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GEMs Of Beauty: The Primer On Primer

GEMs Of Beauty:

The Primer On Primer


When you get to be a certain age—oh, I don’t know, maybe once the zits are gone for good, replaced by some indelibly etched crevasses and craters and laugh lines—it’s time to admit you might just maybe just need a teeny bit of help with your skin.

Okay, a lot of help.

Enter the primer. Of all the tricks in your beauty bucket, knowing how to properly use primer should be at the top (along with eyebrow grooming). Professional makeup artists know this, which is why they never leave home without them; they have learned that primers are to your skin what gesso is to a canvas: they prep the surface so what you put on top goes on smoothly, evenly, and with color as close to what you see in the package or bottle as possible. Primers even out skin tone, erase imperfections, and give you the perfect base for makeup application. They allow your makeup to stay put for hours longer than it would otherwise, and you’ll find out you need a lot less of your regular products, so it’s a cost-effective purchase. Plus you should use it only where you need it; if your cheeks are smooth and the color is even, save primer for crow’s eyes or fine wrinkles around your lips or on your forehead.

Related: GEMs Of Beauty: Bath Time Is Your Time

To use, first apply your moisturizer and let it absorb completely. Then smooth on the primer where needed. A little goes a long way. Let that sink in too. Put foundation next, if you like, and a subtle hint of blush (did I say subtle? Yes, I did).  Some primers are also safe for eyelids, and they’re great if you have a crepey texture anywhere. They’ll also keep your lipstick in place.

In other words, primers instantly make you look a whole lot better. Especially if you have visible pores—another consequence of aging skin–that become even more noticeable when you put on foundation, powder, or blush. And if you’re prone to redness, look for a color-correcting primer with a green undertone, which will neutralize the red.

Related: GEMs Of Beauty: Hand Help For Your Helping Hands

I’ve also found that as you get older, primers can often be used in place of foundation, if you want to add some polish to your look without laying it on with a trowel. Try one of these and see for yourself:

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Of all the primers I tested, I adored the silken texture of this one the most. It is genius at smoothing out the Grand Canyons on my face and giving my skin a satin-like finish. I don’t even bother with foundation afterwards as it instantly gives me all the smoothing I need. Just be sure to moisturize first, and pat it on gently. For more opaque coverage, blend it with your foundation on the back of your hand. You are going to look fab.

Buy it for $34 at

Read more: 10 From GEM: 10 Baby Steps To Health And Fitness



Mac is beloved of professional makeup artists, and with good reason. The pigments are intense and the products are designed for heavy-duty use. They have a whole range of primers for different skin types and needs, so check out the link below to their website so you can choose the right one. I like the Skin Smoother as it comes in a sleek compact you can throw in your bag for touchups in case you’re going somewhere more professional than Target (on a late-night baby food and diaper run), and it helps mattify normal or oily skin.

Buy it for $30 at

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Like Mac, Smashbox makes a sensational primer that leaves your skin perfectly even and smooth. This one is terrific for moms like me whose skin is as parched as the Sahara, as it leaves your skin dewy and polished and ready for foundation, which will not budge one droplet all day after you blend it on your skin. No wonder it was a Martha Stewart Weddings Big Day Beauty Award winner in 2013. (And if your hair is a mess, smooth on a teeny dab of primer to take those flyaway frizzled bits.)

Buy it for $36 at

Read more: Beauty From The Inside Out: Nourish Your Dry Winter Skin



Illuminating primers are great when you want a hint of sheen but not full coverage. This balm will give you a light layer of luminous smoothing, and it’s great to use at nighttime when you need a bit of dazzle. It’s extremely moisturizing, and if your skin is particularly dry and drab, leave it on overnight as a mask and your skin will be plumper and smoother in the morning. It doesn’t hurt that it smells particularly yummy–like a day at the beach, too—and absorbs instantly. It’s pricey but so worth it!

Buy it for $60 at

Read more: GEMs of Beauty: Scented Deodorant ? Say It Ain’t So (Smelly)



When ET The Extraterrestrial was rereleased in 2002, I got a plum assignment to interview Drew Barrymore. I’d had a brief sit-down with her years before when I was working for a British TV show, and she had glitter all over her face and was deep in her giggly phase. That was long-gone; Drew was incredibly smart, focused, and radiant. Her skin rocked then and it still does, and I wasn’t surprised when she created a skincare line called Flower. Try this primer and your skin won’t be phoning home for help.

Buy it for $12.98 at

Read more: GEMs Of Beauty: The A List..11 Things You MUST Do To Protect Your Skin


What about you? Do you use a make-up primer? If so, which one? If not, what are you waiting for?

karen moline

Karen Moline is the author of two novels, the recently reissued Lunch and Belladonna; coauthor of the bestseller, Sh*tty Mom; coauthor/ghostwriter of over two dozen nonfiction books, including the ever-fabulous Good Enough Mother; and a journalist whose work has appeared in publications around the world. See more at She lives with her son in NYC.

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