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7 February 2023

What is a primer, and do I really need one?

It’s the age-old question: do we really need to use primer? You probably first heard of it in a ‘get ready with me’ video or when your makeup-obsessed friend pulled it out of her sparkly toiletry bag when you were 13, but did you ever actually find out what primer is? In the age of ‘no makeup makeup’ and a seemingly serious increase to a ‘less is more’ approach, is primer a necessary step in our makeup routines?

Put simply, primer is designed to act as a base for the rest of your makeup, it’s the first product used in a routine to, you guessed it, prime your skin. At a bare minimum, primer will extend the staying power of your makeup, but many primers also work to even out skin tone, blur pores or give skin an extra hydration boost. It’s all about choosing the product that compliments your skin type best.

How does primer work?

Primers are generally of a gel or cream formula that, when massaged into skin, create a smooth and sometimes tacky surface for makeup to be applied over. An even base means that makeup doesn’t have to battle with skin texture and can comfortably sit on the face. A seamless application allows for makeup to stay in place for longer and the added tackiness of many primers only amplify this.

Primers come in two forms: silicone-based and water-based. Silicone-based products essentially add a whole new layer to your face— like a coating over your real skin that protects the moisture levels and prevents oils from smudging your makeup, these are often best for oily skin. Water-based primers are far more lightweight and focus on intensifying hydration and are often best for dry skin. Whatever you choose, it’s best to pair it with a foundation of the same base, as water and silicone can repel each other when mixed and cause your makeup to separate, defeating the purpose of using a primer.

Can we skip primer in makeup?

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: there are no rules to makeup! You can absolutely opt to go primer-less. If you happen to be one of those blessed angel-faced people with perfectly smooth skin that holds makeup no matter what you put it through, you may choose to skip it. If you don’t like having too many products on your face, then it also may not be for you. But if you’re looking for a product to help you avoid smudged eyeshadow and patchy foundation, primer should be stop number one on your search.

Benefits of using primer

As you know now, primer’s biggest advantage is that it sets your face and prolongs the life of your makeup. But, there are primers for just about everything else too. Whether you’re looking to colour correct, blur texture, calm irritation, or just about anything else, there’s a primer out there for you. Here are a few of our faves:

Best water-based primer: Milk Hydro Grip Primer is a without-a-doubt standout in the primer world. This 94 percent natural product is the ultimate clean-feeling primer. As its name suggests, it boasts both hydration and grip, it locks in moisture, keeps your makeup in place for up to 12 hours and leaves you with a glass-like finish. When applied, this primer has a real tacky feel that ensures your makeup will not budge.

Best silicone-based primer: The Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer blurs pores, fine lines and just about everything else to create a second-skin like feel to work your makeup into. The result is a velvety photo-perfect finish that also protects your face from harsh environmental pollutants.

Best multitasker: Bobbi Brown’s vitamin enriched Face Base is in a league of its own as a face cream that works as both a moisturiser and a primer. It’s a luxe cream that on its own will moisturise and nourish skin but when paired with makeup will also provide a plump and smooth base. Use it as one or both!

Best colour correcting primer: The Stila

Best colour correcting primer: The Stila One Step Correct really is your one step to evening out and brightening your complexion before makeup. Transparent once applied, this silky trio of colours comes in four variations: original, medium, deep and kitten, so you can ensure you’re getting the perfect combo for your skin tone.

Best calming primer: Paula’s Choice Smoothing Primer Serum

Best calming primer: Paula’s Choice nailed the brief with their Soothing Primer Serum. This silky serum features antioxidants to assist in the calming and protection of skin from environmental damage and irritants, and is also an SPF 15 product, making it the perfect go-to for daytime wear (over your daily SPF, of course).

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