11 Color-Intensifying Eyeshadow Primers You Can Get at the Drugstore

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Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

Formulas don’t have to be high-end to be effective. Many of our favorite beauty products can be found at the drugstore, including some of the best eyeshadow primers you’ll ever use.

But first things first: Are eyeshadow primers a must in your beauty routine? “Most people don’t typically use eyeshadow primer every day,” says Latisha Rankin, a celebrity makeup artist based in New York. “However, they're helpful for those with lifestyles where its benefits are needed.” This means that if you’re a cycling fanatic, work long hours, or are hustling 24/7, an eyeshadow primer could be the extra ammunition you need to help your makeup last all day long.

With all these tips in mind, explore the best eyeshadow primers you can find at the drugstore.

Best Overall

NYX Professional Makeup Proof It! Waterproof Eyeshadow Primer

4.7
NYX Proof It Eyeshadow Primer

 Courtesy of NYX

What We Like
  • Enhances eyeshadow color

  • Stays put all day

  • Resists creasing

What We Don't Like
  • May show up on deeper skin tones

Who else recommends it? Style Craze also picked the NYX Professional Makeup Proof It! Eyeshadow Primer.

What do buyers say? 82% of 11,600+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

Looking for an eyeshadow primer that stays put? Here it is. Not only is it waterproof—perfect for long days or working out—but it’s also transparent and amplifies the color that sits on top of it. And a plethora of reviewers agree; they call this primer a holy grail product with a long-lasting formula.

Key Ingredients: Vp/Hexadecene copolymer, silicone blend | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Budget

Essence I Love Stage Eyeshadow Base

Essence I Love Stage Eyeshadow Base
What We Like
  • Glides on

  • Evens out lids

  • Can be worn on its own

What We Don't Like
  • Not transparent

This Essence primer is a great base at a truly great price. With this product, you’ll get all the benefits of its counterparts—it glides on and makes eyeshadow pop—without going over budget. Reviewers rave that it doesn’t crease and keeps your color vibrant for hours.

Skin Type: All | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

When picking the right primer, Rankin suggests choosing a translucent or flesh-tone shade, so it doesn’t affect the final color payoff. Going for an even bolder look? Opt for a white eyeshadow primer to really make the color on top really pop.

Best for Oily Lids

Maybelline New York Master Prime Long-Lasting Eyeshadow Base, Prime + Smooth

Maybelline New York Master Prime Long-Lasting Eyeshadow Base, Prime + Smooth
What We Like
  • Available in three varieties

  • Creates a smooth canvas

  • Enhances eyeshadow color

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Whether you had a late night or early morning, one swipe of this luminescent formula will instantly perk 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.

Key Ingredients: Isododecane, silica | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Dry Lids

No7 Stay Perfect Eye Primer

No7 Stay Perfect Eye Primer
What We Like
  • Silky feel

  • Hydrates and smooths

  • Helps eyeshadow last longer

What We Don't Like
  • Not Byrdie Clean

The silky texture of this primer does a great job of keeping dryness at bay and prepping the lid for eyeshadow. Shake the tube well so the formula disperses evenly.

Key Ingredients: Mica, microcrystalline wax | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Sensitive Lids

Physicians Formula #InstaReady Eye Primer Duo

Physicians Formula #InstaReady Eye Primer Duo
What We Like
  • Comes in two finishes

  • Won't flake into eyes

  • Glides on

  • Can be worn on its own

What We Don't Like
  • Could be longer lasting

There’s nothing quite like a two-in-one. Included in this kit are two primers: One with a matte finish and the other with a shimmery finish. Depending on the occasion—or your mood—you get to choose. Plus, it’s paraben-free, gluten-free, and dermatologist-approved.

Key Ingredients: Talc, isododecane | Skin Type: Sensitive | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

As far as applying, Rankin prefers to use her fingers to warm up the product, making it easier and smoother to blend. “I also find it helps the product really penetrate the skin,” she adds.

Best Clear

Milani Eyeshadow Primer

milani eyeshadow primer
What We Like
  • Goes on clear

  • Glides on

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • A little on the oily side

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 not to 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.

Key Ingredients: Talc, mica | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Multi-Use

Revlon Eye Primer & Brightening Stick

Revlon Eye Primer & Brightening Stick
What We Like
  • Multipurpose product

  • Lightweight

  • Brightens eyes

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Now’s the time to give your eyes that soft-focus look. Infused with photochromatic pigments, this brightening primer reflects light in all the right places. Reviewers love the lightweight gel texture—which would feel great if left in the fridge overnight—and how the formula reduces the appearance of fine lines. Use under eyeshadow or alone for a vibrant, minimalistic look.

Key Ingredients: Dimethicone, isododecane | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Vegan

Wet n Wild Photo Focus Eyeshadow Primer

Wet n Wild Photo Focus Eyeshadow Primer
What We Like
  • Brightens eyes

  • Glides on

  • Byrdie Clean

What We Don't Like
  • Could be longer lasting

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.

Key Ingredients: Talc, silicone blend | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Quick Drying

e.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Eye Primer

4.7
e.l.f. Cosmetics Matte Putty Primer

Ulta

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Creamy texture

  • Easy to blend

  • Clear and tinted option available

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't prevent creasing

“I absolutely love this primer,” says Rankin. “It reminds me of the NARS Soft Cream Primer, except this one is reasonably priced.” Apart from being super easy to blend—thanks to the creamy consistency—it can also be applied with your fingers for a quick and simple routine.

Key Ingredients: Isododecane, dimethicone | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Long-Lasting

NYX Professional Makeup Eyeshadow Base

NYX Professional Makeup Eyeshadow Base

 Courtesy of NYX

What We Like
  • Stays put all day

  • Enhances eyeshadow color

  • Comes in multiple shades

What We Don't Like
  • Not Byrdie Clean

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.

Key Ingredients: Acrylates copolymer | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Glitter

Covergirl Lid Lock Up Eyeshadow Primer

covergirl lid lock up
What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Stays put all day

  • Resists creasing

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel a little sticky

When you’re in a rush, reach for this affordable option. It dries and sets within seconds, ideal when you need a super speedy eye makeup routine. It lasts and resists creases all day, and the formula also happens to be cruelty-free, too.

Key Ingredients: Trimethylsiloxysilicate, isododecane | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

We’ve got to give it to NYX's Professional Makeup Proof It! Waterproof Eyeshadow Primer, a waterproof formula that lasts and lasts, followed by the mighty CoverGirl Lid Lock Up Eyeshadow Primer that continues to keep your eyeshadow looking vibrant. If you're looking for a super-quick application, snag e.l.f. Cosmetics' Putty Eye Primer—its creamy texture helps with optimal blending and also dries in a snap.

What to Look For in an Eyeshadow Primer

Longevity

Much of an eyeshadow’s primer lies in its ability to stay on without slipping or cracking. When choosing an eyeshadow primer, take note of the length of wear. “I like to look for primers with 24-hour wear,” says Rankin. The longer the wear, the tougher it might be to remove, so always keep your cleansing oil handy.

Blendability

“An eyeshadow primer that's easily blendable is important,” says Rankin. If you can use the product with a tool or your fingers in a way that’s effortless, you’ve got a winner. Just keep in mind that most heavy-duty eyeshadow primers have a timeframe after application—after a few seconds, the formula can set, so make sure to apply your color immediately after.

FAQ
  • What is the eyeshadow primer for?

    Eyeshadow primer helps to keep your eyeshadow from flaking, creasing, smudging, or wearing off. It helps extend the life of your makeup look while providing a base for your eyeshadow to stick to, which can also help the pigment stick, providing a better result.

  • Do I need a primer for eyeshadow?

    While you do not need a primer for eyeshadow, eyeshadow primer helps keep your makeup in place and extends the life of your look.

  • Is there a difference between primer and eyeshadow primer?

    There is a difference between primer and eyeshadow primer. Eyeshadow primer is tackier to provide a base for pigmented eyeshadow to cling to. Face primer works more to provide a smooth, even surface for your foundation.

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Us


Byrdie contributor Syden Abrenica has years of experience in the editorial beauty industry. She’s written for magazines like Health, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, and more. When she’s not raving about an eyeshadow primer’s staying power, she’s renovating her century-old home and watching Disney movies with her husband, son, and three rescue dogs.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any eyeshadow primers from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The 11 best drugstore eyeshadow primers of 2022. StyleCraze. https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/best-drugstore-eyeshadow-primer

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