Prime Time!

At a recent television shoot I was asked the question, “Is using a primer before applying foundation really necessary?” After I closed my mouth and shook the shocked expression off my face, I thought about the hundreds, maybe even thousands of women and men who don’t know the value of a really good primer.

After all, primer hasn’t been around very long and it occurred to me that some people might think it is just another makeup “gimmick.” In my first post, I wrote extensively about foundations, but I realized that I did not mention primers (which really are the “foundation” of foundation).

Let’s start with the basics – why do we need it?

Primer performs a different function than a moisturizer (even though it may feel the same on your skin). A moisturizer is used to protect your skin from the environment, used as treatment or to repair skin damage. Primer’s main function is to make your foundation go on smoother and last longer during the day. It also acts as a barrier to prevent your foundation, concealer and powder (and all that retouching during the day) from settling into any fine lines or wrinkles. Let’s face it – foundation, concealer and other makeup products can cause skin irritation, a good primer may help prevent breakouts or other skin-related problems.

There are many options out on the market today, but here are a few of my favorite primers that I use on set and that I keep in my personal makeup bag.

MAC's Prep & Prime - $23.00 - a fluid lotion with silicones. Calms and soothes skin, controls oil and evens out redness. This primer looks like a cream (white color) and blends into the skin well leaving no residue. Out of all the primers I have tested MAC’s is the least expensive and best “bang” for your buck!

Tricia Sawyer Beauty's Skin Balancing Water Primer - $34.00 – oil-free, infused with aloe leaf to soothe and cool the skin, sodium hyaluronate to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and silicone to help maintain your skin’s natural moisture levels. Non-greasy feeling. I use this primer on men after grooming (beard shaving/head shaving) to calm any type of post-shaving rash and it is what I carry in my personal makeup bag.

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer - $36.00 – a blend of vitamins and antioxidants to smooth and perfect skin prior to foundation application. Also contains collagen to fill in fine lines and pores. I use the “original” and colorless formula. There is also an oil control formula that I keep in my professional makeup kit for my clients that tend to have very oily skin. This product is also available in a variety of correction colors (but those tend to be complicated and need a professional’s application advice).

Primer tends to be more on the expensive side because it is one of those dual-purpose products, i.e., it is used as part of the skin regime and makeup regime. In my professional opinion everyone should use a primer after skin care and before foundation/concealer application to ensure a flawless face!

Time for a little Q & A:

Everyone wants to know what the pros know......let's get some of your most important makeup questions answered right here and right now!

Dawnn S. wants to know:
Any good suggestions on a primer for my oily skin and can you give me the "skinny" on eyelid primers?

Pro suggests:
Hi Dawnn! Check out the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer - Oil Control formula. I have found it has really helped control oil and minimize the need for tons of touch up during the day. Check out the section "Tricks of the Trade" on this blog, I have posted something there especially for you! As far as eyelid primers go....Urban Decay makes the best and I use it all the time. I do feel that it helps control oil around the eyes and on the lids, plus it helps to "hold" the eye shadow on the lid longer with no creasing!

Melissa F. wants to know:
Sometimes I feel that in the hour commute to work my eyeliner has already faded and my foundation already needs a touch up. Any great products you can suggest to help solve my problem?

Pro suggests:
Hi Melissa! Sounds to me like you should try one of the primers I have listed above and also check out that "Trick of the Trade." Using Urban Decay's lid primer may help solve your problem with fading liner or you could try to use a great gel liner (it has more staying power). Bobbi Brown makes my favorite gel liner in some fantastic colors!

One more thought before I go.....You can also do what a lot of professional makeup artists do to "seal" makeup and help it stay put through many hours on a film or television set. Spray your finished makeup with a product called Setting Spray by Graftobian and you don't have to be a pro to get it for your makeup bag. Just contact Camera Ready Cosmetics and put in an order. Graftobian's spray is one of the best out there and it may feel strange to spray something "wet" on your face after you have completed your makeup, but I promise it will dry matte and help to keep you from feeling like you need to touch up all the time!


  1. Thanks again for another great post, Melissa!! I am going to try the smashbox primer and the Tricia Sawyer foundation, thanks to your advice!!

  2. Mrs. MK,

    You are very welcome - if you click on the product company names on this blog you will redirected to the wesites where you can purchase the product. Tricia Sawyer's primer is top notch - you will fall in love with that entire product line!