Does This $2 Eyeshadow Primer Compare To My $20 Fave?

Like any broke 20-something, there's nothing I love more than a good beauty dupe. I have a few beauty products that I can't help splurging on (such as Tom Ford Black Orchid) because I know I'll never be able to find a more affordable replacement that does the same job just as well. However, for easily-replicated items like lipstick and primers, I'm always searching for a way to save money.

I've spent a particularly long time trying to find the right eyeshadow primer. Not everyone counts eyeshadow primer as a must-have, but I really, really do. I have extremely oily, extremely creased eyelids. If I try to wear any eyeshadow without the aid of primer, whether it's Wet 'n' Wild or Urban Decay, the shadow slides into a muddy, creased mess within one hour. It's pretty frustrating, so for years I refused to wear eyeshadow at all.

Then I discovered eyeshadow primers; specifically, an e.l.f. Eyeshadow Primer at my local Target while I was fresh out of college and still fairly new to makeup. I always stuck to budget buys in those days and I didn't wear eyeshadow much, so I was very happy with that primer. Years later, I tried a few of the Urban Decay eyeshadow primers that came with my Naked3 palette and realized I needed to up my primer game. So I finally splurged on the crowd-favorite Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer, and I haven't looked back since.

The Urban Decay primer is not cheap, however, and so recently I found myself wondering if the e.l.f. primer holds up as well as I remember. I decided to compare the two and share my results.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, $20, Sephora VS. e.l.f. Essential Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer, $5, Amazon

You can see that these two primers have similar packaging, with the doe-foot applicator wands. Also I should mention that I have the smaller, $10 travel size of the Urban Decay primer. (The travel size is $10 for 0.16 ounces and the regular size is $20 for 0.33 ounces.)

First, for reference, here is what happens when I wear eyeshadow without any primer. In these photos, I'm wearing Nonie Creme Colour Prevails Eye Shimmer Powder in Ruby Rust ($10, drugstore.com). Here's how it looks right after applying, with zero primer:

And this is what I'm left with after only an hour or two of wear:

So now you understand the need for primer, especially for oily, creased eyelids like mine.

I applied the e.l.f. primer to my right eye and the Urban Decay primer to my left eye. In the photos below it's switched, so the e.l.f. is on the left side of the picture and the Urban Decay is on the right side. Got that? Good.

It may look like I applied more of the e.l.f. primer but I was careful to apply equal amounts of both. They're similar colors (although the e.l.f. primer is available in four shades) but the e.l.f. primer is thicker and less sheer. Below you can see how my eyelids look after blending the primers in.

Personally I think primer is worth it for that result alone. My natural eyelids never look like that: usually they're much more creased and the veins are more noticeable.

But I didn't stop there, obviously. Below is the Colour Prevails Eye Shimmer Powder, applied on top of primer. Again, the e.l.f. primer is seen on the left side of these photos and the Urban Decay is on the right side.

I had high hopes for the e.l.f. primer. After applying the eyeshadow, I went about my business for the day. I didn't do any exercise or heavy sweating, and I promise I didn't touch my eye area at all. Fast forward to about four or five hours later, this was the result:

As you can see, the e.l.f. primer (on the left side) did not fare well in this experiment. The Urban Decay primer, on the other hand, was allowing my eyeshadow to look as good as it did when I first applied it hours ago. I haven't yet tested it to see if it lasts for the full 24 hours that it claims, but I have high hopes.

On one hand, I was satisfied that I didn't waste $10 when I decided to purchase the Urban Decay primer. It truly is worth the money. On the other hand, I was disappointed to know that I won't be able to switch to a $2 primer when my Urban Decay runs out. I was also pretty confused: This primer has really good reviews on the e.l.f. website, so it might work for other people.

I also picked up another cheap eyelid primer offering from e.l.f. in the hopes that this one would be better. The e.l.f. Eye Primer & Liner Sealer ($3) is only one extra dollar but I reasoned that that extra buck might make all the difference. (Pictured below, the left side is the Liner Sealer and the right side is the Eye Primer.)

e.l.f Eye Primer And Liner Sealer, $3, Amazon

As you can see below, this one wasn't any better.

This e.l.f. primer (again, on the left) failed as well. The good news, however, is that it wasn't a total waste of $3 because the other half of it is genius. The liner sealer side has a felt-tip brush loaded with clear solution, so you can dip it into your favorite eyeshadow to transform it into a waterproof, smudge-proof eyeliner. I was skeptical but it really works, and it's so much easier than dipping a brush in the closest half-empty glass of water (and lasts longer, too).

So my attempt to find an affordable dupe of my Urban Decay primer may have failed, but at least with this e.l.f. Liner Sealer I found a pretty cool product that I didn't even know existed. And I promise that if I do find an affordable eyeshadow primer that rivals the UD Primer Potion, I'll write about it!

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Images: Kelly Dougher