When you think of eyeshadow primer, perhaps you don’t feel the same level of excitement as you would about an incredible mascara, a holy grail liquid foundation, or the perfect nude lipstick. But the value of a great eyeshadow primer cannot be overstated. It’s often the key to a smooth, vibrant, long-lasting eye makeup look, and if you ask us, it’s a makeup bag staple.
But just like other makeup categories, the best eyeshadow primer for you depends on your wants and needs. So, we put almost 30 to the test in The Lab, and ahead, we’re sharing which ones performed the best. From lightweight formulas and budget-friendly options to color-correcting primers and more, we’ve got you covered.
Keep scrolling to discover the best eyeshadow primers tested by Byrdie.
NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base
Handle applicator is a bit long which makes precise application tricky
The brand is arguably most known for its award-winning complexion products, but we believe this eyeshadow primer from NARS deserves more attention. The thin, lightweight consistency blends onto the eyelids with ease to create a smooth, soft canvas for eyeshadow. While the original shade is completely transparent making it an excellent choice for all skin tones, the shade Light has a slight beige color to it which can help blur the appearance of veins on the eyelids.
Eyeshadows apply effortlessly on top, and it helps to prevent creasing and fading throughout the day. Our tester shared that because of its transparent finish, it didn’t affect the color integrity of her eyeshadows which she appreciated.
If we could change one thing about it, it would be the length of the wand. While our tester loved the doe foot applicator, she explained that because the wand is so long, it makes controlled application a bit tricky. However, because of the translucency, this isn’t a big concern.
Price at time of publish: $47
Shades: 2 | Translucent: Yes | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
“The primer was very easy to blend in and felt weightless on my eyelid.” —Katherine Moran, Product Tester
Best for Oily Lids
e.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Eye Primer
Contains a lot of product
Doesn’t come with an applicator
If you’re thinking that this is a face primer, you’re right. But we don’t always play by the rules, and you don’t have to either. It was formulated to be a matte primer for the face, but the brand claims that it makes a great eyeshadow primer—and we agree.
Our tester shared that the smooth, creamy texture blended over her eyelids easily and dried down quickly to a comfortable matte finish. Because of the matte finish and not overly emollient texture, it’s a great option for people with oily eyelids. It helps to combat oil, serve as a base for eyeshadow, and help keep the makeup intact. We also love that it can be used on the face and eyes, helping to cut down on the amount of products you’ll need in your makeup collection.
Our one con with this product is that it doesn’t come with an applicator, so you’ll have to dip your fingers or a brush into the formula. But if you use clean fingers and you regularly wash your brushes, you shouldn’t be overly concerned about this.
Price at time of publish: $10
Shades: 1 | Translucent: Yes | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Color-Correcting
Rare Beauty Always An Optimist Weightless Eye Primer
Provides even coverage
Peachy hue brightens the area
Not the most longwearing
Discoloration on the eyelids is extremely common, but it can be super frustrating when creating an eyeshadow look. That’s why tinted eyeshadow primers, like this one, are great for people who have veins or hyperpigmentation in the area.
Aside from the creamy consistency and the velvety, comfortable dry-down, our tester raved about the color of this primer. She explained that the peachy hue worked to brighten up the area while simultaneously providing enough coverage to effectively even out her eyelids. She also noted how much she appreciated the packaging design. Because the tube has one flat edge, it won’t roll around on your vanity and potentially break.
One thing to note is that many online reviewers say this primer begins to crease after a few hours—so if you have oily lids, keep this in mind.
Price at time of publish: $18
Shades: 1 | Translucent: No | Long-Lasting: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“I can't get over how much I loved the color of this eyeshadow primer. It is a tinted peach color that immediately brightened up my eye area. It smoothed easily and provided consistent coverage across my entire eyelid.” —Caitlyn Martyn, Product Tester
Best for Brightening
ILIA Natural Brightening Eye Primer
Lightweight formula and feel on the skin
Some reviewers say it causes a slight burning sensation upon initial application
Sure, eyeshadow primers are meant to serve as a base for makeup and help to increase the longevity of your look, but why not throw other benefits in there too? This primer has a subtle pearlescence to it which gives the eyelids a brighter, more light-reflective look. It even looks pretty alone on the lids. But don’t worry, you can still apply matte shadows on top and achieve your desired finish.
The lightweight texture and fast absorption were what stood out most to our tester, and she also noted that once dry, she couldn’t feel it sitting on her eyelids.
It’s worth mentioning that while our tester didn’t experience this, some online reviewers shared that this primer caused a slight burning sensation upon application. Like with any makeup, it’s always wise to patch-test first.
Price at time of publish: $24
Shade Range: 1 | Translucent: Yes | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
bareMinerals Prime Time Eyelid Primer
Easy to blend
Limited shade range
In addition to helping increase the longevity of your look, eyeshadow primers are great for acting as a base for shadows. But the latter can mean many things. Translucent primers can be great for providing a smooth texture for eyeshadows to evenly blend over, or a tacky texture for more chunky shadows to adhere to. But tinted primers can help to address discoloration while also providing an additional layer of color that can boost the vibrancy of the shadows you apply on top. This tinted primer has a creamy beige color that works to cancel out discoloration as well as make eyeshadows appear more vivid. While it can certainly be used on all skin tones to up the intensity of whatever eyeshadow is applied on top, we would love to see the brand release more shades so that people can more closely match their skin tones if they desire.
Aside from the even coverage it provides, our tester loved the silky texture and the quick-drying formula.
Price at time of publish: $19
Shades: 1 | Translucent: No | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Amplifying Eye Primer
Weightless feel on the skin
Doe foot applicator makes application easy
Some reviewers say it dries down too matte
The feeling of heavy product sitting on the skin is a makeup pet peeve for many, but with this ultra-lightweight product, you won’t have to worry about that. The formula is soft and airy to the touch, and it blends across the eyelids with almost no effort required.
Our tester shared that the doe foot applicator made for a mess-free application, and once applied, she couldn’t tell that there was product on her eyelids. She also noted that while the primer has a milky, off-white color out of the tube, it dries down to a colorless finish on the lids.
If you have oily eyelids, this is a great option for you. But if you have dry lids, be sure to moisturize before applying it as some reviewers found it to be a bit too matte and dry once applied.
Price at time of publish: $21
Shades: 1 | Translucent: Semi | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Benefit Cosmetics Stay Don't Stray Eyeshadow Primer
Not overly pigmented
Easy to apply
Only comes in one shade
No one likes to put time and effort into a gorgeous eyeshadow look—especially for an event—only to have it fade and crease just a few hours later. So, finding an eyeshadow primer that delivers on its long-wearing claims is essential.
This tinted primer works to cancel out discoloration on the eyelids while enhancing the vibrancy of your eyeshadow, and most importantly, keeps your look locked in. If you need your makeup to stay put for a special occasion, this is a solid choice.
Our tester explained that she appreciated the level of pigmentation because while it doesn’t completely blank out the eyelids, it does provide enough coverage to create a pretty even canvas. And due to the fact that it’s not full coverage, the shade is flexible and works for a variety of skin tones. However, we do think that adding one lighter shade and one deeper shade to the lineup would be ideal.
Price at time of publish: $32
Shades: 1 | Translucent: No | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
“It felt really creamy to apply, but once it dried it was set. It didn't crease, smudge, or move. It felt super lightweight on the eye too.” —Shannon Bauer, Tester
Laura Mercier Eye Basics Primer
Smooth, lightweight texture
Dries down quickly
Tint dissipates on the lids
If you have oily lids or you live in a rainy, humid climate, chances are a water-resistant eyeshadow primer could save you from some makeup mishaps. In addition to being water-resistant and crease-proof, it has a light, creamy texture that glides onto the lids with ease.
Our tester appreciated how easy it was to apply and how it dried down quickly to a comfortable finish. She shared that she couldn’t feel it sitting on her lids, and her eyeshadow applied smoothly over it and stayed in place.
While we appreciate that the product comes in a variety of shades, our tester noted that the tint seemed to disappear once applied, making the purpose of having several shades confusing.
Price at time of publish: $45
Shades: 6 | Translucent: Semi | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
“The primer felt smooth and lightweight. The product dried quickly, and I felt like I wasn't wearing anything.” —Lauren Socia, Product Tester
Ruby Kisses 24 HR Eyeshadow Magic Primer
Lightweight, even texture
Visibly enhanced the vibrancy of eyeshadow applied on top
Some reviewers say the packaging isn’t ideal
If you’re looking for an affordable product to keep your eyeshadow locked in while intensifying the color payoff, you can’t go wrong with this colorless primer. The thin, transparent formula blends across the eyelids smoothly before drying down to a soft matte finish.
Our tester appreciated the even consistency and the fact that it dried down quickly, but what sold her was that she saw a noticeable difference in the color payoff of her eyeshadow when applied on top of the primer.
Some online reviews say that the packaging feels a bit cheap and the applicator is harder than they would prefer, but it’s not a deal-breaker for us considering that it delivers on its claims and comes with an affordable price tag.
Price at time of publish: $7
Shades: 1 | Translucent: Yes | Long-Lasting: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
“There were no creases or smudging and it was invisible on the lid under the eyeshadow. It helped the eyeshadow color stand out and appear brighter and more pigmented.” —Michelle Cabrera, Tester
Best Clean Formula
Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Eyeshadow and Concealer Primer
Angled applicator makes precision easy
Lightweight, creamy consistency
Some reviewers find that it creases after a few hours
Products that can be used in multiple ways always earn extra points in our book, and this eyeshadow and concealer primer is no exception. It can be used to prep the eyelids for eyeshadow as well as prevent your concealer from creasing under your eyes, which if you’re like us, is a major makeup annoyance. The vegan formula contains hyaluronic acid to boost moisture, and the thin, transparent texture has a creamy texture that feels incredibly airy on the skin.
In addition to the weightless feel on the eyelids, our tester shared that the angled applicator made applying the product in hard-to-reach areas simple.
While our tester didn’t note any creasing, some online reviewers say that they experience creasing with this after several hours. So if you’re looking for something to last you all day and night, keep this in mind.
Price at time of publish: $32
Shades: 1 | Translucent: Yes | Long-Lasting: Somewhat | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Thanks to its lightweight texture and serious longevity, our winner is the NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base. But if you’re on the hunt for a primer that cancels out discoloration making for an even base, we recommend the Bare Minerals Prime Time Eyelid Primer.
How We Tested
Byrdie editors carefully researched popular eyeshadow primers, taking expert recommendations and consumer reviews into account before selecting 29 to put to the test. The application, look, and feel of each one was assessed by our testers, who applied the products on clean eyelids before going in with eyeshadow.
After applying the eyeshadow primer, they evaluated the look and feel before applying eyeshadow and evaluating again. All tests were performed in The Lab, our Manhattan product testing facility.
Other Options We Tested
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion
This test wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of the OG eyeshadow primer. While our tester shared that the wand and smooth texture made applying the product easy, she noted that when she applied eyeshadow on top it looked a bit patchy. To mitigate this, we recommend setting the primer with translucent powder first.
Milani Eyeshadow Primer
This affordable primer got the job done in terms of creating a nice canvas for eyeshadow, but our tester found the consistency to be a bit too thick, making it easy to apply way too much.
Hourglass Veil Eye Primer
While this luxe eyeshadow primer performed well in combination with the eyeshadows applied over it, our tester shared that the thick, tacky consistency made it a bit heavy feeling on her eyelids.
What To Look For When Buying An Eyeshadow Primer
By now you’re probably aware that some eyeshadow primers are completely transparent while others are slightly tinted or even quite pigmented. The right one for you depends on your goals. If you have discoloration on your eyelids that you’re hoping to cover, opt for a primer with coverage, like the Rare Beauty Always An Optimist Weightless Eye Primer. Pigmented primers are also great if you’re hoping to create a full-glam look because they can help to boost the vibrancy of the eyeshadows you apply on top. But if you don’t have discoloration that you’re trying to cover, and you’re simply looking for a primer to act as a smooth canvas for shadow and keep it locked in place, a colorless option, like the NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base is a great choice.
Don’t underestimate the importance of texture when you’re trying to find the right eyeshadow primer for you. If you have dry eyelids, opting for a creamy primer, like the MILK MAKEUP Hydro Grip Eyeshadow and Concealer Primer is your best bet. But if you have oily lids, one with a more matte texture, like the e.l.f. Cosmetics Matte Putty Primer, will suit your needs more.
What does eyeshadow primer do?
Eyeshadow primer serves two main functions. It creates an even canvas for eyeshadow to be applied on top—both in terms of texture and color—and it helps to increase the longevity of your eyeshadow look. That means that it should work to smooth texture, cancel out discoloration (if you’re using a tinted option), and prevent eyeshadow from creasing and fading.
How do you apply eyeshadow primer?
Like with most makeup products, the application method is up to you. You can blend eyeshadow primer across your eyelids with your fingertips or a brush, just be sure to blend it evenly and cover all of the areas where eyeshadow will be applied.
What Is Byrdie Verified?
Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.
Why Trust Byrdie
Alyssa Kaplan is an experienced writer in the beauty industry and product tester specializing in cosmetics. She has tested dozens of eyeshadow primers over the years—including several on this list. Alyssa has been a commerce writer at Byrdie since 2022, where she covers all things beauty.