The Beginner's Guide To Eyeshadow Primers


The best thing about beauty is that you don't need to be a makeup artist to be an expert. All you really need to do is your own makeup—and do it a lot—and voilà! You're an expert. So, by that measure, Jessica Sheft-Ason, Glossier's digital product manager, is the office's foremost expert on cat eye liner. By extension, she knows quite a bit about the entire eyelid category, including eyeshadow primer. Want proof? Read her guide below...

Recently, someone posted a message on our internal “Ask ITG” Slack channel (a place dedicated to asking each other beauty questions—yes, we too ask ITG a lot of questions): “Why do I need eye primer? Is it different than face primer? And which one?” A few messages later, I realized I actually had a lot to say on the somewhat niche subject. And I figured it'd be nice to share a little bit of our office chatter here for all to see.

If you wear makeup on your eyelids, chances are you could benefit from some eye primer. Its main goal is to keep whatever liner, shadow, etc. you put there exactly where you want it. So if you don't want your cat eye to end up on your upper lid—or worse, near your brow, use a primer. A good one will also help shadow from creasing or migrating to the rest of your face.

Eye primers are different from their cousin cateogy, face primers, though. Mainly, they're a bit thicker and come in smaller tubes. This accounts for the fact that they're often used to hold a little more artistry in tact—your smoky eye job is probably more intricate than your contour. That being said, if you don’t have eye primer, face primer is an excellent stand-in. When in a real pinch, try concealer under shadow.

Of course things aren't that simple though. There are a bevy of heavily reviewed, dedicated products that claim to do the very important work of making your eyes look great. Below are five—pick the one that suits you and your lids the very best and tell me which one you go with. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Urban Decay Primer Potion: I’ve had this one in my bag ever since I started watching YouTube tutorials. On that note, I honestly think would be a challenge to find an eye makeup video that doesn’t involve this primer in some regard. It’s the standard for a good eye primer and if you’ve never used one, this is the one to start with. Note: Lots of people simply refer to it as “UDPP”—the more you know!

Too Faced Shadow Insurance: I normally wouldn’t recommend buying an insurance policy from Too Faced Cosmetics, but if the policy is against eye shadow creasing than I just might. This is one of my favorite primers for eyelids that are especially oily (re: mine). After applying, I let it settle for a moment and then do my eye makeup. After that, nothing moves.

Nars Smudge Proof Eye Base: This primer stands out from the rest because it is 100% colorless (the others mostly have nude-toned bases). I reserve using this one for when I want a more natural eyeshadow look.

MAC Paint Pots: These are great because they can be worn under eyeshadow or on their own, and also come in a ton of shades. A classic favorite of mine is a buff nude called Painterly which I can only describe as “My Eyelids, But Better.” Another gem is Rubenesque, which is a beautiful copper color that I wear on its own.

NYX Eye Shadow Base: These primers come only in a few shades of neutrals/shimmers, but have a creamy consistency that I really enjoy. My favorite shade is Pearl, which is a shimmery white that can either look very late '90s (on it’s own) or barely-there-glitter (under eyeshadow).

—Jessica Sheft-Ason

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Now that your lids are primed, here's the smoky eye quads you should use on them.