Industry Insider: All Your Questions About Primer Answered


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Makeup artists swear by it and beauty experts wouldn’t dream of applying their foundation without it, but what exactly is primer and what does it do? We’ve talked to the pros to bring you all the info. It’s back to beauty school. Time to take notes…

What is a primer?

“Primers are used as a first step in your morning makeup routine to help the foundation stay longer and the skin appear smoother,” explains Thalia Phamova, SHISEIDO UK National Makeup Artist. While there are those who claim it can make you break out or create a flaky surface, chances are they’re just not using the right product for their skin. “Look for a primer that has a light texture, as this will give your complexion a glow without looking heavy,” suggests Phamova, who loves SHISEIDO Refining Makeup Primer. “Personally, this is my favorite primer, as it’s light and can be used on eyelids as well,” she explains. It glides onto the skin, erasing imperfections and giving a natural finish.


Can I wear primer on its own?

Yes. If you’re looking for a very light, “no makeup makeup” look, then a great primer is ideal. “I always wear SHISEIDO Refining Makeup Primer even when I’m not wearing foundation,” agrees Phamova. “It gives the skin a healthy glow and also contains SPF protection,” she says. This primer fills fine lines, counteracts dullness, redness and unevenness, and leaves your complexion smooth, even and healthy-looking.

Shiseido Refining Makeup Primer

How does primer work?

Most primers contain polymers or silicone that act like a “second skin”, allowing your makeup to adhere to it and providing a smooth base. Silicones, while widely used, sometimes have a bad reputation when it comes to beauty as they are synthetic. But in all honesty, most products you put on your skin and hair are also likely to contain synthetic ingredients. Primers containing silicones generally help your makeup not only look better, but also last longer.

How much do I need?

The trick is not to use too much. A raisin-sized amount spread thinly and evenly over your whole face should be ample. Massage the primer gently into the skin for an even coverage.

Should I apply it on my eyelids?

Yes. Primer works well to prevent eye makeup from smudging or creasing. It also softens any fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes and counteracts any redness. Gently pat around the eyes and onto lids, being careful not to apply too much product.


Can it help with anti-aging?

Yes, there are many types of primer targeted for different concerns, from redness to visible pores and fine lines. “The most popular primers are matte and smoothing,” explains Phamova. “SHISEIDO Pore Smoothing Corrector is my fave for more mature skin. It just makes the lines disappear and adheres to the skin easily, without feeling heavy,” she recommends. SHISEIDO Pore Smoothing Corrector leaves a luscious, matte finish and banishes any oiliness. At the same time, it smoothes over large or prominent pores, leaving your complexion looking even and refined.

What’s the history of primer?

“Primer was traditionally always used by makeup artists as it was an adhesive element and protecting layer between the skin and foundation,” says Phamova. “In the past, foundation often contained heavy metal elements and was harmful for the skin, so primer protected your complexion,” she explains. Nowadays, of course, foundation and makeup don’t contain harmful ingredients, and primer is instead used to create a smooth surface so your foundation doesn’t slide off or go flaky.

shiseido primer

Do I need to use it all over my face?

You can use primer all over your face, but if you have drier skin on your cheeks, you might not need to. “You should never see primer on your skin — it needs to be lightweight and minimal,” says Phamova. “Personally, I only use primer on the T-zone and then a tiny bit on my cheeks. I tap it in with my fingers rather than using a brush, as this helps it to really soak into the skin for a natural look,” she advises.

What order do I apply my products in? Should primer be applied before or after sunscreen?

“I’d use primer before sunscreen or perhaps even use your sunscreen as a primer, if the texture is smooth enough,” says Phamova, who says the ideal order is skincare-primer-foundation-powder. “Light layers of multiple products make for a more long-lasting look than one heavy layer,” she states.