[REVIEWS] Let’s talk about Primer!

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One of the pleasures of writing this blog is that I get to talk at length about some of my favourite things. Primer is one of those things!

My relationship with Primer goes back quite a long way, really. Somewhere around about 5 years ago, I was having lunch with two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known, both dyed-in-the-wool makeup experts, both never less than perfectly put together and both (because I’m ridiculously lucky like that) friends of mine.  Sooner or later the conversation shifted around to makeup, and one of these two goddesses said that she was going out after work, so she’d put some primer on to make her foundation go the distance. At the time, I didn’t have the first idea what she meant. As far as I knew, primer was something you put on a wall or on metal or wood, before putting paint on and in order to get a better finish.  I made a mental note to look it up later, and then promptly forgot about it, as you do.

When I encountered primer again some years later, I discovered that I actually hadn’t been that far off with my initial thought!

Skin primer serves exactly the same purpose as wall primer.  It makes the surface  of the skin smoother and helps to visually flatten and blur tiny flaws to give a better finish under foundation.  It makes foundation easier to apply and blend because the brush/sponge drags far less on the surface, and ultimately you get a more even application.  I usually find that I use less foundation overall with primer than without it.  And, most usefully of all, it can significantly improve the staying power of foundation.  As my friend knew all those years ago, it makes the difference between foundation that has well and truly had it by 5.00pm and foundation which is still flawless and going strong at 10.00pm.

Finding the right primer for your skin and for the purpose you need it for can be something of a minefield.  There are more different types of primer out there than you can possibly imagine. Face primer, lip primer, eye primer, lash primer. Primer to reduce the appearance of pores. Primer to control shine and stop oil breaking through your foundation. Hydrating primer. Primer to reflect light and add a youthful, glowing finish. Primer to reduce the appearance of fine lines.  Colour correcting primer.  If you have a complaint about your skin, it’s a pretty good bet that there’s a primer out there designed to at least go some way towards helping.

So – on to the reviews!  These are the six things I currently have in my arsenal which are, or can be used as, primers.

1. Younique “Touch Glorious Face Primer” (RRP £30)

This is one of my hero/holy grail products.  I’m fast discovering that anyone who wears makeup with any kind of regularity has at least one or two of them!  This is a good, simple, ordinary, uncomplicated, silicone-based primer.  It is smooth and silky to apply, it smells of absolutely nothing, a pea sized blob covers my whole face, and it dries down to a wonderful, velvety-soft finish which is perfect for applying either foundation or tinted moisturiser on top of.  This is the third tube of it that I’ve had, and I shall only replace it with another one the same when it’s empty.  “Glorious” it is, and it’s a keeper.

2. Estée Lauder “The Mattifier” (RRP £26)

I’m testing this one at the moment.  When I bought my foundation I was given a few samples of it to try out.  It’s aimed at controlling shine and stopping oil from breaking through foundation in the middle of the day.  So far the jury is still out, but I will say that I don’t like the texture of it quite as much as the Younique one, and I haven’t found it to perform any more effectively in terms of oil control.

3. NARS “Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base” (RRP £19.50)

4. Urban Decay “Eyeshadow Primer Potion” (RRP £17.50)

Both of these are eyeshadow primers, designed to make eyeshadow go on more smoothly and last longer without creasing during the day, and also to help intensify the colours.  They’re really remarkably similar to use.  Both go on as a tacky white liquid which, when blended into the skin, dries down very quickly to be almost invisible on the skin.  Both have similar applicators, and both do help to intensify the colour of powder eyeshadows used on top.

I don’t often say it when comparing products from two different brands, but I honestly cannot pick between these two.  These are both high end products, around the same price point, and are both very effective at what they do.  I would just as happily use one as the other if both were available to me.

The unfortunate truth of the matter however is that although very good, neither of them are quite up to the task of dealing with my super oily eyelids!  With both of these my eyeshadow still creases and goes patchy over the course of the day, it simply takes a little longer than it would with none at all.

5. MAC Cosmetics “Pro Longwear Paint Pot” in “Painterly” (RRP £16.50)

This, on the other hand, is an absolute revelation.  My other holy grail product in this category.  While not sold as a primer, this turns out to be the best eyeshadow primer in the whole world if you have oily skin!  I’m not joking even a little bit.

“Pro Longwear Paint Pot” is a cream eyeshadow, which comes in a variety of neutral colours.  Applied with a firm eyeshadow brush, when it hits the skin and warms slightly, the formulation is wonderfully creamy, and spreads easily to cover the whole lid.  With very little blending the edges just disappear, and it dries down quickly to provide an absolutely gloriously perfect base for powder shadows once it has been set with either translucent powder or a similar coloured powder shadow (my usual choice).  I am nowhere even close to being the first to discover this, a very significant number of the reviews I found (most of them, really) are from people using it in the same way.

I have absolutely no end of problems with eyeshadow, as detailed above.  They crease, they fade, they run (my lids really are that oily), they’re a bugger to blend, and they generally look crap very, very quickly.  Until now I haven’t found a primer which has kept them in good order beyond lunchtime.  Until now.

Yesterday morning I applied my makeup at 07.30 as I usually do.  After work my husband and I met a friend for dinner – who remarked on how lovely my eye makeup looked, some 11 hours after it had first been applied!  JACKPOT!  

If you have oily lids and struggle to keep your eyeshadow in place, this is the answer.  Choose your colour carefully (I have fair-ish cool-toned skin (pink undertones) and find “Painterly” ideal for me, I know that “Soft Ochre” is the counterpart for fair, warm-toned skin (yellow undertones).)

(At this point I have to hand full credit to the beautiful and gifted Nikkia Joy for putting me onto this wonderful stuff.  Nikkia has very similar skin to mine, so I’m a devoted follower of her YouTube channel, and this popped up on a video about Holy Grail products a little while ago.  I’d never have found it otherwise!)

6. Charlotte Tilbury “Hollywood Flawless Filter” (RRP £30)

This is a relatively new product, it’s only been on the market about 6 months or so.  It’s a funny hybrid of a thing which can be used as a primer or a highlighter, can be used instead of foundation, or can even be mixed in with your foundation to lighten the texture and add a bit of glow to the finish.  It’s a wonderfully versatile product which I love – but because I’m naturally oily, I haven’t found that its best use for me is as a primer – instead I use it for spot highlighting, which it does very well indeed.

It’s fair to say that this barely comes close to even scratching the surface of what is available in the world of primers – these are only the ones I’ve picked up along the way so far!

As a footnote, I will say this: whatever your skin type and whatever issues you have with it, if you haven’t tried using a primer under your foundation, it really is worth it.  I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  I wouldn’t even consider putting foundation on without it now.

DISCLAIMER: This review is not sponsored by Younique LLC, Estée Lauder Incorporated, NARS Cosmetics, Urban Decay Cosmetics, M.A.C Cosmetics or Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Limited and I have no affiliation with any of these companies or their parent companies.   I have not been paid or otherwise compensated for these reviews, and I (or my very generous husband) pay for every product I review. All opinions are my own unless otherwise stated.

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