Base Makeup

Primers and Smoothers

April 3, 2014

I’ve been testing out a few new primers and smoothing products and thought I’d share my favorite staple primers along with some new discoveries. I’m not typically a primer kind of person. I’ve found most that I’ve tried don’t really do much to extend the wear of makeup and end up adding an extra layer of product on my face that I don’t really need. I’ve tried dozens of primers at makeover events and from tiny sample packets. There are so may different options on the market these days it can be a bit overwhelming. Different products offer a multitude of effects. Some will smooth the overall look of your skin, add a glow, give a matte look and then there are some that are just basic primers to help the application of your foundation. I have normal and sensitive skin. For your reference I’ve broken down my primer picks into two main different categories:

  • Tom Ford Illuminating Primer ($72 for 1 fl oz) is one of the best glow primers I’ve ever tried. I tested this on numerous occasions each time I was able to visit a Tom Ford counter under both the foundation stick and liquid formula. The counters kindly made a few small samples for me to test before I caved and purchased the full size (I’m still in price shock). The Tom Ford primer is packaged with a clever twist pump dispenser. It has a soothing fresh scent with a slight herbal undertone. What I like about this one is that has a more yellow-like pearly glow which I found perfect for my needs (most I’ve seen have a pinkish glow). It helps extend the wear of makeup and adds a glow without making you greasy. It helps smooth the skin and adds an all over glow to prevent your makeup from looking flat. Be aware that this is on the dewy side, if you’re oily I wouldn’t recommend this one. I also found this one works best with the Tom Ford Foundations. See The Convenient Beauty’s review.
  • NARS Pro-Prime Radiance Enhancing Primer ($34 for 1.1 oz) is the next best alternative to Tom Ford’s primer at a more affordable price. It has a reflective pearl quality that is the perfect mix of opal, gold and champagne. It has SPF 15 and a little goes a long way. I find this one photographs well with a flash. It has a creamy but thin and easy to blend texture to give an all over glow without being too glowy. Lasting power is better than average for me but it won’t make your makeup last all day long (you will need a touch up in the afternoon). I really like this for the effect it gives and how it helps makeup look smoother.
  • MAC Strobe Liquid ($32 for 1.7 fl oz) isn’t really a traditional primer, but I like to use it as one over moisturizer and underneath liquid or powder makeup. It’s another great smoothing glow product with a super thin liquid texture. It dries well to help makeup stay in place and prevents it from sliding around – but note you only need a tiny bit on the face. It’s on the more glowy side so I would recommend topping with a regular powder or foundation. This one is also good for mixing in with foundations to add a glow without making you look white. It has a more opal/blueish sheen.
  • Chanel Base Lumiere Illuminating Makeup Base ($45 for 1 fl oz) is one of the most fluid primer/bases I’ve ever tried. (I’ve repurchased this multiple times.) It has a blueish violet sheen but it disppears into a clear finish on the skin. The key to using this is to make sure you use a thinner lightweight moisturizer underneath otherwise it will make the skin oily. If you’re a serum + moisturizer kind of person, I would recommend skipping one of the items before using this one. I like this best with Chanel foundations as it helps prime the skin with a subtle glow and also helps extend the wear of foundation. Make sure you use as little as possible – if you overdo it it will be too heavy and feel thick on the skin.

  • Lancome Visionnaire 1-Minute Blur ($55 for 1 fl oz) is currently available at Sephora locations in the US. I received a press sample of this (hence the white lab tube). It’s a skin smoother/finisher designed to smooth the skin, erase imperfections and pores. It has a creamy neutral colored texture that disappears on the skin. This video has a good visual of what this will do for the skin. I suggest testing at the store if you can, reviews indicate this is either a hit or miss. I saw a noticeable difference in my skin texture when using this and used it under a liquid foundation (tested with Chanel and NARS). I loved the results for the overall look and it truly erased any signs of pores on my face. It helped my makeup last all day long (quite impressive) well through the evening. There is a very light fragrance to this which I found on the subtle side. The only thing I didn’t like about this was that I could actually feel the layer of product on my face – not necessarily a bad thing, but I tend to prefer face makeup that is more weightless and thinner in texture.
  • Clinique Superprimer Color Correcting ($27 for 1 oz) I bought this at Sephora after reading rave reviews about the Superprimers. I was a bit overwhelmed with the color options and honestly have no idea if I picked the right one for me. I decided to go with the peach color corrector since traditional white ones are often too pale and white for my olive skin. I didn’t notice any color correcting quality with this one but the color matched my skin pretty well once blended. It has a thicker airy creamy texture that has a velvety feel on the skin. The result: long lasting makeup all day long from morning until late at night (around 11ish before I took it off). The peach color disappeared and gave the skin a smooth matte look. If you test any of the options at the store you will see a noticeable difference on the back of your hand. I like that the primer didn’t change the color of my foundation even though it has a peach tint. I’m not sure I picked the right option, if you’ve tried the any of the Clinique primers I’d love to hear your thoughts.
  • Dior Pore Minimizer Skin Refining Matte Primer ($42 for 1 oz) is a primer that wins for most innovative packaging. It’s a tube with a pump dispenser. I have not purchased this after testing a couple counter-made samples but wanted to share my thoughts. This offers the most matte finish that I’ve ever seen. It smooths the skin out similar to the Lancome but has a thicker feel on the skin (at least for me). I found this blended well on the skin and provided a lovely smooth look. There was a huge noticeable difference. I felt it was too dry for my normal/combination skin even though it didn’t look dry at all. I suspect if you have skin that is on the oily side, the Dior Matte Primer will work wonders for you.
Packaging and dispenser details:

My top three picks:
  1. For the best glow, I like Tom Ford’s Illuminating Primer
  2. For the price and performance I like Clinique’s Superprimer
  3. For the most visible smoothing result, Lancome Visionnaire 1-Minute Blur is a winner

Do you have any favorite primers, smoothing products or glowy bases? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences for what has worked on your skin tone or skin type.

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  • LilJeJa April 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Visionnaire blur is wonderful I highly recommend buying a full size. I have been using it and I love how it really improves skin texture. I also love NARS and MAC strobe liquid – they are great for all over glow.

  • Whitney April 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    I've been loving the Pixi Flawless Beauty Primer for a glowy base. Also works great as a highlighter.

    • Lisa April 4, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      Me Too! Good price point too!

  • Bella April 3, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer is my holy grail. I also enjoy using the new Nars Line and Pore stick primer thingey, only on the parts of my skin where I have visible pores. Does a good job of filling them and making makeup last longer there.

    • Lisa April 4, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Hourglass is my go-to as well! Just love how it feels on my face!

  • Merry Chillaz April 3, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Hi! Thanks for your suggestions but do you know which one is best for dry skin? Maybe I`ll try the Chanel one since my foundation is the Chanel Vitalumière (not the Aqua version, the normal one). But I liked your description for the Clinique and since I love their products, perhaps would be a good option.

    • Sabrina April 3, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Merry, if you use Chanel foundations, I think Chanel's Base Lumiere is very good, there is also a new Pink Toned Version in the US. If you can get to the counter I also recommend checking out the Le Blanc de Chanel which is a bit heavier and creamier in texture (it's white but it blends well and is not as visible when you have foundation over it). Hope this helps!

      I've always been a huge fan of Chanel foundations and I find the Chanel primer/foundation combination works really well.

      Clinique's was really nice and didn't feel too try on my skin, especially over moisturizer it worked just fine, but I personally think Chanel might be better.

    • LilJeJa April 3, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Have you tried Laure mercier hydrating primer? Or even better smashbox primer for dry skin – it's the best one on the market

    • Kica April 3, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Hourglass No. 28 primer gets really great reviews for dry skin

  • Grace Cottrell April 3, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I really need to experiment with more primers, I have never tried a high end one but now I really want the Dior matte one…

  • shelovespraline April 3, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Great post – I just picked up the NARS radiance primer today!

  • Anonymous April 3, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I love the Tom Ford Illuminating Primer but I also agree with Bella, the Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer is fantastic. Great post Sabrina – thanks for all the info! – Zeynep

  • lashesandblushes April 3, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    A few days ago I was about to buy the peach corrector from Clinique but wasn't sure if I could see a color correcting. And now if you also say the same, I think I will go for something else!

  • Chris El @ MyFashionTrendencies April 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    This isn't really marketed as a primer but I love using Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. When used correctly, it smooths my skin and gives it a brightening effect that by mid PM, my face still looks fresh despite how tired I may feel. I like Hourglass' primer for my oily t zone and NARS makes a primer that smooths out large pores.

    • Lisa April 4, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      I save the Clarins Beauty Flash Balm for special occaisions! I watched a Lisa Eldridge video and this was her fav for special events, she massages it into her face to activate the matrix. I get amazing results! Love this stuff!

  • Monika @ RocailleWrites April 3, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    This was very helpful, thank you for taking the time to test these out and compare! I don't use primers every day (like you, I find that most don't do enough for me) but I like to try things here and there, and you offered some great suggestions!

  • z April 3, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    I need to go check out the new lancome!

    Also, my favourite is hourglass' mineral veil. I would say get a sample since it costs a fortune – but I really feel like you wouldn't regret it!

    • Lisa April 4, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      Sephora often puts this up for deluxe sample with 100 point gifts etc. Keep a look out for these specials. I pick them up for travel. A little goes a long way!

    • Lisa April 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      What a great post. I love primers. Some I fall in love with because of the wonderfull tactile experience as well as the elegant formula, I have 2 in this category: Hourglass Mineral Veil, and La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 mineral sunscreen ~$30(not marketed as a primer but and excellent" on, nonetheless). Another I have repurchased and is in the "golden/peach glowy category is made by Pixi Flawless Beauty Primer No. 1 Evenskin $29 (there are no other numbers), looks great under makeup or mixed with it. Lastly, I use Guerlain Meteorite Perles in both light diffusing regular and the d'or depending on the look I'm going for. I fluid ounce is $73. The overall effect of a properly used primer get you one step closer to flawlessness!

  • Star Vogue April 3, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Great post I now have a few products that I can try out and see what will work best for my skin!

  • Anonymous April 4, 2014 at 1:11 am

    My favorite primer is Clarins Flash Balm. It's multitasking and performs excellent as primer!

  • Connie Bea April 4, 2014 at 1:19 am

    NARS glow is one of my absolute favorites! It's definitely a must-have for me for winter. It just helps liven up the drabby winter dryness.

    Connie | Sponsored by Coffee

  • Christina April 4, 2014 at 3:20 am

    I just picked up the Hourglass mineral primer last weekend and so far it has been amazing! Still testing with different foundations though.

  • Makeupremastered April 4, 2014 at 6:17 am

    What a good post on primers!!-I would love to try the Tom Ford one-my new favourite primer is Sunday Riley!!- all my foundation look amazing with this underneath.

  • Louisa April 4, 2014 at 8:21 am

    I swear by Sunday Riley primer and have repurchased it many times. Great for smoothing! I occasionally wear Burberry Fresh Glow for understated highlighting. It's great when mixed w foundation or worn on top.

  • bisbee April 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I bought the Sunday Riley primer, and I like it a lot, but I have a problem. No matter how much I shake it, it seems to have separated – doesn't come out smooth, the oil seems to have separated from the pigment. I looked up the problem, and found someone who had the same issue, but it was remedied by shaking. Any suggestions would be welcomed!

  • courtney parker April 4, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    I just started using primer! I use Benefits version! However, the Tom Ford one looks like it would add a very beautiful effect to one's makeup!

  • Jane at Daly Beauty April 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Sabrina! You are my beauty kindred spirit. I just went out and got the Chanel, although in Canada it is Le Blanc de Chanel. I wonder if it is the same? At any rate, I ADORE it <3

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