If you notice that your makeup wears off or creases quickly, or seems to apply unevenly, the problem may not be your makeup-- it may be your primer (or lack thereof). In this tutorial, I'll explore the different types of primers and explain how to prep and prime your skin for a perfect longwearing makeup application.
Step 1: Skincare
The first step in prepping for your makeup application is taking care of your skin. You should see a licensed esthetician to create a skincare system that is uniquely tailored to you, but you should always follow the basic guidelines below.
NEVER sleep in your makeup, to start, and wash your face twice daily (once in the evening with a thorough morning rinse if your skin is extra super duper dry). Make sure that you've removed all of your makeup before washing it so that you can really clean out your pores. I use Shiseido's cleansing oil for this step, which is excellent for oily skin because the additional oil reduces your skin's regular oil production and, since oil breaks up oil, starts the pore-cleaning process before I've even begun washing my face. Coconut oil and olive oil are also excellent makeup removers-- simply smooth some onto a cotton pad and wipe over your face. Or try a cleansing cream or cleansing water. Makeup remover pads are not my favorite, as they often have many additional ingredients that can irritate your skin or clog pores, but they're better than nothing if you're in a pinch.
Exfoliate about 4 times a week, or however often is best for your skin. NEVER use a product with microbeads or large particles to exfoliate-- though this may be OK for your body, it is NOT for your face. The particles cause small micro-tears in your skin and is so harsh and abrasive that it is causing more harm than good to your face. Usually, placing your face wash into a damp nubby washcloth is enough exfoliation. I swear by my Clairsonic brush, which is gentle enough to be used daily. Chemical exfoliants are also excellent-- anything containing AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHAs (beta hydroxy acids). These will remove dead skin cells and any residual grime without damaging your skin when used properly.
Toner can help the exfoliating process as well, in addition to cleansing your pores and improving your skin's texture and appearance. I use a toner containing salycylic acid in the evening after I wash my face and a moisturizing toner in the morning before applying my makeup. I've seen a lot of recipes for homemade toner recently, containing ingredients such as coconut water, essential oils, and-- hold up-- ALCOHOL?! Please, never put isopropyl alcohol on your face unless you're cleaning a cut. It is far too harsh for skin and can do much more damage than good. If you have a pimple that you're trying to dry out use a bit of lemon juice or a product designed to do just that and not something that is used to sterilize instruments.
Step 2: Moisturize
Moisturizer isn't just for when your skin feels dry-- it's for daily use. Keeping your skin hydrated will improve its texture, tone, and general appearance, and will prevent wrinkles to boot. If you choose a moisturizer with an SPF, this will offer additional protection from wrinkles and protection from the sun. Each person needs to experiment a bit (or ask their esthetician!) to find the moisturizer that works best for them. Cetaphil is an excellent daily moisturizer for every skin type. I love Clinique's Dramatically Different lotion, and now it comes in gel form as well. I moisturize after every time I wash my face and especially just before a makeup application. Allow your moisturizer to absorb completely into your skin (a minute or two) before moving on to the next step.
Step 3: Face Primers
Once your moisturizer has absorbed completely into your skin, it's time to apply your face primer. Most primers are silicon-based, which fills in fine lines, wrinkles, and pores, and allows makeup to glide over the skin. Primer can also extend the wear of your makeup, protect your skin from the sun, and condition and repair your skin as well. There are loads of different primers out there so I'll break it down into a few different categories.
Anti-Aging: May contain hydrating elements as skin tends to dry out as it ages. Usually high in silicon content. Can have a lot of "slip", allowing makeup to move about the face more and sometimes wear away quicker. Examples: Boots No. 7's Age-Defying, L'Oreal Revitalift Miracle Blur.
Color-Correcting: Some toners are clear, and some have a bit of pigment added to improve the appearance of your skin. Lavender-toned primers are excellent for pale skintones that appear sallow; for dark skintones with the same problem try a peach or apricot-toned primer-- it will instantly brighten your skin and make you look well-rested. Green primers are excellent for red or broken-out skin as green will cancel the reddish tones. Examples: Clinique Superprimers, E.L.F. Studio Color-Correcting Mineral Primers.
Primers for Oily or Acne-Prone Skin: Mattifying or pore-refining primers are excellent for oily or acne-prone skin. However, be careful, as overuse can result in dryness. Examples: Benefit The Porefessional, Boots No. 7 Beautifully Matte.
Mineral Primers: If you're an all-natural babe or just not a fan of the feel of silicon primers, mineral primers are for you. They also can extend the life of your makeup the most out of all of the primers I've tried. Examples: Bare Escentuals Prime Time, Hourglass Mineral Veil.
A note on Milk of Magnesia (AKA MOM): There's a lot of hype going around about using Milk of Magnesia as an oil-controlling primer. DO NOT DO IT!!! There's this layer of your skin called the "acid mantle". The acid mantle, when it is pH balanced, is a happy place for the good bacteria that live on our face and a bad one for bad bacteria, including the bacteria that causes dryness, irritation, and acne. Milk of Magnesia is extremely alkaline and straight-up DESTROYS your acid mantle. This is why it's so great when you have acid reflux in your tummy but not so great when you have oily skin. Using MOM as a primer can permanently damage and/or alter your skin. Spend the money to get a really good mattifying primer and keep your acid mantle in fighting condition!
How to Apply: A little goes a long way! Squeeze a pea-sized bit of primer onto your fingers and, starting in the center of your face, spread outward. Or, you can use a dampened sponge to dab it on or apply it with a brush. I prefer the fingers because it warms and emulsifies the product and allows you to feel exactly how much product you're applying.
Step 4: Eye Primers
If you notice that your eyeshadow doesn't look as vibrant on your eyes as it does in the pan, or that it creases and/or wears away, you're in need of an eye primer! I use these on EVERYONE, no matter what their skin type is or what style of makeup I'm applying. Eye primers extend the wear of your eyeshadow and keeps it from creasing. I use Too Faced Shadow Insurance personally; another favorite is Urban Decay Eye Primer Potion or MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pots. A lot of eye primers now come in many different shades, such as shimmery champagne, bright gold, or nude matte, giving your eyeshadow a subtle undertone or allowing your primer to be worn alone as an all-day wearing pop of color!
Step 5: Lip Primer
Lip primers can even out lip tone and texture, lock in moisture, extend the wear of your lipstick, and prevent your lipstick from feathering and bleeding. Industry faves are MAC Pro Prep + Prime, Bite Beauty Line and Define Lip Primer, and NARS Pro Prime. Check out my tutorial on long-lasting lipstick tips to see the prepping and priming process for a perfect longwearing lip!