beauty primers

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Think of it like building a house: You have to work from the ground up.

Wendy Duren 111 East, Health & Wellness

beauty primers

111 East


If the slew of texts I received from girlfriends recently are any indication, the average and even occasional makeup wearer has questions about makeup primers. How do I use this stuff? What’s this supposed to do for me? Is the extra step worth it? Which primer do you suggest?

This behind-the-scenes product seems to be everywhere you look. Cosmetics companies now stock a wide range of options where they used to only offer one or two. Perhaps that’s part of the problem people have: They’re still not really sure what beauty primers actually do, since packaging alone is deceiving — a tube or a stick or even a compact can be just about anything. So, think of primers like Spanx: They are the underpinnings that disguise problem issues so that what goes over them looks better. Primers can smooth imperfections, brighten dull skin, and extend the 
wear-time of makeup. Best of all, unlike shapewear, makeup primers are comfortable. I’ve never used one that made me feel like I’d been stuffed into a sausage casing.

A great starting point for anyone looking to control oil and keep foundation in place is Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer ($54, Sephora). I’ve mentioned this product in this space before and it bears repeating because it’s fantastic. Worn alone or under a base, Veil Mineral Primer keeps sebum — the oil your skin produces — in check without being unnaturally matte and it won’t interact with silicon-based products, causing cosmetics to pill or ball up.

When Victoria Beckham and Estée Lauder joined forces last year for a capsule makeup collection, their starting point was “sweaty-sexy” skin. Sweaty as a marketing gambit falls desperately flat with me, particularly when it’s already 110 degrees out. So let’s call the finish of their Morning Aura Illuminating Crème ($95, “glowy-sexy” or “radiant-sexy.” Semantics aside, this product is a perfect part-moisturizer/part-primer that brightens the complexion with micro-pearls. I find this product equally effective under foundation, where it adds luminosity without any greasy side effect, or on its own for a your-skin-but-better look.

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Blur Perfector ($55, Saks Fifth Avenue) is a balm-to-powder primer that blurs away pores 
and other imperfections. YSL suggests using this instead of foundation or over base for touch-ups throughout the day. I find that after applying with fingertips to areas of concern there’s nothing more to do than enjoy the soft-focus effect.

Eye shadow creasing on my lids or migrating around my eyes was for many years the bane of my makeup existence. That may sound a bit dramatic, but never knowing where my eye makeup would be the next time I glanced into a mirror was enough to put me off shadow altogether. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion ($20, Ulta) changed that. It’s formulated thick and a bit tacky, so you only need a dab to keep your shadows from creasing, moving, or fading. For those with oily eyelids, this one is a game changer.

For eye looks that call for glitter on the lids, but not on the rest of the face, I turn to Too Faced’s aptly named Shadow Insurance Glitter Glue ($20, Sephora). This is great for keeping every speck of glitter exactly where you want it. Word of caution: Only put this where you intend to apply the glittery goods. If it adheres to a powder product, that’s where that colored dust will stay and no amount of blending will move it.

After my primer on makeup primers a girlfriend who took my suggestions followed up by telling me, “I used it and felt like I had supermodel skin.” That sounds like something we should all be using right now.