WTF is a Primer? v1.0

As a professional makeup artist, you can imagine my shock, awe, and slight disgust when I was asked this question by my sweet, possibly Amish cousin, Sarah. Clearly one of us is adopted. How can ANYONE related to me not know what a primer is, much less not even own 1 or 5? So it became painfully obvious that this post needed to be written before she or anyone else I loved spent another day with large pores of creased eyelids. ( Somewhere, a unicorn just cried a little…)

First of all, what you need to know is that there are two major groups of primers, facial primers and eyelid primers and every woman that wears makeup needs to own one of each type. Would DaVinci ever paint a masterpiece without priming his canvas? Heck no, he wouldn’t! So why would you?  Pay attention, I’m about to break it down like RUN DMC- Today I will cover face primer.

Face Primer- As you might have guessed, face primer is to be used all over your face! A face primer is going to do several things for you, depending on which brand and type you choose. Every basic primer is going to: Fill in fine lines and wrinkles, smooth the texture of your skin, minimize the appearance of large pores, and best of all, keep your makeup on much longer throughout the day- I’m talking hours longer here, people.  Primers have now become so advanced, some of them can even correct your skin tone, keep your skin from becoming oily, and even deliver anti-aging properties and sun protection to your face. Pretty impressive.

Picking YOUR Face Primer- Now, since there are so many options out there, I’m gonna give you some quick tips before you end up wandering around your makeup counter like a lost puppy.

First, you might have a texture preference. Some primers are silicone based, and have a slippery, yet buttery soft feel. Do not mistake this for oil- it’s not. It will dry smoothly and to an almost powder-like finish.  Examples of silicone based primers are the old-school Smashbox PhotoFinish primer ($36, , and my all time new fave, the Whip Hand Cosmetics “Set The Stage” primer. ($39, They are good for all skin types, and really give your skin that ultra-smooth look, like you’re walking around in real-time photoshop.  I adore the Whip Hand Primer because it feels like whipped silk, on your hands and your face, and a little bit goes a LONG way. It;s getting rave reviews from makeup artists everywhere, not just me.

Other primers, like the classic Laura Mercier Foundation primer ($32,, have a light gel base, and are reminiscent of smoothing aloe onto your face.  It’s lighter texture is often preferred by people with very oily skin, or who want a very natural feel to their makeup. These also seem to perform better in really humid climates for some people. Also in this category is the amazing Make Up Forever HD Microperfecting Primer ($34, I love this particular brand when I need a color-correcting primer for clients with discoloration issues, like rosacia. The green version will subdue the red, giving you a more even skin tone. Feeling extra pale and sallow? Pick up the purple version! I know- it seems weird to be putting these colors all over your face, but it’s basic 5th grade color theory. Complimentary colors, when put on top of one another, cancel each other out.

So, now that you know the difference between the two kind of primers out there, you just need to go let your fingers do the walking, touch, feel, and play in the different formulas and find one that you like.

How to Use- Think of your primer as the last step of your skin care- using your fingers, put it on a clean, moisturized face, immediately before any concealer or foundation go onto that pretty mug of yours. If you want a super flawless and even coverage, you can also buff it in lightly with a sponge, but once you get the hang of it, your fingers should work just fine. Just remember- less is more, and it’s easier to add than take away. Using too much primer can result in your makeup sliding right off of your face…it just won’t be able to get a good grip on your skin. Now you are ready to apply your foundation and concealer like a pro! You go,girl!

Still have questions? Probably. If you’d like my advice on picking the right primer for you, leave me a message in the comments below, telling me about your skin and the foundation that you currently use. I’ll do my best to set you up right. And stay tuned, because coming soon…

WTF is a Primer v2.0- Eyeshadow Primers- The Revenge of the Greasy Crease! A Plethora of Primers

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15 thoughts on “WTF is a Primer? v1.0

  1. thankyouthankyouTHANKYOU!!!! yes… i am one of THOSE girls… shhhh, don’t tell anyone! i deserately need to know more about make up and skin care, and YOU (my love ;D) are my shining example for perfection. thanks again for another hilarious and informative post! xoxo

  2. Heath says:

    Are the gel-based primers (MUFE etc) water-based? I’ve been having trouble with certain foundations sticking over one another and I suspect that one is incompatible with the other or with the primer I use.

    I usually use the Photo Finish silicon-based primer, and love to use RCMA for coverage and Mac F&B for finish over the top, but I don’t get very long wear out of that combo. I think it’s because RCMA is oil-based and F&B is water-based. What primer should I wear with that pairing? Or is the problem just with the RCMA and the F&B together, and has nothing to do with the primer?

    • Yes, they are typically a water base. So are you using the RCMA full-strength or thinning it, and if so, what do you thin it with? I do notice sometimes that if I use too much of a silicone primer, the foundation can have a tendency to almost ‘roll’ off of the skin. I used the RCMA myself for a long time, but I also noticed it wasn’t wearing as long as I’d like it to, for things like bridal work, where I needed it to look flawless all day- but let’s face it, that formula, while amazing, is about 100 years old, and since it has that base, any sort of oilier skin is going to break it down faster. Also, I have noticed since I moved back to the Midwest, it’s a lot more humid here, so the weather can actually play a huge role in whichever primer I’m going to use on a client. I don’t know if I have effectively answered any of your questions, but I’m just sort of spitballing here and trying to troubleshoot.

      • Heath says:

        I haven’t been thinning the RCMA–just putting on a sheer layer with the Beauty Blender. I have a fair amount of redness that I want to stay covered, and it starts to peek through after about 6 hours.

  3. Six hours sounds about right to me with the RCMA. I don’t really think it’s a primer issue, but maybe try the MUFE HD Primer in the green shade- you might see better results.

    • Heath says:

      I had a feeling I was asking for a bit too much of a miracle! Thanks for the advice. (The blog is beautiful–I can’t wait to go through the archives!)

  4. Lovely post! I always compare Primers to Oprah. “You know how Oprah always looks perfectly blurred on camera, like her skin is made of porcelain? Imagine having that all the time..” HAH!

  5. Krystal says:

    So I heard from a fellow MUA that they use Monistat Chafing Gel as a face primer! At first I thought this was crazy but it does have some of the same ingrediants, I was wondering if you have ever heard of this and what do you think?

    • While I have heard of it, I won’t use it. Can you imagine what a client would think if I pulled this out? Also, I try not to use things that aren’t tested for the face on the face. The skin is much more sensitive.

  6. Krystal says:

    Yea, i agree just thought i would see what you thought. Looking forward to part 2!

    • That being said, I have skin like cement- it’s not sensitive at ALL, so I did try it once- I felt like vary heavy and like it just laid on top of my skin. No bueno!

  7. Meg says:

    This is was REALLY helpful to me. Been looking into primer but had no real direction. Thanks!!

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