Eyelid/eyeshadow primers: a quick comparison

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Eyelid/eyeshadow primers: a quick comparison

Someone asked in my comments if I used an eyeshadow primer. I’d been meaning to do a post on my experiences with eyeshadow primers, particularly following my own less-than-perfectly-delightful experience with Urban Decay’s Primer Potion (which works wonderfully for lots of people, it just isn’t for me.) I know myself: if I don’t start writing something, it will just stay in the idea bank and will Never Get Done. So here are my experiences with various primers.

Why would one want to use a primer, anyway?

Why can't you just foil your eyeshadows using plain water? It's right there in your home, it doesn't cost you anything additional, you have one less bottle or tube on your vanity, so this all seems good, right? While all those are good points, there are some drawbacks: if you have uneven coloring on your lids, then you have no "base" color, and the unevenness may show through your shadows. (Think of an eyelid primer like foundation for your lids.) In addition, once the water dries, there's nothing holding the loose powder to your lids! Even when I plan to foil my shadows, I'll wear a primer to minimize the creasing, and to keep the color on my lids longer.

So on to the primers. Even if a lot of folks wouldn't consider paint pots to be primers at all. (I do, and I'm writing this; so there you go.)

BE’s Prime Time for Eyes - $16 for .05 ounces, or $320 an ounce

Easy application and smooth coverage; travels easily without spilling; held the minerals in place; but...it's the most expensive option on this list. To top things off, I got creasing after just two hours, even when using only BE eyecolors. I have both oily lids and heavy lids, so creasing is inevitable no matter how strong a primer is. But...two hours? That's almost as long as my shadows last if I just foil them using water and don't use a primer! And I'm paying extra for that? Uh...no.

Urban Decay’s Primer Potion - $20 for .3 ounces, or $66.67 an ounce

Application was not as easy as with Bare Escentuals, and the coverage was not as even - doubtless this was simply an application-practice issue, though; had I been more adept at application with that bent wand the stuff might have covered more evenly. However, I don’t like having an applicator that touches my eyes, then goes right back into the liquid-medium. (And before I started using loose-powder mineral makeup, something like this wouldn’t have bothered me one tiny bit. Go fiture.) Held the minerals in place…very well. In fact, too well. I found that I was not able to blend my shadows as easily. Some suggested that I apply the UDPP, then apply a thin layer of something like AOFC or finishing powder, then apply my eyeshadow. This seems a little bit silly — and it adds an extra step to my daily routine. Of all the options I've profiled here, this is the least expensive.

MAC Paint Pots - $17 for .17 ounces, or $100 per ounce

Some gorgeous colors, though not nearly as many as I'd like in their regular line. You can occasionally find some paint pots at the CCO (Cosmetics Company Outlets), if you missed a color and want to try and get it without paying Ebay prices :D The jars are more packaging (glass) than product - but there's a generous amount of product. They were reformulated some time in 2008, and are now creamier in consistency and easier to spread. They hold the colors, but not so firmly that the colors cannot be blended. They last on my lids between 4 to 6 hours without creasing - though the six-hour target is usually only on a really good day. Most days it averages about 5; I've never had it start creasing sooner than 4 hours except when I first started using paint pots, and applied it a bit too heavily.

Benefit's Creaseless Cream Shadows - $19 for .16-ounces shadow, or $118 per ounce

Most of their colors are in the natural range: peaches, pinks, goldens, a few darker colors like eggplant-purple or deep grey or navy, but not too many. These cost more per ounce than the MAC paint pots, and for me, they don't last quite as long (3 hours with no creasing, 4 tops.) However, unlike the MAC paint pots, the jar lids are flat, meaning I can stack these atop each other and they won't fall whenever a mouse sneezes. They also have some colors and finishes that MAC doesn't carry regularly. (Want an extra bonus? Check on Benefit Cosmetics' web site under Buh Buys for the occasional 50%-off pricing as colors are phased out!)

Make Up For Ever's Flash Colors - $19 for .21-ounces, or $90.48 per ounce

These are expensive per-pot, but you get a large quantity and they come in colors that aren't easily available from the other sources, not even MAC. Neon pink? You got it! Metallic gold, silver, and copper? Yep. Deep purple, indigo, and lavender? Yes, yes, and yes. And, of course, black and white (and lots of colors in between.) Sephora also sells a Flash Color tray with 12 smaller squares of different flash colors - great for a makeup artist, or someone doing facepainting at the local carnival. These spread smoothly, but beware - they dry FAST! I found out that I got best results if I primed and put down the initial colors on one eye, then went to the other eye. Otherwise, by the time I'd primed Lid #2, Lid #1 was already dry and didn't hold the shadows quite as well. This formula tended to grab the loose powder and hold it pretty tenaciously - not as firm as UDPP, but closer to that than, say, the MAC paint pots. This lasts on my lids and doesn't start creasing until hour 7. (I know. I was stunned.) And did I mention all the colors??? These are a great value - and the jars store and travel easier than the ones from MAC or Benefit.

Lady Burd's Indelible Cream Shadows - varies between $9 and $16 for 3.5 grams/.123 ounces

Lady Burd is a private-label seller, and so individuals cannot buy their products directly from them - you have to buy in bulk, and you have to be registered with them. The bad part of this is that you have to find a vendor who does resell these. The good side is that many vendors resell their products, and you can hunt around and find the best price. These are in very small jars with very small openings, so getting some on my brush isn't as easy as with MAC or Benefit; but the colors are gorgeous, the shade range varies, the application is smooth, and once applied they last a long time...even on my heavy, oily lids. Depending on the vendor you find, these can be the least expensive of all the options here. There are a few colors that are close- or exact-matches with MAC paint pots, so if you already own some paint pots, be careful that you don't accidentally order something very similar to what you already have.

YourNamePro's Indelible Cream Shadows - varies between $10 and $18 for 3.5 grams/.123 ounces

Overall, I was not impressed with the quality of these. I purchased three colors from an indie vendor - Cinder Rose, Lame, and Crystalline - and the product itself was not all that fantastic. The quantity wasn't bad, and the pricing per ounce is in the middle of the range; but the shadows were very hard, they didn't spread well, and they didn't apply evenly. Once I even gouged a bit out of the pot and kneaded it to see if I could get a better consistency. It didn't really work too well. While it is possible to find some vendors who will sell a dozen for $8 a pot, you then have to find 11 other people who want to buy pots from you to get that low per-pot price. The average price I've been able to find, for a single pot, is closer to $15-$16 per pot, with one vendor asking $24 for one pot of rebranded indelible cream shadow from this private-label company. Some nice looking colors in here, but overall, I would not buy these again.

Cost for cream shadows/paint pots
Vendor Cost per ounce
Bare Escentuals$320
YourNamePro$81.30 to $146.34
Lady Burd$73.17 to $130.81
Benefit Cosmetics$118
M*A*C$100
Make Up For Ever$90.48
Urban Decay$66.67

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