Perfectly primed.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever ignored the makeup counter girl trying to sell you on a primer. You just stopped by for your mascara, and she’s saying that you need a primer to really get the full effect of the mascara. Or you’re just trying to get a refill of your foundation, and she’s trying to convince you that this wonder primer is going to make your skin a smooth as a baby’s bottom Justin Bieber’s post-Proactive mug.

I’ve been there, both buying and selling.

While working in a beauty department for many years, I was exposed to most of the “major”  product lines (e.g., all the Estée Lauder companies, Lancôme and a few other independent lines). For those who don’t know, Estée Lauder owns the following department store brands: Estée Lauder (duh), M•A•C, Bobbi Brown, La Mer, Tom Ford, Smashbox, Origins, Clinique, Origins and so on. You can see the full list here. I had to sell most of them at one point or another, and learned a lot about the most popular products in each line.

I can’t name a single line that carries a ton of popular primers (eyeshadow, mascara, foundation, lipstick, etc.) but many lines had one or two that sold really well. I didn’t actually buy into the idea of using primers until I was convinced (on a slow day, which can be like pulling teeth in a beauty department) to try one of Prescriptives light diffusing foundation primers — I was hooked! Unfortunately, they don’t make that specific primer anymore but after a lot of experimentation I’ve narrowed the masses of primers available into a short list of my absolute favorites.


M•A•C Prep + Prime: A colour-free base to wear under lipstick. Adds light moisture, smooths and refines the lips. Improves the appearance of applied lip products.

My friend Erin who works for M•A•C recommended this to me when I was shopping for the perfect purple-pink lipstick before a photo shoot last year. On a whim, I bought it and never looked back. I strongly recommend using this primer before applying any bold lip colors. Not only does it moisturize (hello, who likes cracked, dry, lipstick shellacked lips?) but it makes your lipstick last. Like, really last. I like to apply it to a clean lip, and follow by lining and coloring-in the entire lip, ending with lip color application. Your lipstick won’t bleed, which is really import with bright colors.


Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: This foundation primer can be worn alone or under foundation to increase longevity. Helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores for flawless skin with a velvety-smooth finish. Oil-free and winner of a million makeup awards.

I became quite hooked on this after receiving a sample. A must-use product when being photographed. Also — did you know that you can use this in your hair to tame frizzy fly-aways?

Makeup Forever HD Microperfecting Primer: A lightweight, oil-free complexion corrector that enhances the skin’s texture and primes the skin for makeup application. HD Microperfecting Primer deeply nourishes, moisturizes, and softens the skin, creating a glowing effect. Creates a protective layer on the skin allowing foundation to glide on easily and last longer.

This primer comes in a variety of shades and can be used to help color-correct issues with your skin, such as redness (use green) or dull skin (use pink). If you’re looking to combat a specific issue, ask your Sephora specialist for a recommendation on which one to purchase. Another note, using a foundation primer is especially important if you’re going to have your picture taken –brides I’m talking to you!


Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion: Guarantees more vibrant eyeshadow, lasts for 24+ hours and never creases.

Another makeup artist friend, Kelly, told me I had to have this product after she started working for Sephora and became more familiar with the brand. Primer Potion comes in 4 shades but because I am so pale, I really only like the original. Some of the shades actually double as shadow though, so look into those if you’re interested. But honestly, if your eyeshadow or liner is prone to heading south, buy this. If you’re gross and sleep in your makeup from time to time like me, you just might wake up and find it your eye makeup looking perfect from the night before.

M•A•C Paint Pot: A highly pigmented eye colour that goes on creamy but dries to an intense, vibrant finish. Long-wearing, colourfast. Creates seamless coverage without weight or caking. Blends smoothly over the lids. Cream-based, can be mixed with shadows and liners.

This is a great primer to wear alone or paired with shadow. I don’t know if Paint Pots are technically considered “primers”, but I know a lot of people use them for that purpose. Soft Ochre or Painterly are my favorite shades because they’re so neutral, but there’s quite an array of colors available to try.


Lancôme Cils Booster XL: Coats and smooths your lashes to maximize the results of your favorite mascara. This mascara base adds extra length and thickness to your lashes, giving your mascara an extra oomph.

A great product that I never used until I received it as a sample. Cils Booster really adds volume to your lashes, and one tube lasts forever (I don’t use it everyday).

Ta-da! Those are my best of the best. Any fabulous ones I shouldn’t have missed?

xo, Fash Flood


Top Photo via Fashionising: Photographer: Kelly Defina at; Makeup & Hair: Leonie Karagiannis at; Model: Kate Mac


2 Responses to Let’s Talk About: Primers

  1. Natalie says:

    Sarah, you totally nailed this post! I adore all of these primers and second your votes 100%. The only other one I would have included is MAC’s prep + prime for face (I’m a MAC junkie). P.S. Erin at MAC is my friend too– she knows her stuff! Thank you for a perfect best of primer round up!

  2. Victoria says:

    This is a really great post!!! I’ve never really been too into primers but I semi-recently started using the urban decay primer potion and now I feel like it’s not even worth doing my eye makeup without it! The only other one primer I’ve tried though was philosophy the present and it made me totally break out. You’ve got me wanting to try out MAC’s prep and prime lip primer soon! : )

    Forever Fashionably Late

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