Primer 101: A Complete Guide To Primer For Beginners

As you learn more about makeup, you’re going to come across the word primer quite a bit. You’ll hear about lip primer, eye primer, and face primer. Face primer is one of the most common makeup products, and for good reason. 

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What Is A Primer Makeup?

Wander Beauty

Primer makeup is a product that is designed to prime your skin for your makeup. For example, when you have a wall that has holes and flaws all over it, you don’t just paint over the wall. It’s going to look like crap. 

Instead, you fill in the holes. Then, you put on primer so the final coat of paint is flawless. Primer helps create the base that you need in order to have a flawless look that you’re going to love. 

Types Of Primer

facial primer

There are different types of primer that you’ll come across. The main primers are face primer, eye primer, and lip primer. These are sometimes called different names. For example, instead of eye primer, you might hear the words eyelid primer. It’s the same thing. 

Eye Primer

Eyelid primer is important for helping your eyeshadow stay in place. There are different formulas and colors available. A person with oily eyelids needs a formula that will help absorb some of the oily to keep their eyeshadow in place. If you would like to make your eyeshadow color brighter, you can get an eyeshadow primer with a light base to give your eyeshadow more pigment. 

Eye primer is nice, but not always necessary. If your eyeshadow stays in place, doesn’t crease, and is flawless at the end of the day, you can probably get by without a primer. However, if you experience a lot of creasing or fallout, an eyelid primer is a great addition to your makeup routine. 

To apply eyelid primer, you simply use a small brush and apply it all over your eyelid. Some people also use foundation, concealer, or a nude eyeshadow for their eye primer. Whatever works for you is what’s important. 

Lip Primer

Lip primer does the same thing that the other primers do, but it’s for your lips. Your lips are far from smooth, so this can help you get the smooth look that you want. It’s a great way to help your lipstick last all day too. Lip primers come in a lipstick tube or look like a crayon, similar to an eyebrow pencil. These are usually white. You apply them as you do lipstick, covering your entire lip in the product. Lip primers are pretty simple, too. 

Face Primer

Face primer is the one makeup term that you’re going to hear more often than eye or lip primer. If you wear a full face of makeup, you need a good primer for your face. If your lipstick doesn’t last all day or there’s a crease on your eyelid, it’s not a huge deal. If your makeup looks cakey and cracks all over your face, it’s going to be a big deal. 

Should I Use A Primer If I Have Oily Skin?

Yes! In fact, you probably need a primer more than people without oily skin. As the day goes on, you’ll notice that the oil on your face will start to slowly soak through your makeup. In the best case scenario, this will give you a dewy look. 
In the worst case scenario, it’s going to ruin your makeup, make your face look too shiny, or make your makeup cake. Make sure that you use a mattifying primer if you have oily skin. Primers help seal the pores a little so that they produce less oil. 

Illuminating Face Primer

You use an illuminating face primer as you would any other primer. Simply apply it to your face before foundation. Illuminating primer helps to balance out the skin tone, and it gives you a dewy glow with almost no effort. These aren’t recommended for people with oily skin because the combination of oily skin and an illuminating face primer can be a bit too much of a glow. These are ideal for anyone with dry skin. 

How To Apply Face Primer

liquid primer

This is the first step in your makeup routine. You should do this after your skincare routine and before applying foundation. Most people don’t use a brush.

Squeeze the primer onto the back of your hand. Then, gently rub it into a circle to help warm up the primer. Make sure that you do not use too much. You only need a pea sized amount. More is not better in the world of makeup. 

Next, dab it onto your face. Finally, you want to swipe your finger across your face to apply it, just like you would if you were applying foundation with a beauty blender. Make sure that your primer is evenly applied all over your face. 

Personally, I put little dots of primer on my face and then rub it in. You don’t have to. You can also just dab your fingers in the primer on the back of your hand and apply it. (I’m a bit extra sometimes.) 

Do You Rub In Primer?

I tend to wipe my primer across my face more than rub. However, you get the same effect either way. Some makeup artists recommend that you rub the primer into your skin to help your skin absorb more of the product.

I’ve tried it both ways, and it didn’t make a difference with my makeup at the end of the day. It does dry and absorbs quicker if you rub it into the skin, though. Do whatever works for you. 

How To Choose A Face Primer

how to use face primer

If you’re choosing an eye or lip primer, all the products are almost the same. That is not the case when you’re shopping for a face primer. There are so many products that it doesn’t take long to get overwhelmed. This guide will help you find the perfect primer to coordinate with your skin. 

Consider Skin Concerns

Primers are designed to do different things. For example, there are primers that are specifically designed to help your pores look smaller. Others can help fill in wrinkles and fine lines. Color correcting primers can help you skip the step of correcting discolorations, such as dark spots or age spots. Anti-aging primers are pretty popular too. 

The Type Of Skin You Have Matters

Whether you have oily or dry skin will make a big difference in the type of primer that you use. Make sure that you know your skin type before diving into the world of makeup. 

If you have oily skin, you’ll want a mattifying primer. Look for a primer that has salicylic acid to help prevent some of the oil. 

When you have dry skin you’ll find that illuminating or especially hydrating primers work best, such as Illamasqua HydraVeil. These help keep your makeup in place and give your skin the boost of hydration that it needs. 

There are some combination primers on the market that are supposed to work with both oily and dry skin. Some of them work wonderfully. My skin needs tend to change over time, and sometimes I do have combination skin. Dr. Brandt Primer is great for those periods of time. 

Water Based, Oil Based, And Silicone Based

Different primers have different bases. What base they have is very important. You want to make sure that your primer and foundation have the same base. Water and oil repel each other. If you use a water based primer with an oil based foundation, the two will not work together well. Silicone based primers can also make oil based foundations look spotty as the day goes on. 

Certain people will find that water based primers work better for them, and others may benefit from silicone based primers. You can determine which category a primer falls into by looking at the ingredient list. 

Water Based Primers

Water based primers feel watery. They are absorbed quickly and work well with dry skin. A waterbased primer is an ideal choice if you have sensitive skin, too. These are typically packed with nourishing ingredients and are less likely to cause irritation. In general, water based primers feel more lightweight on your skin. 

When you look at the ingredient list, you’ll notice that there are not any of the silicone based ingredients. If there are, they are further down on the ingredient list. Some water based primers do have ingredients or silicone in them, but those ingredients are not at the top of the list because the product does not have a lot in them. 

If you would like to avoid silicone all together, opt for a primer that is labeled as being silicone free. Most primers have silicone in them even if they are water based. 

Oil Based Primers

Primers with oil as a base tend to sit on the skin for longer periods of time before being absorbed. They can prolong your makeup routine because you have to wait on them to dry before moving on to the next step. 

You’ll see the word oil or an oil ingredient at the top of the list. Look for ingredients like argan oil or mineral oil. More commonly, it will be in the name of the product. For example, face priming oil. 

Silicone Based Primers

Silicone based primers are good for filling in fine lines, wrinkles and blurring your pores. However, they can cause breakouts if you have sensitive or acne prone skin. 

These primers are also great for anyone with oily skin. They typically have a mattifying effect that controls shine. The silicone can help create a barrier between your makeup and your face to make sure that the oil your face does produce doesn’t mess up your look. 

Silicone based primers have a thick texture that feels similar to jelly. It’s common for gel primers to be silicone based, but make sure to read the ingredient list. Some gel like primers are actually water based. The thick texture does help protect your skin from environmental harm, though. 

If there are words ending in -cone, -methicone, -silicate, -silicone, or -siloxane at the top of the ingredient list, you have a silicone based primer. Water is almost always at the top of the ingredient list. It doesn’t mean that the product is water based. Water is a necessary ingredient in every liquid product so that you can spread it easily. 

Do You Already Have A Foundation You Love?

If you’re searching for a new primer, and already have an awesome foundation, you want to make sure that the two are compatible. You want them to have the same base. For example, a water based foundation needs a water based primer. The same goes for silicone based. This can guarantee that your makeup looks amazing, and it’s a great tip if you’re wondering how to make your makeup last longer. 


Is Dr. Brandt Pores No More Luminizing Primer water or silicone based?

This product is water based. Not only does it not have silicone based ingredients at the top of the list, but you can also tell by the lightweight feel and thin texture. 

Is face primer necessary?

No, it’s not necessary for everyone. If you have no skin concerns and your makeup is flawless all day, you probably won’t benefit from using a face primer. However, there aren’t a lot of us that fall into that category so most people consider it a necessity. 

Is primer bad for your skin?

Yes. People that need primer consider it a necessary evil. It clogs your pores, which can result in more breakouts. This is why it’s so important to have a good skincare routine. 

Can I wear primer without makeup?

Of course, you can! Primer can still give you the look that you want even if you don’t want to wear a full face of makeup. A lot of people do this to create a dewy glow or mattifying look when they have extremely dry or oily skin. 

Can you use a water based primer with silicone based foundation?

It’s not recommended. Sometimes the foundation will look patchy towards the end of the day. Instead, consider picking up a water based foundation or a silicone based primer. However, it’s not guaranteed to make your makeup separate by the end of the day like an oil based primer and waterbased foundation will. 

To learn about strobing creams, and whether you can use them as a primer, check out this article! 

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