Do Primers Actually Work?

Last week, while perusing the aisles of a well-known drugstore, I overheard a shop assistant trying to explain the function of a primer to a primer perplexed customer. Lets just say the description was a little shaky and while considering butting in it suddenly dawned on me that one – I’m not that brave, and two – aside from the whole ‘makes your makeup stay on longer’ thing, I wasn’t too sure myself. Sure I’ve got a tonne of them, have posted multiple raves of formulas I love (hello Sunday Riley and more recently, Dior) and slap one on as part of my daily routine these days, but I’ve never really studied them, you know? When I got home (with a rather large shopping bag, standard), I began my primer education. What do they do? And more importantly – do they work?

Good ol’ Google and a browse of the ‘Tube have equipped me with the knowledge that the prime function of primers (get it?) is to create a smooth surface that’s ready for makeup which helps to adhere whatever product you decide to add next. But primers have moved on from that initial definition and there are now textures to blur pores, lines, increase hydration, add illumination, fight blemishes, colour correct, make things waterproof, add a dose of SPF to your base – you name it, there’s a primer that does it.

I can accept the vast description. Primers can basically do whatever you want them to do and that’s very, very cool; but do they perform their unifying operation – to prep the complexion for the next step, therefore prolonging makeup longevity? To test this theory I partook in a half-on/half-off face test; with one side primer-ed up and the other side sans primer as a control (I can feel my inner Science geek coming out). I thought it was only fair to put the best of the bunch up for the challenge so went for my long-time favourites: Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer and the NARS Smudgeproof Pro Prime Eyeshadow Base. On they went and after a 12 hour day filled with wind, rain and sweaty tube journeys…

The results? Well….they worked. The top picture shows the the ‘with primer’ half and the bottom picture the ‘without’ side. Things were still a little bit worn down, they’re not miracle workers – the test day in question was a particularly hardcore one – but the majority of my base was still in place and my eyeshadow was just as I’d haphazardly applied it in the morn. Whereas the primer-bare side of my face was looking a worse for wear with foundation a bit lost on my cheeks and my oily lids had caused some of my eyeshadow to do a disappearing act.

Primers, a.k.a) the chameleon of the cosmetics world – you rock.

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