MAC certainly chose the right words to name their pre-makeup products. I might not use MAC Prep + Prime all the time for this purpose but these two words often come to mind when I’m preparing my face for makeup application. Eyes, cheeks or lips are usually the focal point of a look but a good base simultaneously complements and compliments them. Foundation and powder are common examples of base makeup and are either used alone or in combination. Tinted moisturisers are favoured by many too. Whatever the product, we want it to last. Who wants impeccable point makeup when our face makeup is cracking or streaking? A prepped canvas is essential for preventing this and is also the key to creating a polished and flawless appearance. When it comes to base makeup, different products can be used to protect and make it last. I will examine priming products, discuss their function(s) and comment on their effectiveness on me.
These are generally gel, mousse or viscous products that are always used before any makeup is applied to the face. Apply them with warm fingertips or a sponge, over moisturiser or alone; with a foundation brush, for precision and better coverage. Some primers are not meant for the eye area, so please read the product label before application.
Some popular foundation primers include:
Laura Mercier Foundation Primer
MAC Prep + Prime Skin
Paula Dorf Perfect Primer Foundation
Shu Uemura UV Under Base SPF 10
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer
Why and how?
They provide a smooth surface upon which foundation (or powder) can glide. They contain silicones, which create that smoothness and grab foundation, helping it to stay put. Silicones prevent moisture loss and are non-comedogenic (i.e. they will not clog pores).
A primer creates a barrier between skin and foundation. According to Laura Mercier, this prevents skin from absorbing talc and pigment from your foundation, as well as prevents talc from drawing oil from the skin.
Primers not only enable makeup to stay on longer, they can also even out skintone, fill in fine lines and reduce visible pores. Others mattify/control oil production by absorbing oil with their salicylic acid content, brighten the skin with light reflecting particles and deliver skin-nourishing nutrients with antioxidants, while some have added SPF for sun protection.
Today’s primers even have colour correctors to impart radiance, warm up complexions, counteract discolouration or reduce the sight of blemishes. One such primer is Smashbox Color Correcting Photo Finish Foundation Primer.
Purple illuminates and works to neutralise a sallow complexion.
Green combats ruddiness by minimising redness.
Salmon/peach/apricot targets blue-greyness and works to conceal/tone down dark veins, undereye circles and even blemishes like sunspots. In my experience, peach evens out skintone, as well. Yellow neutralises blue too but the above shades tend to give a more natural finish.
You may also use these colour correcting principles to find the right concealer for spot concealing.
So, do they work?
Velvety and smooth, it is unsurprising that some makeup artists swear by them (I know a MAC MA who waxes lyrical about MAC Prep + Prime Skin and intones that the face is completely radiant after application), while others cannot imagine not having a comfortable layer of primer before foundation.
Like the MA, I have had good results with MAC Prep + Prime Skin and am pleased that it blends well over MAC Lightful sunscreen without caking. It keeps my foundation true and has a light-reflecting, slight opalescence that gives my skin a glow. Best of all, it helps my foundation to last for hours.
Be warned – it does NOT have good oil control and blotting will be required, unless you have dry skin. That said, the glow that it can impart because of this non-mattifying quality is not a bad thing! ;)
I tried the Laura Mercier many years back and although it did not not work, it did not really wow me either. It was nothing exceptional and did not make my skin look any better. Foundation-staying power was average too. I ended up giving it away.
A point to note: The MAC comes in an iridescent black pump bottle, while the Laura Mercier comes in a sleek, flat squeeze tube. Both look good and minimise wastage!
I have also used primers by Japanese brands. These are, in general, lighter than western brands and sit well on the skin. I like how they make my skin look soft and how they mattify without drying. Many of them also come in user-friendly, hygienic plastic tubes that have a pointed tip that minimises contamination, preserving them for future use.
The SANA ones are especially memorable with their simple graphics and smooth exteriors that seem to mimick the product they contain; hinting at velvety promises for your skin! ;)
As with most beauty products, there are caveats: careful application is a must. If you are layering, do allow pre-primer products to sink in before applying. Make sure that the primer sits properly on the skin and is evenly applied. This is to ensure ease of application/blending and to prevent caking upon the application of foundation (or powder, if you are skipping foundation).
Set the foundation with powder (I highly recommend MAC Blot Powder and Kesalan Patharan Sheer Micro Powder) and you are good for the day! For added radiance and long-lastingness, mist with a fix spray (see Part II).
Like foundation, you do not always need to use a foundation primer on the whole face. If your skin is looking good or if you are not wearing makeup for an extended period of time, simply apply it on areas where you get the oilies and/or where you intend to have foundation.
Some people break out from silicones. If you are one of them, such primers are not for you. Other types of products also work for prepping and priming, so if you are looking for other options, do read Part II and Part III of this series. :)