Makeup Primers 101

An essential step to the makeup process, that many people I’ve met forget, is applying a primer. It’s one of my pet peeves whenever I see people applying makeup without a primer, because regardless of how nice your makeup looks, it will look better and last longer with a primer. The last thing you want after you’ve applied your makeup, is seeing it disappear shortly after you applied it.

If you’re already using a primer, but you don’t feel like it’s doing anything to you or perhaps even make your makeup look worse – it’s most probably because your primer and foundation don’t match. I briefly touched base on this area in The Essentials: Make Up Products for Beginners but will explain in more detail about the primer basics in this post.  


What is a primer?

A primer is essentially the first step of makeup. It helps smooth out your skin, protects your skin from the makeup you’re applying and helps it last longer. Different primers have different benefits, and different primers work better on different skin types, more on this below.


2 Types of Primers  

The two types of primers that are most common are the water based primers and the silicone based primers.


·      Silicone based primer

A silicone based primer contains dimethicone or any type of “cone” ingredient within the first 5 to 7 ingredients of that product. A silicone based primer will most likely also have water (aqua) in those ingredients because water helps with mixing certain ingredients together and make the product able to spread out.

A silicone based primer is great to even out the skins’ texture including fine lines. The silicone molecules are large molecules that will sit on top of the skin to great an even surface.  

 US$ for 5.24 for 20 ml

US$ for 5.24 for 20 ml

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser

INGREDIENTS: Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Stearyl Heptanoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica Silylate, Propylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Prunus Cerasus Extract / Bitter Cherry Extract. May Contain: CI 73360 / Red 30, CI 77492 / Iron Oxides.



 US$32.01 for 30 ml

US$32.01 for 30 ml

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer

Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane , Dimethicone , Dimethicone Crosspolymer , Trisiloxane , Silica , Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer , Ethylhexyl Salicylate , Retinyl Palmitate , Tocopheryl Acetate , Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Extract , Propylene Glycol , Water\Aqua\Eau , Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract , Cola Acuminata (Kola) Seed Extract , Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract<Ilniln38781>

·      Water based primer

A water based primer does not contain dimethicone or any type of “cone ingredient or it is near the bottom of the ingredient list.

 US$ 10.42 for 20 ml

US$ 10.42 for 20 ml

L'Oreal Magic Lumi Primer

INGREDIENTS: Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Isododecane, Alcohol Denat, Bis-PEG/PPG-14/14 Dimethicone, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Ethyhexyl Hydroxystearate, Aluminium Starch Octenylsuccinate, Phenoxyethanol, Magnesium Sulfate, Diphenyl Dimethicone, Caprylyl Glycol, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Acrylates Copolymer, Methylparaben, Nylon-12 --- may contain (CI 77163/Bismuth Oxychloride)

 US$27.78 for 50 ml

US$27.78 for 50 ml

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Radiance

INGREDIENTS: (Aqua), Hydrogenated Didecene, Glycerin, Pvp, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Sorbitan Stearate, Mica (Ci 77019), Cetyl Alcohol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Propylene Glycol Stearate, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/ Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Propylene Glycol Isostearate, Glyceryl Isostearate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Boron Nitride, Squalane, Caprylyl Glycol, Oleth-25, Ceteth-25


Silicone based primer are a lot heavier and creamier than water based primers. I prefer water based primers because they feel very lightweight on my skin and it compliments my favourite foundation – Mac Face and Body. On a day to day basis, I use the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer.


Primers for you

Now that we have established what goes into a primer, there are so many different primers that give you specific results. Some primers out there include, colour correcting primers, hydrating primers, spf infused primers, mattifying primes etc.

If you already have a favourite foundation, check if that foundation is silicone based or water based. Silicone based primers go with silicone based foundations, vice versa. From there you can pick the primer you want with your needs. Example, if you have oily skin, go for a mattifying primer. If you have large pores, go for a pore minimising primer. If you have dry skin, go for a hydrating primer etc.


You don’t need a lot a primer on your face for it to be effective. Applying too much product, especially with skincare, can at times reverse the benefits. A rule of thumb is just to use a pea sized amount for you face and neck.

Hope this helped when picking out your primer in the future, I am still trying out a few different primers to give recommendations but that post will be in the nearby future!