Monday, October 20, 2008

A Field Guide to Makeup Primers

My latest makeup obsession that went full-blown is primer. I found myself cruising looking for primers. While the concept of using this extra layer is new to some people, it's quite old for me already. You see, the first person who told me about using primers is this Korean lady in Lotte supermarket in Maryland. She told me if I use primer after applying my moisturizer, my face would look flawless and after that, it's up to me to use foundation or not. And she proceeded to show me this tube of green lotion that held the promise of greatness.

Of course I did not buy the green goo and walked out of there with a skin care set. Biggest mistake ever! I have to say, when it comes to makeup the Asians seem to have one step ahead of the curb. I heard about primers more than 4 years ago and got my VOV eyeshadow stick even before MAC had their shadesticks. However, for the past year or so, primers became the essential step to makeup, not the extra step anymore.

So what is a primer and why people make a big deal about it?

To me, a makeup primer is a layer between your skin and your foundation that prevents foundation to interact with your skin and the oil from your skin to fade the foundation. Make sense, ya?

Essentially, this is an extra step but as Napoleon Perdis said, "Not to prime is a crime", using the primer does extend the use of your foundation and makes your skin look and feel velvety smooth. For real, I'm not even attempting to joke here. For those of you who are using mineral makeup, you need a primer to keep that makeup from sliding or disappearing after 3 p.m. Again, no kidding here.

Interested in using primers but don't know where to start? Click "Read More" for my comprehensive, try and true list of products.

For this list, I'm going from cheap to steep with products ranging from less than 10 dollars to a lot of cash. As usual, nothing are out of reach here (ie, no crazy 100 dollar tube of primer!)

1. Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel (1.5 oz, ~$7 USD)

Image courtesy of Amazon. com*

I know you are about to say, "What? You want me to use that on my face?" Calm down girlfriend, I don't suggest anything that hurts you, this is not the usual Monistat. The Soothing Care line is more of an intimate body care line rather than the yeast infection treatments that Monistat is associated of. I found out about this product from the owner of Silk Naturals and the active ingredient in this product is dimethicone, which is the same as that in Smashbox and other primers out there.

Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel is a gel that turns to powder after application. The dimethicone provides a smooth surface that's ready for foundation. A tube of this product is 1.5 oz and costs around $7 USD. The product is scent-free and dimethicone is a skin protectant. If you use Aveeno body lotion, they share the same active ingredient (dimethicone.)

The downfall of this product as well as other dimethicone/silicone-based primers is the ingredient. Dimethicone gives me more comedones during the time I use this product. Also, it gives a crunchy feeling to your skin when you're out in the sun. However, I have to admit that it holds my mineral makeup quite well.

Rating: B/B-

2. Sephora Brand Primer (0.05 oz, $18 USD)
Image courtesy of**

The previous version of this primer actually is the first primer I've ever used. It was scented and had white pearlescent pigments in there that gave my face a glow when I indeed looked really tired. A lot of the pictures during the Sephora primer time were perfect while my skin was not. However, the old version gave me lots of zits afterwards and I stopped using after a while. After that, the Sephora primer was reserved for "special photo-op events" until I decided to toss it.

The newer version has much less ingredients and is a clear gel. At $18 USD, it is considered more affordable. However, if compared dollar per ounce, it really is not ($360 USD per ounce!)

Rating: B/B-

3. Smashbox Photo Finish Light Foundation Primer (1 oz, $36 USD)

Image courtesy of **

After having enough comedones from the dimethicone primers, I set my foot out to find a silicon-free primer and Smashbox has a light version for sensitive skin. It is a water base version that promises a flaweless and oil-free face. I was really happy to obtain a sample from Sephora during one of my purchases. This primer has a consistency of a lotion, feels like a lotion, and acts like a lotion. It does not keep my face matte pass 3 p.m and my makeup melted away during a humid day. Needless to say, you can run, you can hide but you can't escape a silicone primer.

Rating: B-/C

4. Laura Geller Welcome Matte Skin Enhancer (0.5 oz, $23.50 USD)

Image courtesy of **

Price-wise, this product is going out of sequel but this is the greatest primer I've found so far! The name is misleading and you think it's a mattifying product (it is.) However, the texture is the same as the regular Smashbox but it keeps my makeup stay put much longer. Also, I did not shine during the whole time and my pores look smaller. I've been using this sample for a while and I do not have any comedones. For the price it costs per ounce, it is more expensive than Smashbox but a lot of people like it as it's always sold out online.

Rating: A-/A

For those of you who are staying away from the preservatives, especially parabens, Adorned with Grace has a powder primer called Divine Oil-Control Primer Powder. I've been using a sample of this product for a while now and I absolutely adore it. The product is $6.99 per 20-gram jar that has about 1 tablespoon of powder. The ingredients are 100% minerals: Kaolin, Mica, Silica, Calcium Carbonate, Titaniuim Dioxide, & Iron oxides. Curently shipping is free so go ahead and get it.

Between the Laura Geller and AwG powder primer, I think both of them do a fine job keeping my makeup look flawless. When my face became more sensitive, the powder primer is a better option. However, when I'm on a rush, the gel primer is faster to apply. These two products are my favorite primers at the time and until I find a better silicone free primer, they are here to stay.

Happy Monday everyone! I wish you all a fantastic week ahead. Do you use foundation primer as well? If so, which brand are you using and how do you feel about it? Please give me some comments, I'd love to hear from you.

Take care,
Your Makeup Blogger

Note: Images used in this entry are courtesy of (*) and**)

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  1. So, if I use a primer, do I still need foundation? Sorry for the elementary question, but makeup is definitely not my territory!

  2. Hi Kaolee,

    Oh, it's absolutely ok to ask, I've been trying to make people speak up :)

    "It depends on you", that's what the Korean lady who introduced me to primers said. For the color corrector ones that most Asian makeup brands have, you don't really need foundation if your skin is already good. However, the clear ones just smooth out your face and you do need a bit of foundation for coverage.

    Did you get the Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer? How does it go? I want to hear all the juicy details :)

  3. I tend to like my Korean primers more than American.

  4. Hi Alyssa,

    I think Korean as well as Japanese primers are creamier and feel more like lotions. American version does not have that comfortable feeling, I guess.

  5. Thank you for this very detailed post on primers. I like that the Laura Geller one helps reduce shine. I use shine blotting papers multiple times during the day, so I will definitely have to this a try.

  6. Hi Violet,

    You're welcome! I love the Laura Geller one a lot and find it not clogging my pores. I have to check if Sephora has a new batch of this product yet, last time I was there it was sold out.

  7. Hi Dao,

    Thanks for these recommendations. I have a Laura Mercier primer which I like, but I hope to try a few of these before I head out to your neck of the woods for my BF's wedding next month. :) Gotta prevent the makeup from slipping off in the Florida humidity!

  8. Hi Karen,

    You're welcome! Please try the Welcome Matte one from Laura Geller, I like it a lot. Also, did you try MUFE HD primer yet? I've heard it's really good.

  9. Hi Dao,

    Not yet! Hopefully I'll be able to 1.) get into my dress, 2.) find a look to wear and 3.) find a decent primer before Nov. 22, LOL. Now I have to add both those to my list. :)

  10. Hi Karen,

    Ah, the wedding conundrum. Last year I went to my BFF's wedding and of course experienced the trifecta of dress, hair, and makeup. I bought a body shaper thing but decided against it at the last minute because the wedding was in the summer and I did not want to burn in the body suit. November is very nice in FL, especially down South. Don't worry too much about it, just have lots of fun. And when in doubt, there's Spanx :)

  11. Hey girl, omg, you live in Maryland? We're so close by.

  12. Hi Trinh,

    I used to go to school in Maryland. Now I live in the Sunshine State :)


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