One word: primer.
Makeup primer is a serum, cream, or lotion that primes your skin for makeup application. Similar to paint primer, or sanding and wiping down woodwork, this creates a smooth, even surface for your makeup to stick to the best. The primer helps your makeup last longer as well as appear better in color and evenness. There are many types of makeup primer, but most are silicone-based. The primary types are 1) general, all-over face primer and 2) eyeshadow primer. Some primers will also target a specific purpose, such as large pores, hydration, or color correction for redness or undereyes.
Primers have gained a lot of popularity over the last 10 years or so. I first tried makeup primer for better eyeshadow pigmentation as well as making makeup last longer for special events like weddings. I didn’t really use any primer regularly until I moved to the South. Once the heat and humidity pick up in the summer you’ll want to use primer or you can easily sweat or melt your makeup right off.
For everyday makeup, I can get away with letting my sunscreen double as a primer. This is a listed purpose of the Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen, which is a clear gel that has velvety feel similar to many standalone primers. In all honesty, this sunscreen is not cheap. However, I only use it on my face so it lasts me several months, and because of it’s non-greasy texture I actually put it on every day. The rest of my body gets “normal” sunscreen like Neutrogena, Coppertone, or up & up Target brand.
For a special event that needs long-lasting makeup, I will use a separate face primer and eye primer. The Smashbox Original is great and was one of the earliest primers I recall going mainstream to regular consumers outside of professional makeup artists. I’ve also recently been trying this Tatcha primer. The Smashbox original primer is clear, while others like the Tatcha primer come in a peachy skin color. Both blend in colorless on my skin during all seasons, but I would test a sample if you have a much lighter or darker skin tone than me. My favorite eye primer is the Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (Original).
Appy primer after your lotion and sunscreen, but before any makeup. I like to let each of these layers sit a minute or two before continuing. A little goes a long way! I use about an M&M sized amount of face primer and just a small swipe of eye primer (one brush worth for both eyes, on the eyelids and undereyes).
Solely to document the difference primer makes, I put primer on half of my face a few weekends ago, applied makeup, and then went about my day, including taking my dogs on a nice, sweaty 30 minute walk. In the photos below, you’ll see my eyeshadow starts out pretty evenly. However, just 4 hours later you’ll notice that one side has fared much better through than the other.
As another example, I recently took my first work trip in almost two years. I had an early flight, so I did this makeup at 5:30am and did not take the second photo until 11:00pm. On top of lasting 15+ hours, this makeup made it through 4+ hours in a KN95 mask as well as happy hour outside in the Texas heat.
Never tried primer? Try a mini size or ask for a sample if you are able to shop in person. Most department stores and beauty stores (Sephora, Ulta, brand stores) will provide several product samples for free with enough to try for several days.