There’s nothing more annoying than taking the time to apply makeup, only to have it smudge, crease or pull a disappearing act on you. Enter primers! These airy bases act as a prep step, creating a smooth surface for seamless makeup application. In formulas designed for the skin, lashes and lips—where makeup tends to rub or flake off—primers can also hold pigment in place and keep it looking fresh, for hours on end. Here, a breakdown of the best primers on shelves today.
While most of us don’t want to add more products to our regimen, experts say that applying face primers are well worth the extra step. “Most makeup primers rely on silicones that act as spackle to fill in pores and fine lines, giving skin a satin-smooth finish,” explains Maryland dermatologist, Dr. Noëlle S. Sherber, M.D. Some of our favorites include Laura Geller’s line of aloe vera-infused Spackle primers that come in tints like bronze, rose and champagne for varying complexion effects, and the oil-free Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer that was popularized by Madonna’s loyal use of it through three (very active and sweaty!) world concert tours.
Yet if you’re acne-prone, some primers may come with pitfalls. “Silicones can promote congestion because they form a film on top of the skin that can clog pores and trap oil,” warns Sherber, who recommends Christopher Drummond Beauty SkinPrep Primer, Fresh Rose Fresh Face Primer, Korres Face Primer and Tarte Clean Slate Flawless 12 Hour Brightening Primer. These primers use light, non-comedogenic oils like jojoba, tea tree and grapefruit to impart a silky finish on skin, and vitamins A, C and E to brighten and provide antioxidant protection.
For lashes, primers often contain hydrating pro-vitamins and fibers that enhance the effect of your favorite mascara. “Lash primers can plump and condition eyelashes for a more lush, dramatic look,” says celebrity makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor, whose favorite version is the panthenol and microfiber-enriched Lancôme Cils Booster.
And while lip primers abound, Sotomayor says that proper prep will have more payoff than a primer in this area. “Once exfoliated and moisturized, lips look smooth and plumped, and can hold lip color longer,” he says. Try Sara Happ The Lip Scrub or a homemade slough of Vaseline and sugar, and follow up with a natural balm like RMS Lip & Skin Balm, which contains coconut oil and certified organic fine oils for pillow-soft lips.
They say that any worthwhile endeavor requires a solid foundation. We just didn’t realize they were talking about makeup.
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