A: In terms of what the “best” primer is, I can only speak from experience with primers that I have used on myself and/or clients. Usually, I test run everything on myself (I have fairly normal skin on good days) as a measuring stick because:
1) I’m a beauty junkie so I have to!
2) so I know how (well, if) the product works and
3) so I can describe it to clients.
I like to do my research, read up on products through magazines, make-up artist boards and online reviews and also ask other fellow make-up artists and beauty junkie pals before I set out to buy something. I have tried a few primers in my lifetime, but usually once I find something that I like, I’m pretty faithful to it until it gets discontinued or until it doesn’t work the same.
The two primers currently in rotation for my own use and for clients are:
1. Cargo blu_ray™ High Definition Mattifier (approx. $28 CAD)
This mattifier became my trusted everyday primer when my previous go-to, Smashbox’s Photo Finish Foundation Primer, just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Although Smashbox’s primer had worked well before, I was beginning to find that my skin would get shiny nearly right after I had just finished my morning application.
Cargo’s mattifier comes from the line’s range of products specialized for use under the scrutiny of HD and blu-ray lenses. The result is a line of products that gives flawless and natural results, so even when enlarged to full resolution, the skin (and not the make-up) appears only better.
When applied initially, Cargo’s mattifier works well as a primer. It smoothes out the skin, minimizes pores and fine lines, and tones down excess shine. You can also use it instead of powder – atop bare skin or atop your foundation. Most importantly, it keeps the T-zone in check until the usual midday touch-up. This primer has become a personal favourite, and a favourite of my bridal clients who need their make-up to go the absolute distance.
2. Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè / 24-Hour Miracle Cream (approx $30 CAD)
Embryolisse is a fashion industry favourite with fans that include models to make-up artists! This multi-purpose cream quadruples as a moisturizer, primer, make-up remover and shaving cream! (Yes, even your boyfriend can use it. Multi-purpose indeed!)
The primer and moisturizer combo is perfect for when I’m in a rush, and it’s a definite must-have when I’m travelling. It hydrates the skin, leaving it with a soft and silky smooth feel while not being greasy. A touch-up isn’t needed til the usual midday expiration and it easily removes my make-up come nightfall – all this from one nifty bottle! Definitely recommend this one for its quality and practicality.
My take on other primers that I’ve tried:
Smashbox’s Photo Finish Foundation Primer (approx. $40 CAD)
You only need a tiny amount of this primer, which in past years has been a favourite of beauty fanatics (including the big guys like Allure and Sephora). I personally find the formula too greasy and that my foundation looks the same later in the day when I don’t apply it. At about $40CAD for the bottle, I’d definitely pass on this one.
Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Light (approx. $40 CAD)
In an attempt to give Smashbox’s primer a chance to redeem itself (there must be all the buzz about it for some reason, right?), I decided to give the Light version of the formulation a try. The results were definitely less greasy than the original formula, but no great difference in lasting power of my foundation throughout the day. Another pass on this one!
MAC Prep + Prime Skin
This MAC primer contains silicones that sit atop the skin and help to smooth out the surface and minimize pores. Also works well for toning down oily skin, but doesn’t really help with redness control as the product description says (you need some cover-up make-up for that one!). Overall, a decent primer, but at that price, I’d still opt for something that wows me :)
MAC Matte’s a staple in my kit. The clear gel formula works great to instantly tone down excess oil, such as in the T-zone and cheeks. It can be used before or even after foundation, in place of powder. Great to use on-set too – when in studio under hot camera lights, the skin (especially the T-zone) can tend to get shiny. To combat this, use a sponge to lightly pat MAC’s Matte on the shiny area and let it set…alleviating the need to constantly reapply powder for touch-ups and risk looking cakey!
Conclusion (of sorts…):
The best primer can really vary with skin type. If you have normal skin, you’ll be compatible with nearly all of the primers mentioned. If your skin tends to be on the oily side, I would stick to the primers with more of a mattifying formula, such as Cargo’s blu_ray™ HD Mattifier or MAC’s Matte. If your skin is on the dry side, Smashbox’s Photo Finish or Embryolisse would be good options.
Whatever you choose, most places offer samples so don’t be afraid to ask. Remember, if a product’s worth buying, it’s worth trying so samples should be readily available!
Hope that helps!
If you have a make-up related question you’d like to ask, shoot an email to me at rhia[at]artistrhi[dot]com. I look forward to hearing from you!