These 5 Primers Will Change Your Life

Girl applying moisturizer on her face

Alain Shroder / Getty Images

Your face is the ultimate canvas, and applying primer before makeup can truly make all the difference. Makeup primers are used underneath eyeshadow, foundation, lipstick, mascara, and even nail polish to create a smooth base that helps keep your makeup in place all day.

Primers also make applying makeup a little easier and can reduce the amount you use. Essentially, they're meant to create a barrier between the product and your skin, giving you beautiful and long-lasting results. Since there are specific options for different parts of our beauty routine, we wanted to break each one down, so you have the 411 on how each primer functions. 

Eyeshadow Primers

Eyeshadow is notorious for wearing off by mid-day, and it almost never stays in place through gym workouts or on rainy or humid days. A simple primer can fix all of that, and it helps with your eyeliner as well.

An eyeshadow primer, such as Urban Decay's Eyeshadow Primer Potion, is ideal for keeping your eyeshadow looking great. When paired with a high-quality, long-lasting eyeshadow, the primer can keep your eyes as fresh as when you first applied, no matter what your day brings. It can also keep the skin around your eyes moisturized, help prevent creases, and reduce any dark areas.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion $24
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Available as liquids and creams, just a little bit of eyeshadow primer applied to your upper and lower lids will do the trick. Work it in by dabbing it with your finger or a small brush.

Mascara Primers

One of the tricks to getting great lashes is to apply a mascara primer. A product like blinc Black Lash Primer will help separate your lashes and give them volume and length.

To apply the primer, curl your lashes, then sweep the primer on from the base to the tips. Do just one eye at a time because you want to follow up with your favorite mascara before the primer dries. In the end, your lashes will look lush and fabulous.

Blinc Black Lash Primer
blinc Black Lash Primer $26
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Lip Primer

Not every woman is going to need a lip primer, but if you like to play up your lips and want all-day color, it's a good move. A product such as Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Primer will keep your lipstick from bleeding and create a smooth surface that will hold the color longer.

It is particularly useful for bold lipstick and it works under a lip gloss as well. If you're going for a natural look, it can also give a quick boost to otherwise nude lips.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Primer
Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Primer $16
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Foundation Primer

Foundation primer has many benefits and it's one that you may or may not need to use. Essentially, it helps create a smooth base that can diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, and uneven skin tone and textures.

By using a primer, you can get away with less foundation. Plus, on days when a foundation isn't necessary, the primer can give your skin a blurred, airbrushed look. Many also include SPF, which can add another layer of protection from the sun.

If you don't want to add the step of a primer to your beauty routine, you can slather on moisturizer before applying your makeup, says Linda Wells, Allure's beauty editor, in her book "Confessions of a Beauty Editor." However, makeup artists swear primers go one step further than moisturizers; they help your makeup stay on longer, and some even out your skin tone.

Other benefits of foundation primers, according to makeup artist Laura Mercier, include:

  • They allow your foundation to "stay put" in hot weather.
  • They help prevent skin from absorbing talc and pigment from your foundation as well as preventing talc from drawing oil from the skin.
  • They contain botanicals such as lavender, orange, jasmine, rose, geranium, grape, kiwi, and aloe extracts to soothe and refresh the skin.

If you have normal skin that doesn't require these special touches, a regular primer such as the highly recommended Hydrating Pure Canvas Primer ($38) from Laura Mercier is a great option as well. There are many types of primers available, and you can choose one to match your particular skin:

  • Anti-Aging Primers: Tones and protects skin and often includes a good amount of SPF.
  • Blurring Primers: Create an airbrushed look on the skin that evens everything out, creating a beautiful base to build on.
  • Color-Correcting Primers: The color of these primers is designed to counteract underlying skin tones. For instance, green primers are used for redness, and blue primers can offset sallow or yellow tones.
  • Hydrating Primers: Provide extra moisture for dry skin.
  • Illuminating Primers: Give skin a bright glow and is perfect for pumping up a duller skin tone.
  • Pore-Reducing Primers: Preferred for oily skin, these can give skin a matte look and reduce the appearance of large pores.

BB and CC creams are another primer option, and they are a bit like a tinted moisturizer. These can certainly stand on their own without foundation for a very natural, yet smooth, look.

Applying primer is simple. If you're using a moisturizer, apply that first, then let your skin dry for a few minutes. Beginning at the center of your face, apply just a light layer of primer, dabbing it in with your fingers ​or a makeup sponge. Allow the primer to dry for a few minutes before applying your foundation.​

Nail Primers

For anyone who enjoys doing their own nails, a nail primer can add a layer of protection that keeps polish looking great longer. Just like the other primers, it gives your nails a smooth base coat and helps the polish adhere evenly. It's also recommended under acrylic nails.

A great nail primer like Deborah Lippmann's Two-Second Nail Primer does far more than any base coat. It can clean and nourish your nails as well as strengthen them to ensure they stay healthy under the polish. It's typically applied prior to the base coat, and most formulas dry in seconds. It's a worthy investment if you want a beautiful color that stays on.

Deborah Lippmann 2 Second Nail Primer
Deborah Lippmann Two-Second Nail Primer $14
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