Makeup Primer: A Hoax From The Cosmetics Industry Or A Necessity To Protect Your Skin & Enhance Your Makeup?

For over two decades, cosmetic companies have been coming up with their own version of the foundation primer originally introduced in 1995 by Laura Mercier. Despite their differences, all makeup primers promise to create a smooth base for makeup, even out the skin tone, blur flaws, reduce inflammation and redness, hydrate and nourish, reduce oil and shine, reduce the size of pores, illuminate, fill in wrinkles and fine lines, and make makeup look flawless for hours. It goes without saying that, cosmetic companies make some hefty promises!

In addition to the hefty promises, some cosmetic companies charge an equally hefty price for a glorified moisturizer. The average price range for foundation primers at a pharmacy is 8-30$ (USD) per fluid ounce while the average price range for primer at a high end makeup store is 32-75$ (USD) per fluid ounce.

I call foundation primer a glorified moisturizer and I would like to come back on that. If we look at the functions of makeup primers that I listed above, most of the functions can be fulfilled by the use of a proper moisturizer or the right serum…which is why most makeup primers are light moisturizers that have been rebranded to appeal to makeup users!

To elaborate on this topic, I will compare the ingredients of 4 makeup primers at different price points. I will also add in Prosmetica’s Clinical Youth Enhancing Serum in the mix since it is what I love to use as a makeup primer. You should note that I have not used any of the primers that I will be listing bellow; I am simply comparing the ingredients.

Primer 1: Rimmel Stay Matte Primer, 1 fl oz

Sells for 6.47$ at pharmacies. With this low price, it is safe to assume that this primer does not have any special beneficial features; it is a very basic primer and a glorified moisturizer. Although the ingredient list is on the smaller side, 64% of the ingredients contribute only to the texture and thickness of the product (very important for the application of the product, but not so much for skin health). The functional ingredients are comprised of skin conditioning agents, skin protectants, and antioxidants. However, it is important to note that the antioxidant is the last ingredient on the list which means that the primer is not very rich (at all) in antioxidants. Overall, I would say that this is a cheap buy that would certainly moisturize the skin but it lacks the ability to improve the health of skin over time.

Primer 2: Farsáli Unicorn Essence, 1 fl oz

This is 54$ at Sephora. Formerly known as Unicorn Tears, this product gained a lot of popularity on Instagram. Who could resist a sparkly pink serum with a sweet aroma? The luxurious packaging and fancy company name will justify the price for many uninformed consumers. However, the ingredient list describes thickened antioxidant-rich water with a few skin conditioning agents, artificial colour and glitter; definitely not worth 54$! I am not saying that this is a bad product; in fact, I believe that it is a great product that would work well for my oily skin! Their thin serum is free of oils, sulfates, and parabens and contains mostly natural ingredients. Their antioxidant and vitamin C rich formula will protect the skin from free radical damage, brighten the skin, and contribute to overall skin health. It also contains some skin conditioning ingredients that will lightly moisturize your skin and a film forming agent that will prevent makeup from settling into pores. Despite these great benefits, this product is not a complete product and is not worth the 54$. I would not pay more than 25$ for this glorified vitamin C serum.

Primer 3: Murad Invisiblur™ Perfecting Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 30, 1 fl oz

This sells for 65$ at Sephora. This product has the longest ingredient list of all the primers that I analyzed. The good news is that 66% are functional ingredients that will improve your skin health (like mentioned above, the 34% that are not “functional” do have a very important function for the consistency of the product). I was pleasantly surprised by this ingredient list! In addition to the many skin conditioning and softening agents, there are ingredients that conceal imperfections, ingredients that fill in wrinkles, vitamin C, and sunscreen agents. The added peptides fight the visible signs of aging. Not enough products have SPF which makes this product unique. However, for someone who does not get a lot of sun exposure on a daily basis, spending more for a product with SPF is not necessary. Instead, a complete serum without SPF will save you some money that you could use to buy sunscreen that could be added to your skincare routine on days when you need protection from the sun.         

Primer 4: Guerlain L’Or Pure Radiance Face Primer, 1 fl oz

Sells for 74$ at Sephora. Other than the 24-carat gold flakes generously scattered throughout the smoothing gel, Guerlain does not reveal the ingredients that they use in their primer. Their key ingredient is 24-carat gold which has become very popular in anti-aging skincare due to its tightening abilities. Since the company is not providing any information about the other ingredients, I am assuming that the smoothing gel is just like any other light water- based moisturizer. For those who are looking for the tightening benefits of gold, I recommend gold leaf facials or products with a higher concentration of anti-aging ingredients that will restore skin rather than this 74$ light water- based moisturizer. I would even recommend buying gold leaves or gold flakes and mixing it into your favourite complete serum/primer; the cost will be very similar but the benefits will differ immensely!

My primer : Prosmetica Clinical Youth Enhancing Serum, 1fl oz sells for 34.99-39.99$ from the Prosmetica website                                                         This is my favourite product to use as a primer! Like I mentioned above, I have oily skin and I find that Prosmetica’s Clinical Youth Enhancing Serum gives me the right amount of moisture while preventing oiliness. I can feel a light tightness after applying this serum as well as a very thin film that prevents the makeup from settling into pores. The vitamin C reduces the look of wrinkles, brightens skin, protects it from environmental exposure, and clears acne-prone skin. The hyaluronic acid quickly traps water in the epidermis for firm moisturized skin. Matrixyl smooths out wrinkles by rebuilding the skin. The addition of Argireline smoothens and eliminates wrinkles. Overall, the Clinical Youth Enhancing Serum is a very comprehensive and complete skincare product that protects, restores, and prepares the skin for makeup application. It makes your makeup look last longer without retouches while improving the health of your skin with every use. You cannot go wrong with high quality ingredients for less than 40$!

My conclusion is that it is important to protect your skin with a “primer” before makeup application, but it is even more important to be an informed consumer. Some creams and serums that are not labeled as primers are better than what cosmetic companies are selling you. You should know what ingredients you are putting on your skin, their function, and their price to know what kind of product you should be spending your money on and whether you are getting a cost effective optimal concentration of functional ingredients for your skin. Finally, do what works best for you! No one knows your skin better than you do!