Everyday we get bombarded by all kinds of beauty products and one of the latest are – primers. It seems like primers are all over the beauty market now days. And they work! The complexion is not flat and smooth, it’s normal for the skin’s surface to be textured from pores, and fine lines. So when you apply foundation over bare skin, the foundation then can settle into every crevice, accentuating flaws and the appearance of pores. Primers act much like you’d use primer on a wall before painting it.

Most primers are intended for face and eyelid application. Eyelid primers are meant to make eye shadows go on smoother and last longer. Whether marketed for the face, the eyes, or both, the anatomy of a primer will be similar. The major difference in primers is the ingredients they are packed with.

Key Ingredient: Silicone

Primers form a film on the skin that are usually soft, smooth, and silicone-based. Silicone derivatives are used in majority of primers because they provide a slippery feel that helps foundation and cream blushes glide like magic over any skin texture rather than absorbing into the skin. They also help to minimize the appearance of pores and fine lines.

When you look at the label of your primer, you may see many of the following silicone-based ingredients listed (cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, dimethicone crosspolymer, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, phenyl trimethicone, PEG-10 dimethicone, dimethiconol, bis-PEG/PPG-14/14 dimethicone).

There are also primers that don not contain silicone; generally they are better for good skin that doesn’t require much coverage. Silicone-free primers rely on either gelled oils, which may feel a little greasier on the skin than silicone or gelled water-based formulations with (acrylates or C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer).

Other types of ingredients you may see in primers:

Oils, Extracts, or Waxes

What: jojoba oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, beeswax, green tea extract.
What they do: all of these have to do with a way a primer looks and feels. For example jojoba oil might make the formula a little more fluid, while beeswax makes it more waxy.

Emollients and Humectants

What: argan; vegan-based emollients like caprylic or capric triglyceride, or glycerin.
What they do: emollients and humectants are similar but offer slightly different purposes. Emolients soften the skin while, humectants hydrate it.

Mineral Clays

What: hectorite, bentonite.
What they do: absorb oil; primers with minerals clay are best for oily skin types to achieve a matte finish.

Thickening Agents

What: beeswax, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, silica, dimethicone crosspolymer.
What they do: these gel/thicken the formula and hold other ingredients together.


What: (+/-) titanium dioxide, iron oxides.
What they do: many primers are universal, but some art tinted to match different skin tones; you will see colorants in tinted formulas.

For added skin benefits, primers may contain botanical extracts, vitamins, or bio-actives, like peptides for anti-aging or octinoxate (a form of SPF) for sun protection.

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