Jul 12, 2010

Eye Shadow Primer vs. Eye Shadow Base

Eye Shadow Primer vs. Eye Shadow Base

I have been asked many times why I use two eyeshadow primers or bases. Maybe this post can help everyone understand the method to my madness.

First off, this is based on my specific needs and preferences. I have oily lids and I like bright vivid eyeshadow colors.

The terms eyeshadow base and eyeshadow primer have been used interchangeably for as long as I have known makeup. I use the terms separately and I'll define them my way so you guys can see where I'm coming from.

MY Definitions and Uses:

Eye Shadow Primer
A lightweight cream/emulsion that is applied as the first layer to prepare eyelids for eyeshadow application and is usually a neutral color or invisible on skin. A primer creates a barrier between your skin and makeup. It seals the oils of your skin away from eyeshadow for long lasting wear and provides protection against creasing and fading of your makeup. It can also help to make eyeshadow easier to blend.

My picks...NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base, Too Faced Shadow Insurance, Urban Decay Primer Potion (depot nightmare though).

Eye Shadow Base
A eyeshadow primer and base are similar but not the same in my eyes. An eyeshadow base is also cream/emulsion that is applied to eyelids prior to eyeshadow but is usually thicker in consistency and offered in a variety of colors. However, an eyeshadow base may not prevent creasing or fading of the colors or help with long lasting wear. The primary purpose of an eyeshadow base is to intensify the color of eyeshadow by providing a base for the makeup to adhere to. I add these on top of the eyeshadow primer.

My picks...MAC Paintpots, MUFE Aqua Cream Colors

I also like....Urban Decay Cream Eyeshadows, Too Faced Lock Down Cream Eyeshadows - both of these incorporate the brand's primer in their formula. You can also use gel eyeliners or NYX Jumbo Pencils but remember gel eyeliners are drier in texture so work quickly and NYX Jumbo Pencils are very creamy and may crease if you use too much. MAC Paints, Shadesicks and Greasepaint Sticks also do the job.

MY Why:

When I just started using makeup I was prone to my eyeshadow creasing after about 30 minutes because of my oily lids. Even without makeup my lids would have an oily film within a couple of hours. Add to that my eyeshadows had poor color payoff and blending was a chore. Too Faced Shadow Insurance came to my rescue and showed me the way.

An eyeshadow primer helps create a smooth, even, oil-free canvas for my eyeshadow application. My eyeshadows started to glide on easily and blending wasn't so much of a workout anymore.

And then came the eyeshadow bases and MAC Painterly Paintpot. For me eyeshadow bases helped with my eyeshadow vibrancy and created an even better canvas for eyeshadows. My colors really started to show up bright and vivid - love!

But why not just use the Painpot alone? Doesn't it do the same thing by itself?

Simple answer for me...NO! Maybe for others this is all well and good but for me not so much.

Here's why....
  • Main reason for me..creasing! Any cream eyeshadow or product will crease on my eyelids without a primer underneath it. Yes even MAC Paintpots crease on my oily lids.
  • MAC Paintpots, MUFE Aqua Cream Colors and other cream eyeshadows that I use for bases can be drying and tug at my bare skin. By using a primer I already have a smooth layer for the cream product to glide onto.
  • Lighter colored bases help to intensify the color bright eyeshadows versus darker colored bases which can dull bright colors. Even for darker skin still use a lighter neutral color rather than one that matches your skin. the darker color will dull your eyeshadows.
  • Dark colored or black bases bring out the hidden color in duo-chrome eyeshadows.
  • Neutral or skin tone bases work well with all colors but using a similar color base will help bring out the true color of your eyeshadows.
  • For subtle color just use a primer without a base.
  • If you can get away with just using a base without creasing then by all means go for it!

Remember this is just MY way of doing things to achieve MY desired looks. Makeup is personal and you should always make it work for you. Do what you find works best for your preferences.

Hope that helps when wondering why I do the things I do.... : )


  1. The reasons that you use these particular products is the same reason I used them. Excellent post! :-)

  2. I agree 100% with this post! Too many times I've been told that primers and bases are the same thing. They're not!! Bases crease on me and primers do not! Thank you!

  3. Yay edotrich and swatchcat!

    I'm so happy u guys agree! That makes me feel so much better.

    To me they are NOT the same thing at all! And I use them for different reasons and it works for me.

  4. This makes perfect sense and your reasons are the same as mine for using a primer and a base; you articulated it much better than I have been able to when asked about it in the past!

  5. I agree, not the same at all! I think that primers do help with colour intensity versus no primer, but bases are really useful to get different effects.

  6. What do u use to apply your primers and paintpots your fingers or a brush if so which one.... I use to use my fingers which were warm so it make it go on smoother but then I would miss spots like that tiny part near the tear duct..so I tried a brush it can get those tiny spot but then its not as smooth as with the fingers

  7. I also agree 100%. My lids are oily too and I find it lasts all day if, and only if, I use both a primer and a base!

  8. I think most people mix the term base/primer and wonder why their "base" creases of them and "primer" doesn't intensify the eyeshadow.
    I tell people the same thing you wrote.

  9. Thx Amy. I'm glad you agree. It's funny how ppl see it differently.

    That's right RaeRae! Different products, different effects! I always have to explain myself.

    Hey Camille. I use my ring finger to apply primers since they are thinner but I use a Sonia Kashuk dome blender brush for Paintpots. You can see it at the start of my videos. It helps to blend the Paintpot into all the corners. To apply other bases I also use a MAC 242/252 brush.

  10. So u know my pain Sarah! Primers are a must!

    LOL Celia! And then they blame the product rather than their application. Tsk tsk.

  11. Great article! It's all about trial and error and what works best for each individual. Good, thorough breakdown!!!

  12. explains a lot! thank you for sharing!

  13. Thanks for the enlightening. I have been wondering about the difference for a while.

  14. I truly appreciate you for your helpful tips & you shall surely be rewarded for your good deeds.

  15. I know I'm late to the party, but I googled this and your article explained it to me clearly. Thank you.

  16. I found your site some time ago and always refer to it for tips. I have never left a comment before but since I am interested in really improving my eye make up look I thought now is a good time to ask my first questions. First, what should one do if primer (Urban Decay) is used but creasing still occurs? Also, I've heard the term "cut crease" a lot recently and wonder if you can explain what it means and tell and/or show how to do it.

  17. Thank you for this post! So informative and exactly what I wanted to know! I totally get the difference now :)


  18. I too have the same issue with oily eye lids and smeared makeup after a few hours of wear. I will be trying these tips to see of it makes a difference. Although I am quit new to make-up it is always great to hear that I'm not the only on who has these issues! Thank you so much for the tips!!

  19. I was having the same issue and just considering using both primer and base as the solution, so thx for the post, which answers my question!

  20. Based on your (awesome!) definitions of primers vs. bases, I have to say that the product I use on both my face and my eyelids (Clinique's Universal primer, believe it or not!) does ALL of the things you mentioned for both bases and primers. For me at least, it's definitely a "two in one!"

  21. From this post I came to know about both Eye Shadow Primer and Base. Thanks for sharing it.


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