Guide to primers

Guide to primers

Make-up artist Emma Peters of conscious beauty store Belle & Sage answers your commonly asked questions on make-up primers.   

Words Emma Peters of Belle & Sage

If there’s was one question I get asked the most by my clients, it would be “Do I need a primer?” Okay, two questions - “What is a primer” usually comes first. So let’s take a look at the what, why, how and is-it-necessary?... of primers.

What is a primer?
A primer is a product, usually a cream but sometimes a powder or a balm, that gets the skin ready for your foundation application. It “primes” the skin for your make-up much like you would prepare a canvas with gesso prior to painting your masterpiece.

What does it do?
Apart from it’s function to prepare the skin, the properties of a primer are broad and extensive. Choose it according to your skin’s needs and your make-up style.

Blur
Often primers, especially recently with our selfie culture, are designed to smooth and blur out the skin for a diffused look which works well in photos. This can sometimes look overdone for your average day make-up, so apply sparingly.

Hydrate
Some primers offer an intense hydration boost. This helps foundation glide over the skin without “grabbing” onto dry or dehydrated areas. Hydrating primers can help create a dewy look and nourish the skin throughout the day.

Colour correcting
There are primers that can help counter or boost colour. Theoretically speaking, a green primer would counter skin that high in redness. Although- I find that using green over red skin can look grey or pasty, so I prefer to counter redness with more of a yellow based primer. An orange based primer helps counter ashy-ness in the skin and is brilliant for smoothing out pigmentation or age spots. Purple primer counters and brightens excess yellow tones. And a pearlescent primer adds luminescence to any skin colour, but is best avoided on darker skin tones. This is likely to throw an ashy tone over the skin.

Mattifying
This is a great choice if you have oily skin and find your foundation normally slides around on your face. Sometimes just prepping your face with a dusting of fine, oil absorbing powder prior to applying your foundation can help keep oil under control. Or there are primers available containing silica which is highly oil absorbing and will also have a blurring effect.

SPF
This is a smart way to use a sunscreen if your make-up doesn't contain one. Beware though of chemical sunscreens, in my opinion, these are more damaging to the skin than the sun they’re trying to block out!

Do I really need one?
Yes and no... I’d say yes if you’re looking for a fully made up face to last you for the entire day and into the night. And yes, if you’re concerned about smoothing out pores and photo perfect skin.

I’d say no, if your moisturiser and/or foundation is already doing the job that you want a primer to do (pick form the list above). This saves buying, applying and wearing extra layers that you may not need.

Your primer may focus on one of the above properties or be a combination of several. When choosing your primer it’s important to read the ingredients list. Do your research so you can make an informed choice and know that what you’re putting on your skin is good for you.

Many primers contain silicone based polymers, parabens, fragrance, and other synthetic ingredients. While the result may be flawless looking, it can be irritating to the skin with prolonged use. Or worse, it may contain hormone disrupting chemicals that are best avoided entirely.

Luckily, there are great natural brands producing clean primers with excellent function. Your favourite natural make-up brand is the best place to start in search for your perfect primer.


For more from Emma Peters, see Belle & Sage, Conscious Beauty Store

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