I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about primers – I wanted to know what they are primarily used for, what the difference is between primers and moisturizers, and if I needed one. I’ve condensed all the learning I have about primers into 5 Things – so if you’re considering a primer, read on!

1. The type of primer you choose depends on what foundation (or tinted moisturizer) you use.

Primers and foundations fall largely into two major buckets: Silicone-based and water-based. As a general rule of thumb, you should use silicone-based primers with silicone based foundations, and water-based primers with water-based foundations.

How can you tell?

Look at the ingredients list of the products. Silicone based products typically have words that end in -cone/-methicone/-siloxane near the top of the ingredient list. Manufacturers list ingredients by highest concentration to lowest. Water based formulas will typically have water or aqua near the top of the ingredient list.

An example of a water-based primer: Too-Faced Hangover Primer

According to my good friend Jessica, “Priming is a must for even foundation application, and I am currently obsessed with this Too Faced one. It has a light coconut scent and is super hydrating for my dry skin.” (You can read more about Jessica’s career as a beauty Brand Manager here.)

Too Faced Hangover Primer

Ingredients: Water, Lactobacillus/Salix Alba Bark Ferment Filtrate, Propanediol Dicaprylate, Propanediol, Ceteareth-6 Olivate, Olive Glycerides, Lactobacillus Ferment, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Hydrogenated Olive Oil, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Cellulose Gum, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Pectin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Xanthan Gum, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice, Lauryl Alcohol Diphosphonic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, Glycerin, Lecithin, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Fragrance, Lauric Acid, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Citric Acid.

An example of a silicone-based primer: Benefit The POREfessional


Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Isononyl Isononanoate, Silica, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Isododecane, Phenoxyethanol, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Titanium Dioxide, Cyclohexasiloxane, Tocopheryl Acetate, Fragrance (Parfum), Mica, Iron Oxides, Trethoxycaprylylsilane, BHT.

Mixing a silicone-based primer with a water-based foundation (or vice versa) often causes the foundation to pill because the primer is creating a barrier that prevents the foundation to properly absorb into your skin, resulting in general uneven application. If you do use a silicone-based primer, use an HD foundation, since HD foundations typically have a higher amount of silicone than hydrating, lighter foundations that focus on natural finishes.

2. The purpose of a primer is to extend the wear of your makeup to look fresher, longer, and more flawless.

Just like how eyeshadow primers keep eyeshadow in place and prevents fallout, primers prep your skin so that foundation applies smoother and lasts longer.

My good friend Diana, who works in product innovation at Avon, likes NYX Illuminating Primer. According to Diana, “I like NYX Illuminating Primer because it wakes up my complexion and helps my makeup stick.”


3. You can also choose primers based on your desired primary benefit.

For example, what benefit are you trying to achieve from the below list?

– Hydrate
– Protect
– Correct
– Blur/Perfect

If you have drier skin, look for a hydrating primer that gives your skin an extra boost of moisture. If your foundation doesn’t have SPF, you may want to look for a primer with SPF for protection against harmful UV rays or anti-oxidants to protect against free radicals. If you have uneven skin tone or suffer from redness, look for a color correcting primer. Finally, if you are looking to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles or large pores, a blurring CC primer can do the trick.

Tip: Blurring and Perfecting Primers are almost always silicone based to fill in the lines and pores to create the look of smooth, flawless looking skin.


4. There is a “right” way to apply primers

Especially with silicone-based primers, you never want to rub it into your skin, but tap instead. A little bit of primer also goes a long way, so don’t overdo it or you risk having your makeup look cakey and unnatural.

5. Primer does not equal moisturizer.

It is tempting to replace your moisturizer altogether with a primer, but it’s important to remember that you still need to moisturize well underneath your makeup, which means before you apply your primer or foundation. Give yourself a couple of minutes after applying moisturizer and/or sunscreen before you apply primer to let it fully absorb into your skin, or you risk having the it breakup your makeup sooner, which defeats the purpose of using a primer in the first place.

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