Adding a base can make a huge difference.

By Rebecca Norris
September 23, 2020
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woman wearing neutral eyeshadow
Credit: The Morrisons

Have you ever spent 30 minutes expertly applying your eye makeup in the morning only to look in the mirror come mid-day and wonder why in the world your lids look so smudged? It's happened to the best of us. While it can be super frustrating in the moment, there's a pretty simple remedy to the situation: You'll want to use an eyeshadow primer.

What is eyeshadow primer?

Eyeshadow primer is an eye makeup product that's designed to prepare and prime the lid for long-lasting wear. "They can also intensify the vibrancy of the pigment," says Diana Oh, the makeup department head at The Late, Late Show with James Corden. "Primers ensure [a smooth application] so the shadows won't budge."

While eyeshadow primers can be a solid addition to any routine, Marc Regan, the global director of education for Hourglass, says that it's especially worthwhile in spring and summer, thanks to the way it locks your lid look in place—even in the presence of sweat. As far as the product itself, eyeshadow primer is a creamy base that's easy to apply and will make a noticeable difference in the finished look of any eye makeup application.

How does eyeshadow primer benefit eye makeup's lasting power?

Remember how we mentioned that eyeshadow primer makes eye makeup last longer? According to Urban Decay's global makeup artist, Steve Kassajikian, eyeshadow primer prepares and mattifies the lids so that your eyeshadow is crease-free, vibrant, and easy to blend and smooth. The result? Near perfect-looking lids each and every time.

If you're still not quite sold, Oh reiterates just how important this step actually is. "Without primers, you may notice that by midday your eyeshadow moves into the eyelid crease or the pigment is gone altogether," she says, noting that she never applies eye makeup without it.

What's the best way to apply eyeshadow primer?

Possibly the best part about using an eyeshadow primer (aside from its benefits, of course) is how easy they are to apply. PR strategist and Sigma Beauty global makeup artist Dani Schmidt says to start by rinsing the lid to ensure the primer is sticking to a clean surface.

"Don't apply a thick layer—this can result in creasing and unwanted patchiness," she says. Instead, she recommends using your ring finger to apply a thin layer across the entire lid, extending from the lash line up to the brow bone. "The warmth of your finger will help press the product onto your eye area to really melt it into the skin."

Of course, not everyone prefers a finger approach. "I like to apply cream primers with a synthetic brush," Oh says, noting that she's partial to the Sigma S-20 Eye Cream Brush ($12, amazon.com). "It gives me more control over the amount of product I'm using and to helps ensure smooth coverage when applying it to the lid." Meanwhile, Kassajikian says to mix your favorite eyeshadow with your eyeshadow primer to create crease-free custom cream shadows and liners.

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