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What Is a Makeup Primer and Do You Really Need It?

primer texture shot

Whether you like to apply a full face of makeup every day or prefer a more simplistic approach to beauty, primer may be the best new addition to your makeup bag. If you’re someone who completely skips the use of primer, you’re not alone! In most cases, we either aren’t sure how to use it or just don’t think that we need it. To get more specifics on the importance of primer, we spoke with Nashville-based makeup artist Chelsea Reynolds, who creates looks for fashion, beauty and special events.

What Is a Makeup Primer?

A makeup primer is a cream, gel or liquid designed to create a smooth base for your makeup. Just like your foundation, it comes in a variety of finishes—dewy, satin or matte—and works to fill in pores, absorb excess oil and even out your skin texture so your foundation goes on smoother, appears more natural and lasts much longer. Some makeup primers offer a little bit of coverage for minor skin imperfections, while some deliver additional skin care benefits like hydration, anti-aging and sun protection to enhance your skin over the long term.

Primers, however, don’t just apply to foundation—and they go beyond makeup. Here are the different types of primers, what exactly they do and why you need them.

  1. 1. Foundation Primer: Creates a Smooth Base for Foundation

    Think of using a foundation primer just as you would a paint primer for your house. The goal is to create a smooth base coat before applying the final coat. “Primer not only has additional skin benefits like hydration and oil control,” Reynolds explains, “It provides a base for makeup to stick to. Primer really increases the longevity of your makeup and prevents creasing throughout the day.”
    Foundation primers are not one-size-fits-all, and not all of them deliver the same benefits. To help you find the right foundation primer for you, it’s always wise to consider your skin type and concern. For a lightweight, sun-protecting and complexion-enhancing canvas, try Colorescience Skin Perfector Brightening Primer SPF 20.

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  2. 2. Eyelid or Eyeshadow Primer: Keeps Eyeshadow From Creasing

    Do you notice that your eyelids get a little oily throughout the day? Have you ever realized that your eyeshadow has become creased or that the pigment fades too quickly? Eyelid primer may be exactly what’s missing from your makeup routine. “Eyelid primer not only enhances pigmentation of your shadow, but also prevents creasing,” says Reynolds. “Eyelid primers will allow your eye makeup to glide on smoothly and keep it fierce throughout the day.”
    For a hydrating primer that also doubles as an under-eye treatment, try the Jouer Cosmetics Long-Wear Eye Brightening Primer. 

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  3. 3. Eyelash Primer: Makes Your Eyelashes Look Fuller and Longer
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    3. Eyelash Primer: Makes Your Eyelashes Look Fuller and Longer

    If you’re looking for stronger, thicker lashes (aren’t we all?), eyelash primer is a great choice for you. Eyelash primer lengthens your lashes, and, in some cases, can also stimulate lash growth. It also creates a nice base for your mascara to grab onto, making it last longer. Reynolds says, “I love eyelash primer because it is great for conditioning lashes and getting them ready for mascara.”
    To enhance your lashes from root to tip, we recommend PureLash Extender and Conditioner by jane iredale.

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  4. 4. Nail Primer: Protects Your Nails and Makes Polish Last
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    4. Nail Primer: Protects Your Nails and Makes Polish Last

    Primer is not just for perfecting our makeup. Primer can also be a game changer for our nails. This multi-use product helps our polish stay on longer and protects our nails from chipping. “I love nail primer because it helps strengthen my nails and protect them from the polish, so there isn’t any discoloration,” says Reynolds.
    Our favorite long-lasting nail primer is Smith & Cult’s Basis of Everything. 

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  5. 5. Hair Primer: Protects Hair From Heat and Humidity
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    5. Hair Primer: Protects Hair From Heat and Humidity

    A hair primer creates a barrier to help protect hair from heat styling, humidity and more. “Hair primers are great for creating an additional layer of protection,” explains Reynolds. She also recommends using a hair primer to “minimize heat or chemical damage.”
    Some hair primers, like TWISTER Curl Primer from R+Co, will also add moisture and definition to your hair while protecting it from heat damage.

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Freelance Writer

Stephanie Capretta

Stephanie Capretta is an account manager at a tech company in Playa Vista but has always had a passion for creative writing. In her spare time, you’ll find Stephanie playing beach volleyball, adventuring/hiking outdoors and hanging out with her boyfriend and their husky, Slater.