TUTORIAL | Primer 101

Primers are one of those products that people either love or hate. Some people think it’s an unnecessary step in their routine, however, I believe that depending on what kind of look you’re going for, primers can sometimes make a huge difference. I love my primers and own several different kinds to address all sorts of problems I may have with my skin. If you would like to learn more about primers and whether or not they’ll be beneficial to you, please keep reading.


What is a primer supposed to do?

Before I get into the different types primers, I would like to touch on what they’re actually used for. Primers are supposed to act as a barrier between your skin and your makeup. They create a smooth base for your makeup to go on, making it appear more uniform while allowing the application to go on more easily as well. Usually, people use primers to allow their makeup to last longer, to fill in any uneven texture, or just to provide additional hydration and radiance.

Silicone-based vs. Water-based

Most primers usually are either one of two options: silicone-based or water-based. Both will give different results, so it’s important to know which one is appropriate for your needs.

Silicone-based primers usually contain ingredients like ‘dimethicone’ or ‘siloxane’ at the beginning of the ingredients list. Silicones are responsible for that smooth and silky feeling that some primers have when applied on the skin. For that exact reason, they usually are the main ingredients in pore-minimizing, line-reducing, “smoothing” primers. These work well for people who want matte and smooth skin.

Examples: Benefit Porefessional, Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Perfecting Primer, Smashbox Photofinish Primer – Pore Minimizing, NYX Angel Veil Primer.

Water-based primers  usually have, you guessed it, water as a main ingredient. They may also contain some silicones in them but in much smaller amounts. Water-based primers don’t do a whole lot in terms of smoothing skin texture, however they are much more hydrating and feel a lot less heavy on the skin than silicone-based primers. They mainly serve to prolong the wear time of makeup (hence the sometimes sticky texture) and sometimes provide more moisture or luminosity. Water-based primers also generally work better for individuals with sensitive skin.

Examples: Nivea After Shave Balm, Smashbox Photo Finish Primer (Light), Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Primer, Smashbox Primer Water, Becca Backlight Priming Filter.

Tips on applying primer

  • No matter what, always moisturize your skin beforehand. It doesn’t matter whether you have extremely oily skin or super dry skin, moisturizing well is a key step involved in priming your face.
  • Make sure you choose a primer that will work with whatever foundation you are using. For example, using a water-based primer with a foundation containing oil may cause your makeup to appear blotchy and separated after a while. Conversely, using a water-based foundation with a silicone-based primer may cause your primer to “pill” (i.e. roll up into little balls). The truth is, it takes some trial and error to find out which products work for you. If possible, ask for samples and see which ones you like best.
  • Don’t apply too much product! A pea-sized amount of primer (especially silicone-based ones) will go a very long way. If you apply too much primer, it could create too thick of a layer and will cause your makeup to slip and slide as the day goes on.
  • When using a primer to minimize the appearance of fine lines and pores, press the product into the skin rather than rubbing it over – it helps “fill in” the areas to create a smoother base.
  • Don’t feel like you need to apply primer all over your face. I have a very oily T-zone, however the perimeters of my face are rather dry. Therefore, I only put a mattifying primer where I need it.

What are some of your favourite primers?

Comment below to discuss!

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