How to DIY Eyeshadow Primer When You Don't Have It on Hand

Katie Jane Hughes wears a cut crease smoky eyeshadow look and dewy makeup


In a perfect world, we'd get our winged eyeliner right every time, and our eyeshadow would never crease. But realistically, we know the chances of these things happening (or even happening simultaneously) are few and far between. For example, eyeshadow primer is seriously helpful for keeping statement looks intact, but what should you do when you've forgotten your go-to primer or run out without time to replenish before the night's plans?

Luckily, there are numerous products and tutorials now to keep you in good shape when it comes to eye makeup. With a few creative twists on products you might already have in your arsenal, you can get many of the main benefits of eyeshadow primer without having one on hand. Ahead, a dermatologist and a makeup artist share their best tips on how to DIY eyeshadow primer and keep the creasing far, far away.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Sandy Skotnicki is a board-certified dermatologist and medical advisor for Hims & Hers, practicing in Toronto, Canada.
  • Hillary Clark is a professional makeup artist, esthetician, and the CEO and founder of Beauty HAC.
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Skincare Can Help

If you're out of shadow primer, the good news is that your skincare routine can help. "Skincare plays a significant role in how your eyeshadow will wear," Clark explains. "You'll want to save your most luxurious, rich formulas for the under-eyes and your evening routine. Under shadow, rely on a water-based or oil-free moisturizer if your lids are oily."

If you're opting for a moisturizer over primer, apply it to your lids and let it fully dry before moving on your makeup. Giving products enough time to settle in is vital when layering them. Tatcha's The Water Cream ($70) is a suitable oil-free option to try.

02 of 05

Try Using Concealer

Chances are you've got concealer handy in your makeup bag, which you can also use as DIY eyeshadow primer. "In a pinch, I rely on a long-wearing, flexible hold concealer across my lids to neutralize them, enhance shadow color, and lock it in place," Clark tells us. "It's also the easiest product for traveling because your concealer will do double duty to cover up problem areas, highlight, and act as a shadow base." She also stresses the importance of setting the concealer to avoid creasing: "I like to follow this application with loose powder or, even better, blot powder."

"The staying power of a blot powder is also an ideal shadow base," Clark says. "First, use a water-based moisturizer to avoid dry, chalky lids" before moving on to applying the blot powder and eyeshadow. This blot powder ($34) from Mac Cosmetics comes in varying shades and can work on both the face and eyes.

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Opt for Two-in-One Shadows

The next time you're shopping for eyeshadow, consider picking up a two-in-one formula that provides the benefit of a primer and shadow in one product. Clark raves about this type of product: "Let me save you the time and frustration: two-in-one shadows with a built-in primer are your best bet if you can't use an eyeshadow primer or you have extremely dry or oily lids." Some of the makeup artist's top shadow picks are Urban Decay 24/7 Shadow Sticks ($27) and the Thrive Causemetics Infinity Waterproof Eyeshadow Stick ($26), both of which which are available in both matte and shimmer shades.

Want to create a smoky eye but don't have eyeshadow primer? If you have a waterproof eyeliner, you can apply it to the lid and buff it out with a fluffy eyeshadow brush to create your base. This allows whatever shadow you place on top to adhere to the texture of the liner, and since it's waterproof, you can avoid creasing and smudging altogether. Apply the liner to the top and bottom lash line as well to add sultry definition and overall cohesion.

04 of 05

Finish with Setting Spray

Setting sprays are a long-championed hero product to set makeup in place and help it last throughout the day and night. Since setting sprays are suitable to spritz all over the face, this is a crucial step that you shouldn't overlook when you want your makeup to have major lasting power—they're typically safe to use around the eye area, as long as your eyes are closed.

The Thrive Causemetics Instant Makeup Fix Set & Refresh Spray ($35) is a suitable option, as its formula is made to keep your look intact up to 16 hours and contains nourishing ingredients suitable for all skin types. Whatever setting spray you choose, simply hold it about 10 inches from the face and lightly mist all around to set your eyeshadow and face makeup.

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Don't Skip Removal

No matter what type of skincare and eye products you wear, one thing's for sure: It's essential to remove your makeup every night. "I recommend using an eye makeup remover that is oil-free and fragrance-free, and it’s important not to pull or tug the skin around the eyes when you’re removing makeup," Skotnicki advises, emphasizing the sensitivity of the area.

Skotnicki deems a few different removal methods appropriate when wearing long-lasting eye makeup. If you have waterproof eyeliner or mascara, a makeup remover with oil may be necessary, but the dermatologist tells us that excessive use can sometimes cause clogging of the eyelashes, milia, or styes. She recommends double cleansing when removing long-wearing products to make sure you don't leave any residue behind.

If you prefer micellar water for your eye makeup removal, that can be a suitable option, too. "Some micellar water cleansers are gentle enough to remove eye makeup as well," Skotnicki says. "I use the original and first micellar cleanser—Bioderma’s Sensibio H2O Micellar Water ($17). No residual detergent is left on the skin, and its biomimetic ingredients leave the skin more moisturized after using the cleanser. You’d remove makeup by applying the cleanser with a cotton makeup pad or reusable, washable bamboo pad."

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