Foundation primers: What do they REALLY do? How do they work? Do I REALLY need one or is it just a gimmick that the salespeople throw at me to buy more product? These are all great questions that I am asked regularly so I thought I would break it down.
Imagine, if you will, you are painting your old backyard fence that has been ravaged by years of erosion and exposure and is desperately in need of some attention. If you were to paint half the fence with the paint and on the other half, applying primer before the paint, what would the fence look like in a year? Which half would hold up significantly better? Just like walls, fences, cars, and houses; faces need to be primed too for the ‘paintjob’ to perform at its optimum level.
Let’s talk about texture. When I say texture, I am referring to anything that is causing the skin to not feel or look completely smooth; fine lines, wrinkles, acne, scarring, enlarged pores, dryness/flakiness, etc. A primer that helps with texture generally has a silicone or dimethicone base which feels very silky and slick on the skin. The way it works is it smoothes over the top of the surface of the skin, literally filling in the crevices. Used alone, it diffuses the appearance of a very textured area. When foundation is applied over the top, the silicone base underneath allows the foundation (liquid, powder, cream, mineral..anything) look smother on the skin. Foundation can actually be applied even more sparingly because it glides further over the skin. Those who are concerned with pore clogging, do not be alarmed! Generally speaking, the molecular structure of the silicone that is used in primers is too large to get into the actual pore. (keeping in mind, of course, anyone can break out anytime with any ingredient. So the concept of trial and error is imperative when playing with primers!) Because it sits on top of the skin, moisture is actually held in better; great news for our dry skin friends! A great primer everyone has to try is Tarte’s Clean Slate or Too Faced Primed & Poreless Smoothing Face Primer…goodbye crows feet and brow lines for the night!
Performance: When I say performance, I am referring to the primer that provides a certain function, aiding in the performance of the foundation. When choosing a primer with certain complexion concerns beyond texture, there are a lot of options out there that address different concerns based on skin type! If you are concerned with excess oil that makes your foundation literally shift around your face during the day, or even change color, try a primer that actually mattifies and absorbs oil! I recommend Smashbox Photofinish Foundation Primer light and Bare Escentuals primetime foundation primer oil control. It is comprised of 60% water, oil absorbing mattifiers that also smooth the skin, and light diffusers to help minimize the appearance of imperfections. If you are experiencing flakiness or prefer to use a foundation that is a powder, there are primers that will add moisture, or contains ingredients that bind moisture into the skin. Try Laura Mercier Hydrating Foundation Primer or Lorac Aquaprime.
And the last function primers can help with is discoloration of all kinds! The benefit of using a color correcting primer under your foundation is beneficial because your foundation won’t have to work as hard to cover discoloration, ultimately not having to use as much foundation, thus offering you a more natural, but still corrected and perfected look. The color corrector you choose depends on the color you are trying to neutralize. Here’s my quick guide.
If you wish to correct redness or have rosacea, use a green corrector.
If you are feeling sallow or want to brighten a natural yellow undertone, use a lavender, pink, or mauve corrector. This corrector will also help to generally brighten your complextion.
If you are fair and want to add a little radiance, try a light blue corrector.
For our more warmer/golden toned medium to darker skin, try a caramel corrector if you are feeling ashy.
Lastly, if you want to take the edge off veins, dark circles, or sunspots, use an apricot color correcting primer.
If you are interested in trying a color corrector, I highly recommend the patriarch of all primers, Smashbox Photofinish color correcting foundation primers for more subtle correcting. Makeup Forever HD Microperfecting primer has a more extensive range of colors to choose from and the green corrector is great for someone with some serious redness to squash.