What is primer, and do you need to use it?


Do you actually need to use a transparent base layer cream – otherwise known as a primer – everyday? We got three make-up artists to give us a primer on primers

Primers: just another beauty industry scam?

Primers: just another beauty industry scam?

Such is the conveyor-belt nature of the beauty industry, a new product comes along quicker than the time it takes us to understand the last. Primers, which are silicone-based, transparent creams used post-moisturiser and pre-foundation to create an even canvas, exist in this grey area. Are primers actually useful, or like the cool setting on a hairdryer, simply unnecessary? We asked three of the world’s best make-up artists for their advice.

Charlotte Tilbury, founder of an eponymous cosmetics range, and make-up artist to stars including Penélope Cruz and Jennifer Lopez
“You can’t have a beautiful painting without a beautiful canvas, so primers are great for preparing the skin. There are some amazing high-tech formulas that soften lines, pores and imperfections to even out the skin tone and help your make-up stay put all day. Look out for brightening primers that boost the skin’s radiance. I never start make-up without my Gisele‑in-a-jar, Wonderglow (£38.50, Selfridges ) – it re-emits natural light through the skin, illuminating and smoothing for a gorgeous, lit-from-within effect.”

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Sharon Dowsett, backstage supremo at London Fashion Week and make-up ambassador for Maybelline New York
“You probably don’t need to use primers everyday, but they are great when you want that ‘poly-filler’ effect on your skin. They smooth the skin and make pores appear less visible – Maybelline’s Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser Lightweight Primer (£7.99, Boots ) gives this effect instantly. The trick is to look for a mattifying primer if you have oily skin, and an illuminating primer if you have dry skin. They aren’t necessary for day-to-day wear, but for that completely perfect make-up look, they can boost your foundation’s lasting power and give you more of a ‘photoshopped’ finish.”

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Rebecca Restrepo, make-up artist and Elizabeth Arden global ambassador
“Primer is especially good for women with active days – the business woman with back-to-back meetings, or the bride who is being photographed and needs to look fresh in every shot. When I use a primer I focus on areas where there is most movement on the face. I start at the laughter lines, then move to the edges of the eyes and in between brows and the centre of the forehead. I like Elizabeth Arden’s Good Morning Retexturizing Primer (£26, Debenhams ).”


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