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

Seriously, though.

woman with eyeshadow

Unsplash / Design by Dion Mills

Ever look at your eye makeup at the end of the night and think, "what happened?" What was once perfectly-blended eyeshadow has faded into an abyss of non-distinctive color, not to mention the barrage of creases that have caused your precise cat eye (which you undoubtedly worked so hard on), to smudge. The answer to all of your smudged-up eye makeup woes lies in one product: primer—eye primer, that is. Just like a face primer creates the ideal base for the rest of your face makeup to stick on to, an eyeshadow primer targets the eye area and makes whatever you put on top more vibrant.

Whether you're sporting a bold look or going more au naturel, using a primer specifically formulated for the eye is key and will work to keep your eyeshadow and liner on point all day. To learn all about the ins and outs of eyeshadow primer, including some recommendations, we tapped beauty expert Savannah St. Jean.

Meet the Expert

Savannah St. Jean is a makeup artist and the founder of Savannah Rae Beauty, a Florida-based salon specializing in luxury beauty services.

Keep reading to learn more about eyeshadow primer and why you need one.

What is eye primer?
Brooke Pelczynski / Byrdie

What Is Eyeshadow Primer?

applying eyeshadow primer
Ihor Bulyhin / Getty Images

"Eyeshadow primer is formulated to extend the life of your eye makeup while enhancing the colors applied on top," explains St. Jean. "It’s an incredibly necessary product, but is often one of the most overlooked items to add to your makeup routine. It’s best to apply after your skincare, but before your eye makeup." Eye primers generally come in a cream-like formula that melts away on your eyelid upon blending. And while some may use concealer in place of an eye primer, it tends to not be as effective for longevity. "Concealer tends to have too much of a slippery or oily base and will act against you a few hours into your day," she adds.go

 "It can also leave a heavy feeling to your eye makeup, make it difficult to blend your shadow well, and can add to creasing throughout the day."

The Benefits of Using Eyeshadow Primer

eyeshadow primer
Digital Vision

According to St. Jean, eyeshadow primer has a ton of benefits.

  • Prevents eyeshadow from smudging and creasing: If you have naturally oily eyelids, your eyeshadow may be prone to smudging throughout the day. Primer, however, acts as a barrier between the natural oils on your eyes and your eye makeup. 
  • Makes eyeshadow application even: "Those with dry eyelids tend to struggle with even application of their eye makeup as well as the accentuation of fine lines," explains St. Jean. "Adding eyeshadow powder (a naturally dry product) on top of already-dry skin can look aging, especially if you are working with anything even slightly shimmery."
  • Grips eyeshadow: Applying eyeshadow to dry skin can be a frustrating feat because the powder has nothing to stick on to. St. Jean says that because there may not be enough moisture for the eyeshadow to properly adhere to, an eyeshadow primer will act as a grip so that your shadow stays in place. It also gives you an even base for the shadow to apply evenly on.
  • Accentuates true eyeshadow color: Unlike using concealer as an eyeshadow primer—which St. Jean says can interfere with the tones of your eye makeup and make the pigment appear dull—a tinted eyeshadow primer will even out the tone of your eyelids while staying true to the eyeshadow color.

Is Eyeshadow Primer Necessary?

Woman applying makeup
Nikola Stojadinovic / Getty Images

There are some steps in a makeup routine that get the green light to nix, but St. Jean says primer isn't one of them. "Eyeshadow primer is pretty necessary if you are looking for your eye makeup to last more than a mere few hours," she says. "It extends the life of your hard work so you can take your look from morning to night, and not have to worry about faded eyeliner flicks or eyeshadow creasing." Of course, if you skip eye makeup, you can skip the primer.

Using a cream eyeshadow? St. Jean still recommends using eye primer, as it creates a barrier between your skin and color products, ensuring it won't easily break down with sweat and oil.  

How to Apply Eyeshadow Primer

Below, find St. Jean's quick how-to on applying eyeshadow primer.

  1. After washing your hands, use a mustard seed-sized amount of product and blend over the entire eye area using your ring finger.
  2. If you're going to be wearing eyeshadow or eyeliner under the eye, add a bit of primer under the eye as well—this will ensure the product doesn’t melt and fall downwards throughout the day.
  3. Once the primer is well-blended and evenly applied, apply your eye makeup directly on top of the primer. 
  4. After finishing your eye eye makeup, take a finishing powder and lightly sweep it over any exposed primer left untouched by eyeshadow. 

When applying eyeshadow primer, less is more. St. Jean stresses the importance of using a light layer so that your eye area isn’t left looking (and feeling) too heavy. 

Eyeshadow Primer vs. Face Primer

eye primer red liner

Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

The main difference between face primers and eye primers is the formula. Most face primers contain silicone, and while this makes them smooth to the touch and helps fill out pores and blur imperfections, St. Jean says it could wrack havoc on your eye makeup. "Silicone would create too slippery of a surface on the eyes, add to creasing, and make it harder to blend your eyeshadow evenly," she notes.

Eye primers, on the other hand, are specifically formulated for use around the eye, feel slightly tackier than a face primer, and contain a slight grip to help make your eye product of choice last. While we're all about multi-purpose products, St. Jean notes that the consistency of an eye primer wouldn't work well on the face. "It would grab your makeup in an undesirable way and would not leave you will a smooth base," she says. Bottom line: You shouldn't substitute one for another.

Shop Our Fave Eye Primers

Find our expert-approved eyeshadow primer picks below.

Urban Decay Anti-Aging Eyeshadow Primer Potion
Urban Decay Anti-Aging Eyeshadow Primer Potion $24.00

The delicate eye area is one of the first places to show signs of aging, and any hint of dehydration can accentuate the fine lines around our eyes. "Anti-aging eye primers like this one from Urban Decay help blur these lines while offering the ability to create a perfectly blended and smooth eye makeup look," says St. Jean.

Supergoop! Shimmershade
Supergoop! Shimmershade SPF 30 $24.00

"Eye primers that contain an SPF can be a fantastic way to add some extra protection to any sun that may hit the eye area through the top of your sunglasses," advises St. Jean. This cream eyeshadow from Supergoop! doubles as a primer and eyeshadow, and contains SPF 30 for protected lids all day long.

Alima Pure Eye Primer
Alima Pure Eye Primer $20.00

A primer-skincare hybrid that delivers skin-nourishing squalane and Shea butter, this pick by Alima Pure keeps shadows and liner looking vibrant from application to removal.

Nars Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow-Base
Nars Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow-Base $26.00

Struggle with transferring mascara? St. Jean recommends an eye primer if you're sporting some seriously long eyelashes. "An eye primer can help prevent your mascara from smearing onto your upper eyelids or underneath your lower lashes," she says. With a touch of finishing powder set on top, this one from Nars is perfect for ensuring your mascara stays smudge-free.

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