Morgan: Spotlight on primers

It was a challenge to come up with a name for this post without resorting to a tired play on words: ‘prime time’, ‘primer perfection’, ‘primed and poreless’. So you get something boring and descriptive instead.

A primer is one of those products that’s not entirely necessary when it comes to putting on makeup, but they’re an important step that helps your makeup go on evenly, last longer and look better. As you can see I’ve made a pretty good attempt at amassing a selection of primers for almost every purpose. Here are their vibes.

We have here: brightening primers, pore-refining primers, oil-reducing primers, bronzing primers, colour-correcting primers… the only type of primer I don’t have is a really moisturising primer, and that’s because I already have oily skin and don’t suffer from dryness. I also have to admit that since shooting for this post my primer collection has grown again. This is pretty silly really because I don’t actually use a primer every day. I get mixed results with them and because they aren’t an essential step, I’ll happily skip priming when I’m in a rush.

Stila One Step Correct NZ $76 / US $36
The first primer I ever owned! It’s a colour-correcting primer with swirls of green (to counteract redness), salmon (to counteract bluey tones) and purple (to counteract sallowness). It it is a very light gel that goes on in a thin layer. It doesn’t have very effective colour-correcting properties, to be honest, but you can dab it on more thickly in areas that need it.

Laura Mercier Oil-Free Foundation Primer US $19.50
This is a water-based primer that apparently has mattifying properties. This comes out the tube as a cloudy white gel and dries quickly on the face; you can feel it ‘grab’ when you apply foundation over the top. I found this primer didn’t do much for oiliness, and my the skin on and around my nose actually looks much greasier than usual at the end of the day when I use it.

NARS Pro-Prime Pore Refining Primer, Oil-Free NZ $68 / US $34
This is another water-based primer. It is a lighter gel than the Laura Mercier one and it feels less silky on the skin – it’s more like a moisturiser. I didn’t notice this had any lasting effect on the appearance of my pores but it does help makeup last longer. This is probably also because I use it with NARS Sheer Glow. I recommend using a primer and foundation from the same brand, because they’re designed to work well together.

MAC Strobe Cream US $10 (travel size)
This is technically a moisturiser, not a primer, but it’s so loaded with glow that it’s best used as a primer when you want to look really radiant. Probably not an everyday thing, but I love it for going out or for mixing with a foundation if I don’t want to look really matte. It’s not glittery, so there’s nothing to be afraid of. It has quite a thick, moisturising texture.

Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12 Hour Primer US $34
This little mini tube is in the shade tan, which is the darkest option, but it’s good for giving the impression of a tan when you use it under your normal foundation. I haven’t noticed this having any impact on the longevity of makeup worn over it. I prefer using a bronzing powder rather than a bronzing primer, but because this is a creamy product it’s probably better than powder if you’ve got quite dry skin.

L-R: Stila, Laura Mercier, NARS, MAC, Tarte, Benefit, Bourjois primers – same order as in this post.

Benefit The Porefessional NZ $57 / US $30
Possibly the most popular primer on the internet, this guy is designed to minimise the appearance of pores. It’s a silicone-based primer with a beige tint, and it feels incredibly silky going on the skin. It prolongs the wear of foundation, but you’ve got to make sure that you’re using it in combination with a silicone-based product – if you use a water-based foundation with it, you’ll probably get pilling and less-than-average results.

Bourjois Bronzing Primer UK £9.99
A little different from the others, this is a sticky brown paste designed to give your skin a bronze glow. It smells deliciously of chocolate, but unfortunately I found its tint much too orange to be usable on my skintone. Harriet had the same experience. This one has moved on now to a friend who was excited to try it, so hopefully it has a happier home with her. I didn’t find this affected the application or longevity when used under foundation.

I’ve just realised that this post is dominated by higher-end brands, so my apologies. Harriet does discuss the Revlon Photoready primer here, which is a bit more affordable. I’m going to have to follow this post up with a part two, to include the other primers I now own!

Do you use a primer every day? What’s your favourite primer to use?

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  • spooky

    I don’t use a primer on a day-to-day basis and it’s because I haven’t had the best experience with the ones I have tried. I’ve tried three products:

    Becca Resurfacing Primer Perfector (40mL AUD$55)
    Nutrimetics nc Prime Foundation Base (50mL AUD$30) and
    smashbox Photo Finish (12mL USD$10).

    I find Becca products to be horrible, and regret having purchased them. They are so expensive and just generally ‘meh’, so offer me extraordinarily poor value for money. And I never really hear about Becca as a brand, anyway, so there’s not even the feel good, “Look at what I have!” brag factor with it.

    The Nutrimetics primer is overly thin/watery and sticky, and essentially useless. Actually, Nutrimetics’ makeup in general is rubbish (the skincare is okay, though). But learn from my fail, srsly. You’re highly likely to be disappointed with this particular product.

    And as for the smashbox – people rave about it, but I didn’t think it was anything special. I don’t know… I have dry to normal skin, and as it stands, my face makeup lasts a full day without primer, so maybe I’m not the best judge of this stuff?

    I know we’re talking face primers and not eye primers, but I really love the e.l.f mineral eyeshadow primer in Sheer. For USD$3, it is excellent value. I have hooded lids and my eyeshadow pre-primer days would crease within minutes. It was not a good look. But with this stuff, it stays on looking great all day. I love it.

    I have also tried Pixi Eye Bright Primer, but that dried out insanely fast and didn’t do a particularly good job. And I’m now using up the NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base (Sephora gave me a deluxe sample – no way would I otherwise own this), but find it to be too similar to the Nutrimetics face primer in texture, and while yes, it does the job as advertised, I just don’t really like it. (Sorry! I know you’re a NARS fan. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not for me.) I would like to try the Urban Decay, Too Faced, and smashbox eyeshadow primers next.

    (Holy wall o’ text! Sorry. I obviously have thoughts on this matter! :P)
    (And I totally would have gone with the “Prime Time” title, but I’m a dork like that! :D)

    • I don’t think we have Becca or Nutrimetics here! I’ve heard lots about the Smashbox primer and I think I have a few samples of it but I’ve never paid much attention to how it worked for me.

      I’ll have a post on eye primers up soon! I actually LOVE the NARS eye primer, haha! I have the Too Faced one too but I never reach for it anymore.

  • I love the Hourglass Primer, it’s expensive-hence I only have the travel sized version. It is the best though in terms of makeup longevity and helps makeup apply better over the top of it. Laura Mercier radiance primer is great too-especially if you’ve got drier skin.

    • Both of those have joined my collection since shooting for this post! I really like the Hourglass one, shame about the price :/

  • Paggy

    I have been using the Shiseido WHITE LUCENT Brightening Spot-Control Base UV for over 4 years now, it’s a love-hate relationship between us. But I do love how it can brighten my asian skin and create a nice base for foundation. The best thing about this is when I have good skin days, this is the only thing I’ll use with a bit of blush and it looks really natural and radiant. Maybe it’s time to try something new

  • Steph Hicks

    I use the Benefit Porefessional primer under my Revlon Colorstay foundation and haven’t been having much success with it reducing the appearance of my pores. I never knew it was because you’re supposed to use a silicone-based foundation! I don’t think Colorstay is silicone-based…wow!