Optimus Primer – The spanx of cosmetics

Not to prime is a crime! This is the word of make-up law according to some make-up artists and users. But what are they really going on about? Is it a product? A technique? Does it come in liquid form? What the hell is it that I am looking for when I go to the shops to buy some?

So let’s start at the very beginning, cos you know…it’s a very good place to start? Hell yeah I went there. A cosmetic primer is a product used before you apply any other form of make-up (i.e. foundation, shadows, lipsticks). A primer helps to improve the coverage and colour of your make-up as well as lengthening the time it will stay put on your face, lips or eyes. They are also able to smooth out skin texture and fine lines, fill pores and help with reducing redness. Sounds like a pretty miraculous make-up product right? Some brands even claim theirs to be anti-aging, which makes them sound like you’re going to just reverse back to your younger years, but don’t be fooled! It’s just that they include SPF (sun protection factor), which prevents and does NOT stop aging from appearing in your skin.

Swatch of MAC Studio Fix Fluid with primer (right) and without primer (left)

Swatch of MAC Studio Fix Fluid with primer (right) and without primer (left)

Primers come in a variety of textures such as liquids, balms and even gels. The main types of primers out on the market are used as foundation primers, eyelid primers, lip primers and mascara primers. Mascara primers are usually colourless and aid in thickening lashes, which helps to make them fuller and stop mascara from smudging or flaking. Lip primers help with intensifying colour and prolonging wear by not allowing the lip colour to feather or bleed into the fine lines around the mouth. Major major plus if you’re wearing a bold colour.

Some folks reckon cleansing and moisturising is just as good a preparation before you apply your make-up, as it also aids in absorbing and controlling oil production creating a matte surface to apply make-up on, which is exactly what you want in a primer. I personally am not sure this is the case as a good primer is going to contain ingredients such as glycerin and silicone that a moisturizer definitely would not include. And a moisturizer is used to nourish skin, a primer… not so much. And although a primer can seem like a “is this really necessary” kind of make-up step, the benefits of wearing one is definitely noticeable. However if you do choose to wear a primer this does NOT mean you can skip out on moisturiser! Always, always wash your skin and moisturise to prevent make-up from absorbing into your skin, clogging pores and trapping dirt while you wear foundation. It’s like buying a new pair of kicks and wearing dirty socks with them. Sies.


Most primers are either water-based or silicone-based. Depending on your skin type and sensitivity you can choose which formula is going to give you the best results. Some foundation primers are tinted to improve your skin’s tone and others are frosted to reflect light so that your complexion appears brighter. For me personally, because I have a lot of redness in my complexion, I like to use a primer that has a green tint to it to counteract the redness. Think of the hospital scrubs that are used by surgeons. They wear that muddy green colour because it has the lowest contrast to red and won’t make the colour appear bright, but rather help to dull it. But don’t worry, they do dry to a colourless base! I was given this Truetouch primer last year and it works nicely around my nose and cheeks where I have constant redness. The Truetouch primer was a gift from overseas, however if you do want to purchase it goes for around R250.


Truetouch primer swatch


Truetouch primer blended

My Prep+Prime silicone-based primer from MAC has algae extract in the ingredients which is why it is also so great at taking away some the redness in my complexion. After working it into my skin (I use my fingers because I don’t want my brush to absorb any of the product), the primer creates an instantly silky layer between my skin and my foundation. The silicone is immediately noticeable when it sets, which is pretty quickly after application. You only need a pea-sized amount to cover your whole face. The Prep+Prime goes for about R290 at any MAC outlet.


The MAC Prep+Prime primer comes with or without SPF, factor 50 at that, and has the most gorgeous sparkle in the lotion. It’s very subtle but in the light you can see how it has the ability to reflect and brighten up your complexion under your foundation. The best thing about a primer, that I’ve definitely found to be true with the Prep+Prime, is that the lasting power of your make-up is increased by tenfold. You can wake-up hungover like you’ve been in Vegas for 3 nights straight and your make-up will be stuck on there just as good as when you applied it 12 hours before. I love that about this stuff! Sweating is an inevitable evil of going out to club so you godda make what you have last. And this awesomeness can be used just as well on a long work day, where you need that damn foundation to just stay picture perfect!


MAC Prep+Prime Primer swatch


MAC Prep+Prime Primer swatch blended

I’m now going to go through a list of cult foundation and eyeshadow primers that the make-up industry consider the crème de la crème, and what makes them great products in their categories.

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer (R355 here)


Smashbox are know for making some pretty higher grade cosmetics and are probably most famous for their range of primers. They have ones for hydrating, for dark spot correcting, for colour correcting, ones with antioxidants, ones for sun protection, the list goes on and on. Honestly they have a fit for every need and don’t waver in quality between products. Photograph found here.

Clinique Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector (R230 here)


As we get older, pores start to etch their way even further into our skin and they can be pretty damn tricky to conceal. This primer has been called a God-send for some women, it’s lightweight formula dries to a matte finish and fills in those menacing little craters so that your foundation has a more even canvas to work on. Photograph found here.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Potion Primer


This eyeshadow primer has achieved legendary status amongst the make-up industry. It supposedly never creases, increases your eye make-up intensity and instantly mattifies the eyelid in preparation for other products which is great for people with oil prone lids yippy! Photograph found here.

Illamasqua Hydra Veil Rehydrating Gel

illamasqua-hydra-veil (3)

Okay, so this seems to be the holy grail of primers. It’s a jelly-like product that once applied, melts to a fine watery texture into the surface of your face. This is fantastic for drier skinned gals and works wonders with powder foundations. Dying to try this stuff – Illamasqua holla at your gurl! Photograph found here.

So that was prime time! Hope it was beneficial, let me know if you have any questions with a comment below :)




  1. […] just say that violet counter acts yellow just like green does for redness (see my post on primers for that […]

  2. Love the blog, love the review 😊
    Are there any cheaper primers available? Even though the primers you’ve mentioned are very reasonably priced considering the amount you need to use. But, inquiring minds want to know 😊

    1. Hi Tshanda,
      Thanks for your lovely words and support! There are some pretty nice drugstore primers available from Clicks, Dischem, etc. I’ve read some good reviews on Revlon’s Photoready primer and I know NYX makes a variety of primers for different skin types. I also came across L’oreal’s Magic Lumi Light Infusing Primer and really like how illuminating it looked on my hand. I’ve also swatched Woolworth’s brand of make-up and was particularly impressed with their primer’s formula.
      Hope that helped! :)

  3. […] – used underneath other products, as Beth called it “Make-Up’s Spanks” that creates a barrier between your skin and anything […]

  4. Must Have Boxes · · Reply

    Great review!

    – KW

    1. Thank you so much!!!

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