EYES | Eyeshadow primer superpost

eyeshadow primers

It has been a weird week for me. Harriet and I got interviewed for something exciting on Wednesday, and I spent three consecutive nights out drinking with friends (usually I do this zero times a week). Somehow along the way I have completely neglected to write anything for Hyacinth Girl, so I am making it up to you now with this superpost on eyeshadow primers.

We covered face primers recently but I also own pretty much every eyeshadow primer that anyone has ever recommended, due to the fact my eyelids are oily as hell. I figured I might as well tell you guys what I think of them. (Oh and by the way: In loosely eyeshadow-related news I was really excited that my last eyeshadow post inspired Elese to try a similar look.)

eyeshadow primer - tested and reviewed

Look at all these damn primers. I’m going to put them in three loose categories (coloured, neutral and invisible base), although it would probably be more accurate to think of them on a scale, from ‘coloured cream thing in a pot’ at one end, to ‘completely transparent thing in a tube’ at the other. (Don’t expect my scale to correspond to how I put these on my arm, because that would imply that I had thought this out in advance. Which I didn’t.)

The primers I’ve used are NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base NZ$51, Urban Decay Primer Potion NZ$30, NYX HD Eyeshadow Base NZ$7, Too Faced Shadow Insurance NZ$30, NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk NZ$4, MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Painterly NZ$23, Maybelline Colour Tattoo in Tough As Taupe NZ$10, Stila Smudge Pot in Kitten NZ$42, and Benefit Stay Don’t Stray NZ$49. Can we take a moment to appreciate that, when pooling our collections, Harriet and I have a pretty comprehensive selection of eyeshadow primers from all places on the price spectrum?

I could have done a scientific field test like Robyn’s where I swatched them on my arm next to each other and then judged how they wore. I didn’t do this because I’m usually working a public facing job where the expected standards of dress don’t allow for a mosaic of blue and brown swatches up one of my arms. What I will do is mention the staying power of the primers where there’s something significant to say about it.

I used a matte, bright eyeshadow AND a shimmery, neutral eyeshadow for test purposes. The blue shade is Bolt from the Sleek Ultra Matte v1 i-Divine palette, and the reddish-brown is Sunset from the Stila In The Light palette. This means we can see how a primer affects the pigmentation and finish of the two shadows.

eyeshadow primer comparison

1. Nothing. Shadows looking weak.
2. NARS. Shadows looking brighter and true to colour. For staying power this gets like 45 out of 10. No creasing. Ever.
3. Urban Decay. Bright and true to colour. Good staying power, bad creasing on my oily lids. This is the primer that some people swear by, but it’s no good for me.
4. NYX HD. Shadows appear solid but darker. Negligible effect on longevity.
5. Too Faced. Similar performance to Urban Decay but without the creasing – this was my preferred primer before I found the NARS one.
6. NYX Milk. The white base makes brighter colours appear more vibrant, but it took away the shimmer from the Stila shadow somehow. This really needs a conventional primer beneath it.
7. MAC Painterly. This is a cool-toned flesh shade that is a good base for neutral shadows but can affect the impact of brighter colours. Wears well on oily lids but I see some creasing after a long day.
8. Maybelline Tough As Taupe. This test was a little unfair because I wouldn’t choose to use this under either of my test colours but it works well as a base for darker shadows. Some creasing but this is pretty solid for the price, and they have other, lighter shades too.
9. Stila Kitten. The sparkle in this is good for using on its own or with shimmery shadows, but it doesn’t work well as a base for matte shadows. It has a very dry consistency which means it won’t crease easily.
10. Benefit Stay Don’t Stray. Quite flesh-toned (more than I expected) but performs well. Darkens colours slightly, similar to NYX HD base.

Conclusion? I don’t need this many primers. I go for the NARS one when I’m doing an intensive eyeshadow look, as it’s the only one that’s truly invisible and it works fucking amazingly. It’s quite expensive and needs a chance to dry down first, though, so on the daily I’ll generally use MAC’s Painterly. It’s pigmented enough to smooth out my lids and looks great with a matte shadow like MAC Soft Brown through the crease.

My overall recommendation is the NARS primer, but if that’s out of your budget and you have oily lids, try the Too Faced primer. Urban Decay’s offering is a solid choice for normal skin. But whether you’ve got the budget for those brands or not, you should definitely get some Maybelline Colour Tattoos into your collection! They double as decent cream shadows on their own, come in a selection of colours and there’s almost always a special on Maybelline at Farmers.

What’s your eyeshadow primer of choice? Am I missing a super important one?

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  • Kristie

    Have you tried the e.l.f one? It was only $2 or $3 so I thought I would give it a try and I thought it made a difference to how my eyeshadow wore – this is the only one I’ve tried though.

    • I haven’t tried the ELF one, but several people have recommended it now, so I will try to find it!

  • Spooky

    For the $2 or $3 it cost me, I am a huge fan of E.L.F. Mineral Eyeshadow Primer. In fact, I used NARS Smudgeproof after I ran out of E.L.F., and pretty much hated it in comparison. I guess it was the texture I didn’t like. That, and it only performed “ok” for something so expensive. I know a lot of people love it, though, so I think it’s just a case of different strokes for different folks. I am using E.L.F eyelid Primer in sheer at the moment, and that works fine too, but the Mineral version is my preference. I just bought this one because I couldn’t get the other kind.
    Next I will try Wet n Wild Take on the Day eyeshadow primer from the Fergie collection (I didn’t realise that was a thing, but that’s what the package says). I’ll let you know at a later date how I like it. 🙂

    • Sounds like I’ll have to track down a few ELF eye primers! I’ll be excited if they really can give the NARS one a run for its money on my greasy lids.

  • The NARS primer is also my favourite of all time! I have really oily eye lids and its perfect! If I need super long wearing I top it with a makeup geek gel eyeliner as a base and your eye shadow wont budge! I once wore this combo with eye shadow on top for 18 hours and it still looked perfect just like when it was first applied, blew my mind!

  • I can relate to the whole eyeshadow creasing situation #thestruggleisreal and the Nars Primer is the only one that seems to prevent creasing on my lids although I have found Primer Potion pretty good as well. That Nars one though? Magical. Sometimes I wear that and a Mac paint pot & then apply eyeshadow over the top and my eyeshadow lasts extra well. I’m not a fan of the Maybelline Colour Tattoos but maybe I just have the wrong shade for me. What colours do you recommend? x

    • I really like Barely Branded, Tough As Taupe (or Permanent Taupe if you buy from Feel Unique/UK sites) and I have one called Pink Gold – I THINK it is the same as Inked In Pink but I am not 100% sure! I really wanted to get my hands on the limited edition matte shades they released in the US last year, but they were highly coveted and are now really difficult to track down.

      • Ooh I’ll keep an eye out for those.There’s meant to be some new limited edition neutral ones coming out soon which sound exciting!