seamlessly. Top tip: Let it sit for 30 seconds before layering shadow on top.
Best for Hooded Lids: L’Oréal De-Crease Eyeshadow Base
Any shadow primer will help cast off creases, but this formula is particularly choice for those with crepey or crinkled skin. It can be used with all shadow types—powders, creams, and glosses—and extends the wear of your shadow by up to eight hours. It’s also ophthalmologist-tested, and we especially like the angled doe foot tip for easy swiping and more precise application.
Take a look at our selection of the best gel eyeliners.
Best for Glitter Shadow: NYX Professional Makeup Glitter Primer
As anyone who loves glittery shadows will tell you, glitter fall-out is a very real thing that can leave you with all kinds of sparkle in unwanted spots. This primer is specially formulated to prevent just that, with an extra-grippy texture that holds tight to shimmer. Apply a thin layer before using any glitter products, not only on your lids but anywhere else on your face, too.
Check out our roundup of the best glitter eyeshadow palettes.