The primer debate keeps going on and on and on so I thought, what better way to answer some of those nagging doubts than to lay it all out on the makeup table, or blog… so to speak.
All I’ve ever wanted in life is to have perfect skin, Victoria secret hair (and the body too thanks!) and to be able to sing like a Disney princess. While I can’t do much about the hair and only God knows if I’ll ever be able to hold a tune, I can get the skin I always wanted by using the right mix of skin care, primers and application of foundations.
So what is a primer meant to do?
In its most basic form a primer prepares the skin and creates a barrier between your skincare and your makeup, making it last longer and look better. That is if it’s the right one for you. But how do you know if its actually right for you and its going to do the things it says it will? That’s where I come in.
*Please note that Primer and Moisturiser are two very different things. One does not replace the other.
Primer functions can be split up into three categories.
- Skin Type
- Colour Correction/Radiance
Some primers do just one things, others aim to do it all at once, but depending on what you want it to do for you and what you put on top that really makes the skin come alive.
Priming by Skin Type
If you have Dry Skin:
Look for moisturising primers or ones that seal off your skin to hold in the moisture and protects from elements like heat and wind.
Protection is often a better path to take when you are dry as your moisturisers can get to work and the primer becomes a barrier between your skin care and your makeup.
For Combination Skin:
For combination skin I attack this in a two-step process. I treat the dry areas with a moisturiser first and smooth only the excess over the oily zones, usually done with a soft brush. Then I use a primer to mattify the oily zones.
Think of it as giving your skin just enough moisture to trick it into thinking there is already oil there (which means its less likely to freak out and product more) and then going ahead and doing what you want to do for your makeup. Its like reasoning with a toddler, or a husband for that matter. Give them a shiny distraction, then secretly do what you wanted in the first place.
I like using the Mario Bedescu Oil Free Moisturiser as its light weight and soothing on the skin while not clogging pores or causing irritation. The other great thing is that’s its light weight so it absorbs quickly and doesn’t make your skin feel greasy
For the Primer part I cheat a little. I use a drop of CoverFX Blot Drops in oily zones only which helps absorb oil throughout the day and it blurs the appearance of pores. Two in one!
If I use this combo, I don’t use a matte foundation as it will over dry the skin. I love Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 hour foundation in this scenario, set with CoverFX blotting powders. Sweat and oil proof, wedding proof, can’t beat this combo!
What if you’re Oily All over?
Just use a light amount of moisturiser and follow the steps above from the Blot Drops onwards!
Texture is about the surface of your skin. Do you have open pores? What about dry or rough patches? Pimples? Blackheads? Fine lines and wrinkles?
This is where the texture primers are your new best friend. What they do it help smooth the surface of your skin. They won’t take away deep wrinkles and they won’t erase years of sun damage but they will help to smooth and reduce the appearance of texture in your skin.
In the simplest form a smoothing primer contains silicone. While lots of things contain it, it needs to be one of the key functions. The next thing that is useful is to look for words like Blurring, filter, smoothing, shine free, velvet texture. This is what is going to give you the best indication of whether or not the primer will change the texture of your skin.
If you can get your hands on a tester or a sample you want to pop a small amount on the back on your hand and rub it in to the skin with one finger or your thumb. With a clean finger feel the texture of the back of your hand where there is no primer and where there is primer. You should feel a smooth, almost powdery texture in the primed area and it should be smoother than the bare skin. If you find this then you’ve got yourself a smoothing primer!
I love the Smashbox Photo Finish primer. It’s affordable and lasts for between 80-100 applications (tested from my makeup kit!) And it really does help smooth out the surface of the skin without caking makeup. Just use a small amount, you can always add more!
If you suffer from pimples and acne, I can’t go past the Elf Blemish Control Primer. It helps tone down redness by colour correcting with a sheer green tone and it contains Salicylic Acid and Tea Tree oil, both of which help to fight blemishes all day long. Pro Tip: Use this only where you have spots and buff out with a beauty blender.
Colouring and Radiance:
So what I mean by this are things like redness, pigmentation, dull looking skin and the pick me up products you can use before foundation to help get you feeling flawless by breaky.
When looking for a makeup like that boosts your glow, the brand Becca really shines (Pun intended). There are a few different products they sell but a great all-rounder for dull skin in any skin tone are their Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquids. You can lighten, brighten, bronze and blush your skin with a pump of these pretties. But how they work isn’t just the shimmer they add.
By using a veil of colour over your skin prior to foundation you are automatically giving yourself a colour correction before you opt for coverage. So you’ll end up using less foundation as well as having more radiant skin.
If you really want to target colour correction and radiance isn’t as much your concern, I would check out the Urban Decay Naked Skin Colour Correcting Fluids. The liquids appear to be quite strong in their colour but apply sheer so you wont look like the hulk or any of the Simpson family members. What they do is help to neutralise extreme colours by toning them down and returning them to a natural skin tone but should only be used in that area. So what colour corrector does what?
- Green is for Redness
- Peach is for dark circles and pigmentation
- Lavender Balances Sallow yellow tones
- Yellow brightens dull skin
- Pink brightens dark areas in lighter skin tones
“So where does this leave me if I have a few concerns?” You ask
Lets narrow it down for you…
I would always start by looking at your skin type first
If you don’t know your skin type, here are a few tell-tale signs.
- For Dry Skin you face often feels tight after washing it and you may find a little bit of flaking from time to time and you often have dry lips.
- For Oily Skin, you see shine within 3-5 hours of applying your makeup often in the t-zone
- Combination has a mix of both scenarios
- Normal skin, you generally don’t notice too much… maybe a bit of greasiness at the end of the day but otherwise its pretty good.
Now let’s think about texture. Do you want to improve how your skin looks in terms of the surface? Things like open pores, acne, fine lines? Once you know this concern you can narrow it down further and choose a primer that targets it.
For Colour and Radiance, this may be something like pigmentation or dull skin. If you have discolouration try first with a good quality concealer and a beauty blender, if that doesn’t cover then move onto the colour correctors listed above.
For me, I have combination skin with open pores and a bit of pigmentation from acne scaring and the sun. So I treat my skin type with skin care first then address oily areas with my trusty CoverFX blot drops and use a drop or two of the Urban Decay Colour correcting fluids in yellow to brighten the darker, dull areas like under my eyes and the pigmentation. Then I go onto my makeup as usual.
Even with all this info, I’m sure you’re bound to have questions. It can be confusing and when you get it wrong it’s also costly, so take it slow and always ask for samples. At the end of the day, you don’t have to use a primer. I generally only do it when I’m heading somewhere I want to look extra special or I’m going to be in photos, like while I’m doing wedding makeup. Otherwise, day-to-day, I don’t see the need to be 100% perfect. I love letting my skin show through and allowing my face to breathe.
Let me know the primers you love and what they do for you. I always love hearing your tips and tricks too!