What Exactly Is Eyeliner Primer? I Tried 2 Different Versions

Does it really work to keep your liner in place?

Maya Allen

Image by Maya Allen

I know exactly what you're thinking: Eyeliner primers exist? Trust me when I say I thought the same thing. Then, I quickly questioned the point of them, which made me think back to the time before I discovered my holy-grail eyeliner (Bless you, Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Eyeliner, $23).

It was a bunch of failed attempts at a jet-black cat eye that would fade to gray after a few hours. By the end of the day, it was barely there. Those were some sad days. So I guess if you haven't gotten your hands on a long-wear eyeliner that works for you yet, there's a need for a primer so your liner stays put. But what is eyeliner primer? And how, exactly do you use it? We spoke to experts to find out.

Meet the Expert

Keep reading for everything you need to know about eyeliner primer.

What is Eyeliner Primer?

Ultimate Ozone Multi Purpose Primer Pencil
Urban Decay Ultimate Ozone Multi Purpose Primer Pencil $19.00

As Glamsquad makeup artist Soleil Atiles explains, "primer is often used to create a smoothing effect that enhances makeup coverage, increasing its longevity."

But after a quick Google search, I found out that they only kind of exist. Interestingly enough, there isn't a product online that's solely marketed as "eyeliner primer." I used my keen sense of judgment and found two products that were close enough. This is where Urban Decay Ultimate Ozone Multi Purpose Primer Pencil comes in.

I love anything that makes my makeup last all day—I'm talking sun-up-to-sun-down staying power. As you can imagine, my primer collection stays stacked. I rarely go straight home after work. Unfortunately, I usually end up taking off my makeup late at night when I get home.

I was impressed by the thick tip of this pencil, which made gliding this on top of my lids super easy. Initial reaction: It felt so smooth, which was probably its hydrating blend of jojoba oil. I found it interesting that it wasn't a liquid formula—more like a balm, but for your eyes. I layered my eyeliner on top. On this day, I wore Laura Geller INKcredible Waterproof Gel Eyeliner Pencil ($20).

By the end of the day, which was 10 hours later, my liner looked untouched.

What Skin Types Can Use Eyeliner Primer?

Getting the right primer for your skin type is crucial, says Atiles. "Be sure to use the primer that best suits your skin type and the finish you are looking to achieve. For example, a hydrating primer for dry skin types, a smoothing primer for more textured skin, and a mattifying formula for oily skin."

As an extra tip, Atiles says to keep hue and tint in mind depending on what sort of coverage you're looking for. "For those with rosacea or irritated skin, I recommend using a primer with a green tint to neutralize the appearance of any redness."

It's also important to keep in mind ingredients, says Ruiz. “In regards to masking your pores with makeup, silicone-based products are the way to go," Ruiz says. "They help fill in your pores, kind of like filling in potholes on the road to create a smooth canvas."

How to Apply Primer

As Atiles explains, proper application is crucial to success when it comes to primer. "Apply on top of your skincare prep once all is absorbed, using a foundation brush in light strokes or dab on with a beauty blender sponge. Allow the primer to set into the skin for a few moments before applying foundation, ideally with a foundation brush or sponge."

Once you apply your foundation, stick with a brush, rather than your fingers. "Chances are that applying foundation with your fingers will more than likely 'disrupt' the layering process you’ve just achieved," Atiles says. "Using the tools mentioned will allow you more control and guarantee that flawless finish."

This is how my liner looked right after applying it paired with the primer pencil (oh, and in case you're curious about my highlighter since it's practically blinding, I'm wearing the Milani Strobelight Instant Glow Powder, $11):

Maya Allen

10 a.m

Hours passed, and I did a quick mirror check—no feathering in sight. By the end of the day, which was 10 hours later, my liner looked untouched. Still as sharp as it looked in the morning. Here's a photo to prove it:

Maya Allen

7 p.m

Other Eyeliner Primer Options

While doing research, I also came across an inexpensive option from E.L.F. The brand creates a product called Eye Primer & Liner Sealer. Sounds like it could work as an eyeliner primer, right?

E.L.F. Eye Primer & Liner Sealer $6.00

I tried it. The liner sealer has a pointy applicator, which makes it easy to precisely prime the area of your lid exactly where you're going to place your eyeliner. The tip is solid, so the brush doesn't feather. The other side of the stick is an all-over eye primer. I decided to stick with my Stila eyeliner for day two.

Here's how my eyes looked with the liner sealer in the morning:

Maya Allen

10 a.m

And here's eight hours later…

Maya Allen

5 p.m

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Amplifying Eye Primer
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Amplifying Eye Primer $22.00

This product is liquid, which makes it a solid choice, says Ruiz. "These kinds of products have more flexibility in relation to moving the product on the skin. Try to avoid powders, as they can exaggerate the look of pores."

The Takeaway

Final thoughts: My eyeliner was smudge-free all day, so I give these primers props. However, that could be due to the power of my long-wear, waterproof eyeliners I wore both days and not the eyeliner primers. I have really dry skin, which means I never deal with oily lids that cause my liner to slip. I'm into beauty but not extra steps on a lazy day. I feel like the true solution is finding a bomb eyeliner that stays in place all day.

I wouldn't wear eyeliner primer every day, but I may pick it up on night outs that'll probably turn into early mornings.

  • Do you need primer for eyeliner?

    While primer for eyeliner isn't absolutely necessary, it can help. But note that primers specifically for eyeliner don't really exist. Instead, it's about finding a primer that will coat your entire eye area, so you can add liner, and liquid or power on top of it.

  • How do I make sure my eyeliner doesn't smudge?

    Wearing eyeliner primer is one way to ensure your eyeliner doesn't smudge. Primer is like a base coat, so it helps ensure your "canvas' (i.e. your skin) is smooth, but it also helps makeup to stay put.

  • How do I select a good eyeliner primer?

    As experts explain, it's important to look for ingredients when shopping for primer. Silicone-based products, for instance, will help to smooth fine lines and fill in pores, creating a nice base upon which to build your makeup.

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