The Truth About Whether Or Not Primer Is Necessary
Young woman filming a beauty and makeup vlog for social media content, beauty vlogger showing make-u...
Gatot Adriansyah/E+/Getty Images

There are so many makeup products out there that sometimes it can feel like not all of them are 100 percent necessary. Will your makeup really not stick without setting spray, is a beautyblender really better than a sponge, do you really need to put on primer before makeup? The last one is especially confounding because every magazine and beauty article claims it's necessary in order to get a photo-ready face, but it's hard to measure if it's working or not.

Do primers really use science to help your makeup stay on longer, or are they just a quick way for cosmetic companies to pull another five to 40 dollars out of your wallet? For anyone who has bought a bottle or tube of the stuff and hasn't seen life-changing differences, it can be easy to feel hoodwinked.

It's like when you buy blackhead strips that don't do anything but leave your nose throbbing, or "rose water refreshening spray" and feel like you just spent 12 dollars to spritz tap water on your face. You're just not sure if it's worth the money. To help put the debate to rest, professional makeup artists sounded off whether these primers are really necessary.

From face to eyeshadow products, we'll explore if primers are needed for makeup, and what are the pros and cons of buying them. Here's to solving the mystery.


Pro: Without Eye Primer, Your Shadow Has No Chance

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, $24, Sephora

Eye primer is a total must when it comes to your eye shadow game. And the good thing is that not only does it definitely work, but it gives you extra benefits on top of keeping your color on longer.

"Eye primers will have a long wear and waterproof feature to them, so applying them before any eye shadow will give you an even and smooth eyelid, with a matte finish," Janet Debris, a makeup stylist and special-effect artist, tells Bustle. "It will grab onto the eye shadow, and not only will it last you all day, but it will bring out the true vibrant color of whatever shadows you are using."

Going without it will just rob you of a flawless makeup look.


Pro: Eye Primer Helps Stop Creasing

Too Faced Shadow Insurance, $20, Amazon

If you've ever noticed your eye shadow color breaking at the crease of your eye, an easy fix for that is eye primer. So it's necessary to have in your arsenal!

"Eyeshadow primers are the difference between a faded creased lid and a 'freshly applied' shadow after 6-8 hours," Andrea Whittle, a makeup artist at KARMA Salon with 20 years experience, shares in an email to Bustle. "I have dry skin and still deal with eye shadow creasing and fading off of my lids without a primer, so it's not always an 'oily skin' thing."

If you'd like specific recommendations, Whittle has a few upscale and bargain favorites. "I recommend and personally use Too Faced Shadow Insurance. As for drugstore finds, check out L'Oreal Magic De-Crease Eyelid Primer or MILANI eye shadow primer in nude."


Con: Your Foundation Might Already Have Built-In Primer

Smashbox Iconic Photo Finish Foundation Primer, $36, Sephora

If you want your foundation to stay on for a full 24 hours (or something to that high standard) then you're probably wondering if a primer will help you achieve it. Debris explains that putting on primer will help longevity, but that it also might not be 100 percent worth your money. "Primers will help with prolonging the wear of your foundation, though it is fair to point out that nowadays they make foundations that have those key claims built into them." So why would you ever want to buy one?

A primer would be a huge help if you happen to buy a foundation, and you find out after the fact that it doesn't stay on as long as you would hope it to. "If you have a foundation that you love but you have trouble having it stay on, then go for it! Use a primer!" Debris encourages.


Pro: Face Primer Can Help You Look Air Brushed

Make Up For Ever Skin Equalizer Primer, $37, Sephora

If you have no problem with your foundation staying on all day, then a primer isn't totally necessary. But if you feel like you want a more air brushed look to your skin and your foundation formula isn't bringing it, Debris suggests enlisting the help of a primer to do just that. "Primers will help with prolonging the wear of your foundation as well as add a 'smoothing' and 'blurring effect' to your skin. So, if you are looking for any of those features, then you are more than welcome you use a primer," Debris shares.


Pro: Primer Can Help Smooth Out Imperfections

Urban Decay Optical Illusion Complexion Primer, $34, Sephora

If you're using makeup to help blur out things like acne or wrinkles, then primer can help your foundation work harder to achieve that. "If your skin is textured by maturity or youth (wrinkles or acne) those situations can greatly affect the outcome of how smooth your makeup looks without a good silicone-based primer to smooth and blur imperfections," Whittle shares. For situations like those, primers are necessary.


Pro: They Act As A Barrier For Your Skin

BECCA First Light Filter Face Primer, $38, Sephora

If you're prone to wear makeup often and want to protect your skin from getting clogged, then primers are a great way to do that. "Primers are great barriers between your skin and the makeup. If you're prone to breakouts and makeup clogs your pores, primers are a fantastic way to help eliminate that problem because your skin will never be soaking up all of that foundation," says Justine Losoya, one of the key makeup artists on NBC's Chicago.

But if you don't have those problems or don't wear a ton of makeup, then Losoya says it's not necessary to invest in a face primer if you don't want to.


Pro: Face Primers Can Do More Than Just Prime

Smashbox Photo Finish Color Correcting Foundation Primer, 39, Sephora

If you're not 100 percent certain if you believe in the power of face primers, then buy one that double tasks. There are so many on the market that do more than just set the stage for foundation. "Some primers are also multipurpose. Tinted primers advertised as color correctors help to reduce redness, brighten skin tone, add luminosity, or color-correct age spots, depending on the color," Losoya points out. This will allow you to skip heavy foundation coverage since it will do some of the work the cosmetic would.

"There are also primers that act as a mattifier and help reduce shine like MAC Prep + Prime and Eve Pearl Invisible Finish Powderless Powder," Losoya explains. She loves using these products just on the T-zone before applying foundation so she's not relying solely on powder.

MAC Prep + Prime, $28, Nordstrom; Eve Pearl Invisible Finish Powderless Powder, $52, Eve Pearl


Fix It: If Your Primer Isn't Working, It Might Be Because Of Your Skin Care Routine

Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub, $5, Amazon

If you put on primer and find it doesn't do anything to help you blur your complexion or help your cosmetics stay on longer, the problem might not be with the formula. The issue might be with your skin care routine. So yay — you didn't buy a dud product!

"First and foremost, a proper skincare routine is the best way to prime the skin, period," Whittle shares. "We American women love our makeup, but we don't put nearly the emphasis on skin care as our sisters in Asian countries, for example." So in order to help your primer do its job, treat your skin before you put on your makeup.

If you have oil-prone skin, wash with a cleanser and toner that will help you control the buildup during the day. Or if you have dry, flaky skin, make sure to exfoliate and lotion your face so your foundation doesn't look cakey when you put it on. After all, there's only so much a primer can do without you taking care of your skin first.


Fix It: If Your Primer Isn't Working, You Might Be Using The Wrong Kind

Kat Von D Lock-It Hydrating Primer, $32, Sephora

Another reason why your face primer might not be working is because you chose one that doesn't cater to your skin. For example, if you have dry skin you need a formula that hydrates, or if you have oily skin you need one that will help combat the grease buildup.

"If you have dry or dehydrated skin, your favorite long wearing-full coverage foundation will look dry and cakey without a proper moisturizer and hydrating primer," Whittle stresses. "Or if you do your makeup and your skin gets oily by noon, there's a good chance your makeup might feel like it's sliding off your face, and it probably is. Hence the reason for oil absorbing priming products."

So make sure you read the labels before you purchase!


Fix It: Your Primer Might Be Going At Odds With Your Foundation

Bare Minerals Prime Time BB Primer, $27, Sephora

It's very important to read labels! Before throwing a primer into your cart, do your research and make sure it will mix well with your foundation. "It's a common mistake I see all too often when makeup is flaking off someone's skin even though they've moisturized and have done everything else right," Losoya shares. "You can't use a silicone primer with a water-based foundation. The foundation will just slide right off. Make sure you read the backs of labels."

So if you have a water-based foundation, you should be using a water-based primer and so on. If the two don't match up, that might be why you're having issues with your product.


Pro: Lip Primers Let You Skip Lip Liners

Prep + Prime Lip, $16, Nordstrom

You now how some lipstick shades are super hard to find matching lip liners for? If you're ever in that position, you don't have to stress yourself out combing drugstore aisles and cosmetic shops. You can just use lip liner!

"Lip liners are great because not only do they smooth out the lips and prolong the wear of your lipstick, but they will also prevent feathering! So if you don't feel like investing in a lip liner for each lipstick, you can just get yourself a lip primer," Debris shares. It can also save you a ton of money since now you don't need 47 different colors to match your lippies.


Pro: Under Eye Primer Helps You Handle Delicate Skin

MAC Fast Response Eye Creme, $29, Nordstrom

It's never a good idea to tug or stretch your skin, so using a face or under eye primer helps you spread on your makeup with less friction. "I love MAC Fast Response Eye Creme for the slippery silicone softness that my concealer glides over, so I'm not pulling and tugging at the delicate skin," Whittle shares. If you want to be extra gentle with your skin, primer is a good product to help.


Pro: Lash Primer Thickens Your Lashes

MAC Prep + Prime Lash Primer, $18; MAC Cosmetics

Using lash primer is basically like giving your mascara an extra boost: It helps plump your lashes and helps the color come on more vibrantly. "Lash primer is great because it goes on white, dries white, and your favorite black mascara looks extra fat and extra black," Whittle explains. It's not completely necessary, but it does enhance the product.

So there you have it, primer isn't just a way for makeup companies to pull more money out of your wallet — it actually works and has benefits. Follow these tips and you'll be pleasantly happy with the one you buy!

Images: Unsplash (1); Amazon (1); Sephora (9); MAC (1)