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This Is Why You Can't Use Normal Primer as Eyeshadow Primer

Seriously, though.

woman with blue winged eye makeup


I spent years wondering why my eyeliner wouldn't stay put past 11 a.m. I tried and tested eyeliner after eyeliner, desperate to find the perfect one. It wasn't until I discovered eyeshadow primer that I realized it wasn't the eyeliner's fault, but the lack of base to help it stick.

If you're someone who wears eyeshadow and eyeliner, a primer is a must if you want to avoid creases, smudging, and frequent touch-ups. But don't go reaching for your favorite face primer just yet. Whether you're sporting a bold look or going more au naturel, you'll want to look to a primer specially formulated for the eyelids to keep your eyeshadow and liner on point all day.

Keep scrolling to discover how to use this wonder product and which primers are worth the investment.

What Is Eye Primer?

Like face primer, eye primer ensures your eyeshadow or liquid eyeliner stays put all day long and prevents your shadow from creasing on your eyelids. Eye primers generally come in a gel-like formula that melts away on your eyelid upon blending. 

The main difference between face primers and eye primers is the formula. Most face primers contain silicone or water, which makes them smooth to touch, which helps them fill out pores and blur imperfections. Eye primers, on the other hand, feel slightly tackier and contain a slight grip to help make your eye product of choice last.

Like face primer products, eye primers also come in a variety of colors. For example, Smashbox's Photo Finish Lid Primer ($21) comes in four shades. You can wear it alone sans eyeshadow to even any discoloration for a flawless-looking lid. Or you can team their 24 Hour Shadow Primer ($22) with a vibrant eyeshadow color.

What Is Eye Primer?
Brooke Pelczynski / BYRDIE

The Test: Eye Primer vs. Face Primer

Bu can you substitute face primer for eye primer in a pinch? In the name of beauty, I decided to run a little test. For one day I wore Urban Decay's cult eyeshadow primer, Primer Potion ($24) on my left eyelid and Benefit face primer, The POREfessional ($32) on my right. I then applied the same Eyeko's Black Magic Liquid Eyeliner ($36) to both my eyes. I'm obsessed with this liner. The pen makes it so easy to apply, and it gives you the perfect inky black line.

By mid-morning, my left eyelid still looked perfect. My eyeliner flick was still in place and there was not a single smudge or crease. My right eye was a totally different story; the whole flick of my eyeliner had disappeared, and I had to re-apply it completely. Not ideal when you have a morning of meetings. So while you may want to use other products like face primer or concealer as an eyeshadow primer, I'd highly recommend sticking to the products designed for the purpose, like some of our favorites below.

What is eye primer: Nars Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow-Base
Nars Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow-Base $26
What is eye primer: Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer
Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer $21
What is eye primer: Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer
e.l.f. Cosmetics Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer $3

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