In the beauty business, the next big thing is always on the horizon and, let’s be honest, women eagerly embrace most new products that promise to improve or solve a beauty dilemma. Whether an anti-aging cream or a lash serum, the range of products is daunting. If one factors in the 19-step Korean approach to skin care, it can be overwhelming for even the most devoted beauty enthusiast.
Even if one is adventurous about adding new steps or products to their regimen, the question is: are they truly advantageous or just time wasters and budget drains? Primers are one of those products that aficionados adore and others don’t see the point of at all. With all the long-lasting, flaw-diminishing foundations and concealers available, is there value in primers?
Originally primers were meant to prep skin for makeup to adhere better and stay put longer. Experts say that was then, and now is quite different. “Primer formulas have come a long way,” says Maddox Lu, national brow and trend artist, Benefit Cosmetics Canada. “In the past, the main purpose of a primer was to help your makeup last longer on the skin. Now, primers have evolved to include other benefits like pore minimizing, oil controlling, hydrating and brightening, longer wear time, etc.”
This new generation of primers are not just about improving skin’s appearance for makeup application, some brands – such as the Charlotte Tilbury
’s Brightening Youth Glow
($65 at Holt Renfrew) and Tatcha
’s The Silk Canvas
($62 at Sephora) – go a step further to include treatment benefits. Tilbury’s Youth Glow uses watercress extract to minimize dark spots over time, vitamin B3 to balance skin tone, olive extract to plump skin, and rosehip and camellia oils for hydration while blurring lines, pores and dark spots upon application.
Victoria Tsai, Tatcha founder and CEO, says she took inspiration for The Silk Canvas from the Japanese geisha tradition. “To protect and perfect their skin, geisha use a layer of wax (called bintsuke) as a primer. We wanted to recreate those benefits without the wax, and turned to silk. The Silk Canvas protects skin from makeup while boosting colour payoff and wear,” she explains. The silk barrier keeps pores from becoming clogged with oil and pigments and helps avoid breakouts. Tatcha also incorporates their Hadasei-3 formula – a blend of green tea, rice and algae extract – for boosting skin’s radiance, which is beneficial for mature skin.
The most recent primer formulations aim to produce a glowing, not shiny, effect. Stila
’s One Step Correct
($47 Shoppers Drug Mart, Murale) combines several benefits in one product: it primes, colour corrects (redness, dark circles and sallowness), minimizes fine lines, and controls oil while brightening and hydrating. Benefit
’s Pearl Primer
($42 at Sephora) creates a soft pink – yes, pearly – finish, while minimizing pores and mattifying. Some brands – such as Stila with its One Step Illuminator
($47 at Shoppers Drug Mart, Murale) – do a mix of colours
for a warm glow and also highlights.
“Most primers look great on all skin tones,” says Courtney Kelly, makeup artist and beauty boutique manager at Shoppers Drug Mart. “If your complexion is dark, I would look for a silicone, clear primer or something that is tinted. Also, primers with a golden glow look amazing on a darker skin tone.” The key to selecting a primer is not just for what you want it to do, but specifically for your skin type, says Kelly. “If you have dry skin, look for a primer that is super hydrating, something that contains hyaluronic acid. Someone [with skin] that is oily should look for a mattifying primer that helps with shine. Look for primers that are packed with added benefits that will help improve your skin over time.”
One primer might not address all your concerns, Lu says. So layering is a good option. “No matter the age, there is a primer for any complexion concern,” Lu explains. “Some women may opt to use a combination of primers to create custom cocktails if they have multiple dilemmas.”
Though traditionally only worn under makeup, the new formulations of primers are often used to enhance bare skin, foregoing foundation all together. Lu says, “…if you’re a busy professional who only wears a light powder or bronzer for a hint of colour and you have an oily T-zone, you may opt for an oil controlling primer and a primer for long wear. If you’re not a big make up wearer but you’re concerned with wrinkles and dullness, you can layer a smoothing primer with a brightening primer.”
Kelly concurs saying that even those who usually wear a foundation are skipping it because the formulations are so effective. And given beneficial effects, she points out that some people are just replacing their morning skincare with a primer. Perhaps primers are a true multi-tasking product that could benefit one’s time and budget … and complexion.
About the Author
A lifestyle journalist, Michele Marko is the former Arts & Life editor at the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers. While writing about beauty, fashion, design, food and travel, she’s written on a variety subjects ranging from ethical beauty to couture fashion designers to discovering the best pizza in the world. Hint: It’s in Italy.