This Is How Banana Powder and Makeup Primers Really Work
Is your makeup routine missing these two steps?
Have you heard of the beauty trend called "baking" that took over YouTube and Instagram a few years ago? No, we're not talking about anything related to kitchen skills here—in makeup terminology, baking means setting your makeup with banana powder, a step that essentially adds a layer of protection against a makeup meltdown. Another key ingredient for keeping your makeup intact: a primer. Navigating the ins and outs of primers and setters doesn't require an MFA in makeup application, though. Here, two pros break down how, when, and why you should use these tools to keep your makeup going strong.
How does banana powder work?
"From a makeup artist's perspective, banana powder is simply a yellow-toned powder that you can use for certain skin tones to set your makeup," says celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin. Even though this fixer is designed to reduce that ghostly glow setting powders often causes under a camera flash, the yellow tint of banana version doesn't necessarily work on every skin tone. Irwin says that the tried-and-true Ben Nye ($27, amazon.com) formulas and other banana powders are great for tanned skin, olive complexions, or light to medium brown skin. It isn't great, however, on pale tones, especially if you have any hints of pink in your complexion. "Think about color theory, red and yellow make orange. It's also not designed for ultra-dark skin, as it's too light for dark skin to set or to highlight," Irwin adds.
Banana isn't the only option.
There are different shades of primer that are made specifically for different skin tones. "It's best to choose a shade that matches the undertones of your skin. For fair skin, choose a translucent powder; for medium skin, choose a classic golden shade; and for dark skin, select an orange-tinted powder," explains Gabriel De Santino, makeup artist and founder of Gabriel Cosmetics, Inc. The concept of baking-which is really designed for heavy-duty makeup applications, when you need your look to withstand more intense conditions-is essentially applying your banana or setting powder after you've applied primer, foundation, and concealer. Irwin suggests using a fluffy brush slightly bigger than a blush brush to dust it on. It's often placed more heavily under the eye to brighten any dark areas. The term bake comes from the process of leaving it on for a bit (about 10 minutes) to help soak up any excess oil and to prevent creasing. After that time, you can top it with the rest of your makeup. Keep in mind that if your skin leans more on the dry side, you should only powder through the T-zone, steer clear of the under-eye area to avoid creasing and caking.
What is makeup primer?
The main purpose of primer is to create a canvas that your foundation, concealer, and eye makeup can adhere to. "Most primers target specific issues, from pore size to hydration. Some of them are what you might call skincare adjacent-designed to help your makeup work better while still having benefits," says Irwin. When picking a primer, think about the rest of your skincare regimen. If you prefer oil-based moisturizers a water-based primer may not sit well on top. Try to keep primer and skincare in the same ingredient family. The oil may also break down your base, which is why sandwiching a primer in between may be a melt-proofing solve. "Primers create a barrier between your skin and makeup, thus preventing oils and serums from breaking down your foundation," says De Santino.
Gabriel explains that primers should not interfere with your skincare routine if you're applying them properly, particularly because they are typically lightweight in formula. "It's best to let your moisturizer fully absorb into your skin prior to applying your primer. If you do that, your skin will be good to go," he says. Because there are so many formula options, De Santino suggests wearing one that works well with your skin type and the rest of your product lineup. "For example, I would not pair a mattifying moisturizer with a dewy primer—the goal is the pair products that will work together to achieve your desired results," De Santino adds.
Primers should also be used to help target specific skin concerns. So, if you're oily, a water-based primer is good; if you're dry, go for a hydrating formula. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamins A, C and E, and squalene all help to increase hydration. If you have large pores, look for something that will smooth them temporarily, which will probably have a fair amount of silicone. Color-correcting primers help cover imperfections and reduce the appearance of fine lines and deep pores to achieve a smooth, clear complexion. Oily skin works best with a lightweight mattifying primer to help minimize pores and shine. If you tend to have dry skin, go with a dewy face primer that is free of silicone.
Are primers and setting powders necessary?
While primer certainly helps both on a skincare level and in helping your makeup to last, both Irwin and De Santino agree that you don't always need it. "If [your foundation has] a silicone base, you probably don't, unless you're extremely dry or oily," says Irwin. And since a primer and setting powder/spray do completely different things, it's really a matter of preference and circumstance. On a hot summer day when you need to be made up and want it to last, it's probably a good idea to use both. "None of them are absolutely necessary, but they should all work synergistically to keep your face on comfortably all day," Irwin adds.