Do *You* Prime?

Anonymous wondered if I use a foundation primer and if so, which ones I recommend.

I do ninety-nine percent of the time, and that final one percent is either because I was rushing and forgot, or ran out.  Depending on who you ask, you’re going to get a hugely varying answer on whether primer is necessary or not, but for me, it’s a step I’ll always keep in my routine.

Primer comes in two primary formulations-silcone “gels” and lotions.  A very few companies also carry primers in serum form, but this is a very few, and I’ve only tried two, so I won’t cover those.  Lotion primers act sort of as a dual hydrator and binder.  They create a layer on the skin that foundation clings to more evenly than skin.  Silicone primers create a web over the skin that serves a multitude of purposes-evening out minor texture issues, helping foundation cling more easily, preventing the skin’s natural oils from mixing with other products, and diffusing light and products to give your skin a more airbrushed look (which is why skin looks smoother when you use silicone primers even before you put foundation over it.)

Now, I only ever use lotion primers on people with the driest skin, as a silicone primer would simply flake off (it needs a bit of moisture to react with.)  There are some fantastic ones out there-my favorite being the one from NARS-but they simply don’t cut it when it comes to oily, troubled skin or even normal skin with more than a bit of redness.

My favorite silicone primer, and the one I use on myself every day and for clients, would have to be… Monistat Soothing Relief Powder-Gel.  Now, I know that at least half of you just stopped reading to laugh.  Finish up, and come back.  I know that Monistat is known for its production of products for feminine care, and this is sort of that type, but humour me and look at the ingredients.  Every single main ingredient in this gel is a variant of a silicone (dimethicone, dimethicone crosspolymer, trisiloxane, silica…).  My favorite mainstream silicone primer, Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer, has its main ingredients listed as cyclomethicone, dimethicone crosspolymer, dimethicone, trisiloxane, silica….  So it looks like the Monistat version is basically the same variety of silicones, just in a slightly different order.  No weird medications or strange “down-there” ingredients.

I know some people are going to balk and say that the Smashbox version contains botanicals and skincare ingredients, and the silicones are undoubtedly produced to be finer in size.  But really, I’ve told you all my thoughts on skincare ingredients in makeup before, and I’ve seen absolutely no difference in the ability of both to keep my own or my clients’ makeup in place all day.  On two simultaneous days, I tried out both with the exact same routine otherwise, and checked after 12 hours: everything was the same between the two.

My face is extremely oily.  Extremely.  Without primer, I can normally get about three to four hours of wear before the oils in my face start to disrupt the foundation.  With primer, the oils don’t even start to really show until that time, and I can get a good twelve to thirteen hours of wear with some minor blotting by eight hours without looking like a melted wreck.  With primer, my skin looks smoother, brighter, and healthier, and my makeup lasts much, much longer.

So, for those of you in the market (and you should be!), check out the Monistat Soothing Relief Powder-Gel or the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer (if you really want to shell out $32 for what essentially boils down to prettier packaging); for those of you with dry skin, try the NARS Foundation Primer.


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  1. #1 by Kaitlin on July 21, 2011 - 14:32

    Do you find that this makes your face (or your clients’ faces) oily? I know it says “not oily” on the description; however, I’m super sensitive. It needs to be completely oil-free for me to put it anywhere near my face. Please let me know!

    • #2 by finallyindigo on July 21, 2011 - 14:55

      Silicone creates a sort of webbing over skin that helps prevent skin oils from mixing from your makeup for a longer period than it would take without. Even on the oiliest skin (mine included) these silicone primers help to cut down on oil breakthrough for a couple of hours at least.

  2. #3 by Olive on March 9, 2012 - 18:18

    Awesome info. I’ve heard about the Monistat for primer but haven’t tried it. I live in super humid florida and use SB photo finish lite. I’m due for a drugstore beauty run and this is something I will definitely pick up. My husband will probably vomit when he sees me putting it on my face but oh well. I’ve birthed 2 children. His gag reflux has gotten much better 🙂

    I love your blog! I just started my own with my girlfriend.

    Ivoryandolive.com

    I’d like to link you on mine if thats okay? Your info as a MUA is great as opposed to us beauty junkies with no formal training.

    • #4 by finallyindigo on March 10, 2012 - 14:07

      Of course you can link here! (Although my posting is all but dead now haha)

  3. #5 by Gift on July 21, 2012 - 12:30

    This is quite helpful. Although, I’m not really into primer but I’ll definitely include it in my makeup routine.
    Thanks!

  4. #6 by cc on June 23, 2013 - 04:11

    What a great idea! I love it! Fab. Thank you so much for sharing. Can’t wait to try the monistat. Have you ever tried the preparation h under the eyes for wrinkles/bags? I am scared to try it!!!!

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