When did preparing and beautifying my skin become so... automotive sounding?
Regardless of how un-feminine it may sound, primer is a key component in my makeup routine; I suggest you welcome it into yours with open arms as well.
Why do I need primer? What does it do? Is it like moisturizer? Where do I use it, when, and how?
Hold your questions until the end, please.
Primer is a formula that generally comes in a consistency similar to that of a lotion or a serum. By choosing the right primer, you can greatly increase the look, feel, and staying power of your makeup on a daily basis. Formulas vary in promises, from color balancing, to redness reducing, brightening, oil-combatting, anti-aging, pore reducing, etc. Not only will primers help to counter any 'problems' for your particular skin, they will also keep your makeup looking fresh throughout the day.
Primer is not to be confused with moisturizer or toner, or any other step for that matter. Primer is its own entity, a separate step, if you will. Primer is to be applied to your entire face after moisturizing and before using foundation. Determine which primer best suits your skin type and your individual skin concerns and you will see a difference in the way your makeup wears throughout the day; if you do not, you have chosen a primer that may not be the best for you-keep trying. When you find the one that is meant for you, you will never want to be without it. When you know, you know. You know?
Having said all of that - let me give you a few suggestions based on my own experience. Even if you are the type of person who sounds like this, "Oh I just don't really spend a lot of time doing my makeup, I just don't have time to do it and I don't really want to. I like basic products, I'd rather not spend a lot of money-I mean, it's just makeup!" You STILL NEED PRIMER. Not only do you need it, but my honest-to-goodness advice is that primer is not the step that you want to be cheap on. If you buy the right primer, you can skimp a little on what goes on top of it-so let's just think of this in terms of opportunity cost.
My skin type: combination - normal to oily, with a chance of rain. The primer that I use, love, and will never turn my back on is Smashbox Photo Finish Light. The regular sized container costs $36 and lasts me about four months. $36 may sound pricey for a step in your makeup routine that you seem to have survived without thus far; it breaks down to spending $0.30 a day AND you need it. No more excuses. Yes it's oil-free. Buy Smashbox Photo Finish Light here.
My suggestion is this: browse the Smashbox selection for a primer that will best suit your needs. There are six, I believe, different formulas that the brand offers. Go into a store and try them on your hand to see what you think about the texture. I love the Photo Finish Light for my skin type because it goes on like a lotion and rubs in completely - it leaves absolutely no residue.
For normal to dry skin, I would suggest either the Smashbox Photo Finish (original) or the BareEscentuals Prime Time. While I would suggest the BareEscentuals Prime Time for normal to dry skin, I would NOT suggest the Prime Time Oil Control for normal to oily skin. The Prime Time Oil Control serum leaves a residue that makes my skin feel oilier and I also have to be very careful because the formula flakes if I do not take special care to rub it in completely (think chin area, neck, and hairline which can be overlooked in a hurry). Buy Photo Finish Primer (original) here.
Urban Decay also offers a Pore-Perfecting Primer which can help to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, in addition to reducing the noticeability of larger pores. If large pores are your main concern, this will be a nice option for you. Buy Urban Decay Pore-Perfecting Primer here.
If you are looking for a primer that not only maintains the freshness of your makeup but also brightens your face to an illuminated, healthy-looking glow, opt for That Gal by Benefit. It is one of the most popular Benefit products for a reason; the subtle glow is enough for those with naturally beautiful skin to use, dust with a light powder and head out the door. Urban Decay offers a brightening formula in a primer as well, but I would suggest That Gal as it seems to be the crowd favorite, thus, odds are in your favor! Buy Benefit That Gal here.
Allow me to recap. Primer is used after moisturizing and before applying foundation. It will create a smoother, more even surface for your makeup, as well as ensuring that your makeup will last as long as you need it to. Primers come with many options, so find the one that best suits you and don't end your search until you have the Aha! moment. Do not go cheap-yes, I've tried it and no, the Revlon Smoothing Primer does not cut it. Ever heard of the Emperor's New Clothes? Yes, same concept. Now get out there and find the primer that revs your engine!