The first summer holiday is behind us, not to mention the first blistering heat and humidity of the season for us East Coasters. So, what better time to discuss a product that can help mattefy skin, keep makeup from melting and prevent shine.
If you haven’t heard about makeup primers yet, then you must be living under a rock. A rock located far, far from a Sephora. Makeup primers have long been the secret of professional makeup artists doing celebrity makeup for events and photo shoots. Much like paint primers, they prep the skin for perfected makeup application and longer wear. Those who’ve discovered them speak as if they’ve discovered the holy grail. With pore minimizing and fine line reducing qualities, for some it is better than discovering the Holy Grail (no matter how cute Audrey Tautou looks in The DaVinci code.)
I tested several primers for this article, but before I get into my favorites, I will defer to an “expert” in the field who tested no less than 40 primers in 40 days. Under BlogdorfGoodman posts of the same name, “Cavewoman” Patti Ferrara tested a primer a day during a Lent “no buy” and has much to say on the subject.
“My own personal obsession with primers came from being disappointed time after time with just about every foundation I tried,” Ferrara said. “I went from brand to brand and purchased foundation after foundation and was wondering why none of them ever came close to giving me a flawless complexion.”
Dealing with a myriad of foundation problems – foundation disappearing in the middle of the day, changing color, wearing unevenly, not covering spots, sinking into pores, making her complexion look dull or cakey – Ferrara ordered a bottle of Smashbox PhotoFinish off of the television shopping channel QVC.
“I find that once someone tries, and finds, the perfect primer it’s hard to imagine using foundation without it,” Ferrara said. “And once I found the right primers, I did not mind the extra time or the extra step, because I knew that my foundation would look as good at the end of the day as when I first applied it.”
Holy Grail indeed.
Like most cosmetics, primers aren’t exactly one-size-fits-all. A primer that’s perfect for an oily skin type (usually those formulas with silicone) can be drying to people with already dry skin. Those products with light-reflecting properties to give glow and soften fine-lines may make those oilier skin types look even shinier, but be perfect for those with dry skin.
Ferrara recommends everyone start with Smashbox’s original formula PhotoFinish (the product also comes in skin-tone correcting and anti-aging/SPF formulas). I also found this to be my favorite all-around primer.
After applying PhotoFinish, makeup and skin look pretty and nice. It does seem to give a more professional appearance, as if you had professional makeup application. By mid-day this product had definitely cut down on shine. While I did use a blotting paper as usual, I could have gotten away without it. This product also seems to leave makeup looking the freshest at the end of the day.
As far as pore-filling goes, I will swear by Clinique’s Pore Minimizer, part of a whole pore minimizing line I’m now dying to try. After application, skin already looks matte and “finished.” I actually contemplated going to work without foundation after using this (quelle horreur!). But, since I’m testing it as a primer, on with the foundation. By the end of the day this product also controlled shine well, and make up was still covering what needed covering.
Laura Mercier’s primer seemed to facilitate the application of makeup, making foundation easier
to smooth on and giving better, more even coverage. This product isn’t as heavy on the shine control, but it does help makeup stay fresh throughout the day. It does what you might expect of a primer developed by a makeup artist.
Another makeup artist, Laura
Geller, has primers for face, eyes and lips. The product is called Spackle and actually comes with a little spatula for application. This is the first primer I tried for lips and it seems to work well. My lipstick is usually gone by the time I get to the office, but with this product it lasted a bit longer. Made with natural plant extracts that protect the skin and Aloe Vera and ingredients to help skin retain moisture, feel softer and look smoother, you don’t need a moisturizer with this product.
NARS Makeup Primer was great for actually prepping the skin. It uses soothing botanicals and creates a protective base for longer-lasting, natural-looking foundation application and wear. It’s very lightweight, and helped to even out my skin tone, taming redness around my nose. On a blotchy day, this is the primer I would reach for.
While I’ve generally had trouble with so-called illuminating products, I’ve got to say I loved Chanel’s Base Lumiere Illuminating Makeup Base. It evens out skin tone and adds a soft-focus brightness without giving oily skin that mottled look. The softening effect also reduces the appearance of pores. They’re one of the few products that offers a statistical claim as well: Chanel says this product extends foundation wear up to 23% after eight hours. Plus, it contains an anti-pollutant ingredient to help protect skin from environmental damage. That’s certainly a nice added benefit.
Also good for evening the skin tone is Estee Lauder Prime FX, a WWD Beauty Biz award winner. This product comes in different colors for different skin shades – red cuts blue, yellow cuts red and blue cuts yellow. Since I don’t think I have a problem with any of these shades, I went with the illuminator. It definitely did brighten up my skin, I think this would be a great product to reach for in the winter when skin is losing it’s luster.
While I haven’t started using primer every day, I do like having quick fixes to different problems I may experience, and also a way to ensure long-lasting makeup for those occasions when I really need it. Primers are definitely worth looking into, and may just become as basic a part of the beauty routine as moisturizer or powder.
“I think honestly that primers are becoming more popular just from makeup artists using them on customers, and from word of mouth on internet chat boards,” Ferrara said. “They are solid problem-solvers and I think that for many women, they are becoming as important as good skincare in the daily beauty routine. Maybe they are a trend right now, but trends do tend to become mainstream when people are happy with the effect.”